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Multiples Mania

January 5, 2005

Looking through old photo albums for my early quilt pictures, I could not escape being reminded of my Multiples period in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Multiples, for those of you who did not experience this phenomenon, was a clothing system consisting of mix and match one size fits all (that should have been a clue right there about how good an idea this was) pieces made out of polyester/cotton knit fabric like tee shirts. There were pants and skirts and tops and jackets, but there were also pieces like the “12-inch tube” which supposedly could be worn as a top or a skirt or a belt or a scarf, though the first two options could only be pulled off by people skinnier than I. To protect those of you who did experience the phenomenon and have no wish to see it again, the pictures I scanned are at the end of the entry.

I loved Multiples. They were everything my work clothes weren’t–colorful, comfortable, fun. I’d come home and take off my high-heeled pumps and pantyhose and skirted suit and conservative blouse and pick out two or three or four pieces from my Multiples collection to wear for the rest of the evening. I kept a written inventory of all the pieces I had so I could avoid duplication and also see where the gaps were in my collection. I saved the package inserts with the outfit suggestions. I scorned the copycat Units store, though I did put their ads in my file so I could use their ideas, too. (It could very well be that Multiples copied Units, but I saw Multiples first and so considered them the original.)

My passion for swathing myself in Multiples waned when I lost thirty pounds the first time I did Weight Watchers. It just didn’t make sense to do all that work and then keep wearing the same floppy, sloppy clothes that were no more flattering to my smaller figure than they’d been when I was larger. I gave some of the tops to my mom, who also had a touch of the Multiples fever, and donated some of them, but still have some pieces left which I wear. The shorts are great for working out (at home, where no one but Mr. Karen has to see my brightly-clad butt), the special-edition pants that are made from heavier material than usual are a nice alternative to sweat pants, and the long black skirt was a staple in my casual work wardrobe until it got too faded and grey.


Here I’ve got on the full pant (I was not the width they designed the narrow pant for), the 30″ jacket in hot pink, the 30″ top in hot pink and black stripe, and the tube in hot pink with black Dalmatian spots. That’s a heck of a lot of pink, isn’t it? Check out the very big plastic frames on my glasses, too–very 80s. Oh, and there’s a kayak behind me–until we moved into a house with a basement, we stored the kayaks in the living room. I’m surprised Hilde never did that on Trading Spaces.


Here’s the mock turtleneck, full pant, and tube. It’s probably just as well that the photograph didn’t capture the way I tucked the pants inside the boots I was wearing.


The surplice top was less shapeless than most of the pieces, but still had those extra long arms.


There were Multiples for summer, too. Nothing better in the heat than bunching many layers of fabric at one’s waist.

It appears that Multiples are still around in the form of a multi-level marketing enterprise, but I’m done with them. Mostly. Maybe the next time I get to goal weight I’ll finally let go of the last of my collection.

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