An Ode To Velour And Corduroy

Birthday parties used to be a thing, huh? Like, a real get-gussied-up event. When I was little, the ONLY place you had a party was ShowBiz Pizza Place. I think I spelled that right.

There was a ball pit, and if I’m remembering right, a slide that dropped into it. There were lanes and lanes of skeeball that spit out tickets if you scored that tiny, top hole. And there was this weird puppet band that should have been terrifying if only because of its sheer scale, its rigid dance moves and the creepy eyeballs that every band member had.

And, apparently, at 80s birthday parties there was high fashion. And by that I mean velour. And corduroy. French braids, maybe some curls, and definitely tights. Patent leather shoes were 100-percent on point and shirts under jumpers were ironed.

I know this because I was a first-grader in the 80s. And, I had birthday parties where photos were taken to remember those parties and also to haunt us into adulthood. All I can say, after finding this photo again in the back of my closet, is this crew brought it. It was very clearly our day out.

80s bday

I love this photo for so many reasons. Every single one of us is wearing a skirt – and although we can’t see them – very likely tights. It was February in Michigan, so lacy anklets were out of the question, even if we begged. And we’d be jumping – into the previously mentioned ball pit. In skirts.

This was not a surprise to any of our parents. They knew we’d be jumping and running and still put us all in skirts.

Another reason I love this is because I know what all but one of these girls looks like now. I even know what their kids look like, because we stayed in touch and many of us graduated together. First grade to senior year. Holy moly. And one – Becky – is celebrating her birthday today.

This is how we celebrate birthdays now.

80s bday6
For accuracy — neither of our birthdays. Ron’s. Which is why we dressed up.

Birthday parties have changed over the years. To say they’re a bit more casual is to say it’s warm in Phoenix in the summer. Look, they’ve really dressed themselves down.

I’d wager that our 80s moms remember some of the outfits they put us in for these birthday parties, the classic Olan Mills photo shoots and any other special occasion we had throughout our early childhood. We were like little dolls, I guess? Or maybe we asked to wear these outfits? I can’t remember last week, so remembering who initiated an outfit when I was seven is out of the question.

I only remember those dresses because they were itchy. Or lacy. Or because the crotch in my tights always sagged so badly I had to awkwardly pull them up – over and over and over. So, I’m thinking my wardrobe at that age was not my idea.

I am down with the braids, though, secured with those glass beads at the end that would click-click-click every time one of the pigtails would catch some air. And I just love that, at 41, I still have something in common with my seven-year-old self. Braids for life, yo.

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Today? It’s a miracle if my little maniacs brush their hair before running to a party. It’s a miracle if they get to the party on time, if I’m being honest. And they’re NEVER in a dress or a dress shirt. I can’t even imagine what my son would do if that were required.

He doesn’t even own pants. Or socks that aren’t a neon color.

Today’s birthday parties, which I am averse to hosting anymore in deference to adventures instead, seem much more chill. Laid back. T-shirts and messy buns. Leggings and a sweatshirt.

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Velour and corduroy? They might think they were going to a wedding or a funeral.

I wonder if we thought that. Nah, it was the 80s. We knew we were headed to a ballpit. That’s why we didn’t argue about the damn tights.