At the end of my pregnancy, I walked into my supervisor's office and she pointed out that I had on two different-colored shoes. The kicker was that one heel was a half inch higher than the other, and I had never noticed.
When I was in the 10th grade, my school held a Christmas dance, and we were told to "dress festive." My friend and I decided that dressing festive meant costumes. We bought red felt, green satin ribbon, and green tights. After two nights of hard work at the sewing machine, we were very proud of the elf costumes that we had created, complete with little feathered caps and bells. However, when we got to the dance, we discovered that we were way off in our interpretation of festive―everyone else was dressed normally. At five-feet 10, this extremely tall elf didn't exactly blend in with the other kids.
South Orange, New Jersey
Years ago, I was reading the New York Times on the subway. This was back in the '60s, when Khrushchev's picture was often on the front page. One day, after folding the paper at the end of the train ride and holding it close to my chest, I arrived at the office with a clear black-and-white picture of Khrushchev emblazoned on the left side of my white shirt.
Morganville, New Jersey
One winter day, I bundled up myself and my four children and took an hour-long drive to meet my husband for dinner. While we were standing in line at the restaurant, the woman behind me said, "Excuse me, miss. You have a hanger in your coat." She was right. I wanted to die. My husband thought it was hilarious that I hadn't noticed.
My most embarrassing fashion moment came on the day I wasn't all-the-way awake when I left the house―and arrived at work wearing pink fuzzy slippers.
I was on a beach in Jamaica, wearing a new bikini. The S-hook snapped and my swimsuit top shot across the beach like a rubber band.
In first grade, I accidentally tucked my dress into my "days of the week" underwear. A teacher quickly alerted me to the situation. I was highly distressed―not so much because of the visible underwear, but because I had been caught wearing "Thursday" on a Tuesday.
I was hugely pregnant and wearing my giant "granny panties." As I stepped onto a city bus, the elastic gave way and my underpants slid all the way down. What else could I do but step out of them as gracefully as I could and kick them off the stairs? I was mortified, but I bravely made my way to a seat and reminded myself that I value a sense of humor.
My absolute most embarrassing fashion moment was in fifth grade, back in 1972. I used to love to watch my mom put on her hose and hook her girdle to them; I thought it looked so sophisticated. So Mom bought me a pair of white ribbed tights that were like thigh-highs and a little girdle to hold them up. I wore it to school, but some boys saw up my dress. Everyone made so much fun of me all day, calling me "old lady" and yelling, "She's wearing a girdle!" It was back to kneesocks after that.
I was a junior in high school. During math class, a guy I had dated looked down at my pant leg and asked me, "What's that?" I checked and realized what it was: A pair of underpants that had static cling was hanging out of the bottom of my jeans. My efforts to shove the pants up and out of sight were futile. I had to admit that my underwear was showing, and not in a good way.
Port St. Joe, Florida
I was at a nightclub with some friends and feeling uncharacteristically brave in my new dark, clingy knit top. I took a spin, solo, around the room, and drew so many stares I felt like a supermodel. Only afterward did I realize the black lighting in the club was completely and perfectly illuminating the sturdy white bra that I had chosen to wear under my sexy new top, making it glow.
Seventh grade. White pants. Pink striped underwear. Scarred for life.
I stuffed tennis socks into my bra to fill out my strapless prom dress. I glanced down to see that a sock was dancing its way out of my gown, in rhythm to the music.
I purchased a vintage wool dress and had it professionally altered to fit. When I crouched to get in the car on my way to a business dinner, I heard the sound of pulling stitches, but I wasn't concerned. Then, as I entered the event, the doorman whistled at me. I kept walking, but I agreed with his assessment: I did look good! In seconds, though, he was at my side with a hat, holding it over my rear. He whispered, "Ma'am, your dress is all undone." The entire back seam of my dress had indeed come apart.
I tucked my skirt into my panty hose after going to the bathroom. I walked around for at least 10 minutes before someone told me. The worst part? I had a thong on that day.
When I was 14, I went out with my junior high school's boys' basketball team for ice cream after a game. While we were all waiting to be picked up by our parents, everyone was running around being silly. So I climbed up on a flagpole's supports, and just when everyone was looking up at me, my foot slipped and the cleat on the flagpole caught my shirt and bra as I fell. There I hung from the flagpole by my bra, baring my budding 14-year-old figure to the entire basketball team and my girlfriends. I couldn't remove myself without the help of my dear friend, who followed me into the restaurant's restroom, where I hid in shame until my mother arrived to pick me up.
Back in the 1980s, I wore a tube dress to a New Year's Eve party. Well, I remember the dress rising up all night. But imagine my surprise later when I saw photos of me dancing with my date, and the cheeks of my behind hanging out in most of them.
Years ago, I was home sick with a bad cold and really out of it, but I needed to make a quick run to the store. I pulled on a pair of black leggings and a T-shirt, but no bra or undies. My daughter, who was about five at the time, told me I needed to put on the rest of my outfit―that I was leaving in panty hose. I explained that leggings were like panty hose but that they could be worn outside. As I walked into the store, I was met by a few stares from the male staff, and I heard snickering when I left but didn't think much of it. When I got home, I saw myself in the mirror. My daughter had been right. I wasn't wearing leggings as I had thought―just a sheer pair of panty hose―and everything was visible. Never went into that store again.
Lea Merrill Davidson-Bern
I used to commute by ferry across Puget Sound. One sunny summer morning, while running with my backpack, my lunch, and my ferry ticket in hand, I didn't realize that my wraparound skirt had come untied. (Those were the days of wraparound skirts.) I had run down the walkway past all the cars and then waited for the ferry in my underwear―my skirt was lying in the parking lot.
Port Orchard, Washington
In the mid-'70s, I was in the seventh grade, and Huckapoo tops―those polyester blouses with the wild patterns―were all the rage. I was singled out for wearing a knockoff Huckapoo. Oh, the shame!
New York, New York
In 1974, I was in the eighth grade and moved from Spokane, Washington, to Cupertino, California. I was anxious about making a good impression on my first day of school, so I chose my favorite clothes: a yellow calico jumper with heart-shaped red pockets, red tights, a red turtleneck, and red suede shoes, with my hair in two braids with red yarn bows. I was dressed like a relative of Ma and Pa Kettle's. I arrived at Cupertino Junior High to a crowd of kids in well-worn jeans, loose sweatshirts, and tennis shoes; I slunk into my seat. My compassionate mother, who understood the need to belong, took me shopping that evening. I never wore the jumper again, but I left it in my closet as a warm memory.
I decided to economize by having my hair cut at a local beauty school. After a trim resulted in a two-inch-long disaster, the beauty-school manager gave me a wig to cover the bad haircut. When I was walking through the school parking lot the next morning, the first student to see me said, "Cool, it's George Washington." It was Presidents Day.
From ages five to seven, I used to sport Wonder Woman Underoos. In public. Accessorized with my mom's knee-high red boots and decorated envelopes as a headband and wristlets, I was convinced I could ward off any evils lurking in the neighborhood or at the grocery store.
When I was growing up, my mother always allowed me to pick out my own outfits; she felt it encouraged creativity. Well, one day she got a call from my first-grade teacher, who said, "I draw the line at wings." Somewhat confused, my mother discovered the reason for this strange phone call when I got off the bus. Apparently, last Halloween's butterfly wings did not coordinate well with my chichi private-school uniform.
Lewiston, New York
Seventh grade. All 180 days of it.