Family values beneath that Vampirella costume

My friend Freda Tutt doesn’t think I’m a seriously bad, better-report-him-to-a-social-worker sort of parent. But she does think it’s a wee bit disturbing that I have allowed my daughter, now 13, to shop at Old Gold since she was in the third grade.
For those of you who are not part of the Facebook generation, Old Gold is a clothing store on Main Street in Burlington that specializes in vintage fashion and costumes that come in all sizes (XS to XL) and movie ratings (G to NC-17). It’s popular all year, especially with high school and college students, and wildly popular this month because Halloween is nearing. Of course, it’s also pleasantly packed with young adults as prom season approaches, and Mardi Gras, and Valentine’s Day, and Christmas. . .
You get the point: Most months there’s a reason for someone to be enticed inside, and not merely because the mannequins in the windows are always total sluts.
In any case, if you want (for instance) a retro Annette Funicello wig the color of a radiation warning light, Old Gold is the place to go. And since my daughter has never met a wig the color fruit Jell-O that doesn’t interest her, we have shopped there a lot over the years. Moreover, a micro-skirt on an eight-year-old looks a lot like a reform school kilt: The skirts used to come down to her knees.
It’s also worth noting that everyone who works there is spectacularly nice – though once when I was there with my father and my daughter, my dad was a little uncomfortable because the woman helping us had hair (not a wig) the colors of the rainbow and the fellow who was assisting her had the scariest belt my father had ever seen outside of a samurai movie. As I recall, my dad spent most of the time watching the mannequins. My point? If you are over the age of 30, Old Gold can be slightly unnerving.
And yet it shouldn’t be, and in some ways owner Ed Winant has worked very hard to keep the place a civilized oasis of leather pants and feather boas in the midst of the great retail desert. To wit: You can’t use your cell phone inside the store, which means you actually have to pay attention to the people around you as if you were shopping in the Mesozoic era of 1979. There isn’t just a couch on which to crash if you are completely nonplussed by the counters of biker jewelry, there’s a coffee table with magazines.
Judith Martin – a.k.a., Miss Manners – would approve.
Almost every Halloween since 1999 my daughter has found her Halloween costume at the store, ranging from a gun moll to a fairy princess to Cleopatra. And, just for the record, that was a G-rated Cleopatra with absolutely no exposed skin below the neck: We live in Lincoln, and so that means there’s a chance you’ll be trick-or-treating in a blizzard. The people who toil there have always looked out for my daughter and have great common sense – even if they have dyed their hair so many times it will be drier than Cheez Doodles before they reach middle-age.
Still, Freda is a great mom and I understand completely where she’s coming from. Sometimes I worry that my fondness for Old Gold is similar to my affection for things like and hoodies and wearing flip-flops to school in an ice storm. (Oh, wait: I don’t go to school. Never mind. Also, I don’t own a hoodie.) My point? Old Gold skews young demographically, and thus makes me feel marginally less like a middle-aged moron.
But then I remind myself: Almost all stores skew young demographically. The world skews young demographically. If you want to feel old, shop for ten minutes on Church Street.
The reality is that Old Gold doesn’t just have old cloths. Underneath that trampy nurse costume, it actually has old values, too.
(This column originally appeared in the Burlington Free Press on October 21, 2008.)

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.

One thought on “Family values beneath that Vampirella costume

  1. SilverDiscoWigMania says:

    Chris, Chris, Chris. Listen to me. You are a GREAT parent to cultivate the spirit of creativity in your daughter from an early age. Old Gold sounds like a FanTABulous Place! For All ages!! I remember so many happy memories going to thrift stores with my mom when I was a child…finding wonderful things like a huge, puffed-out crinoline, which I wore with pride, pretending I was a fine lady of a by-gone era. I also wore a feather boa sometimes! And yes, even fish-net stockings (never mind what I was pretending with That get-up). The point is, just about anyone who is creative likes to dress up and pretend. And Halloween is a GREAT excuse for everyone to do just that! So….HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

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