Last week, Kirsten Cresho took a little extra time dressing for school.
Wandering from closet to closet, the 12-year-old gathered three skirts, two shirts, leggings, socks that didn't match, a black dress shoe for her right foot and an orange tennis shoe for the left. She combined this ensemble with seven bracelets, three necklaces and earrings that — you guessed it — didn't match.
To top off her look, she stuck a pen in her hair.
As Kirsten was leaving home, her mom expressed reservations about the pink, white, orange, black and blue calamity her seventh-grader picked out for school.
"Are you going to get asked to come home early?" her mom asked. No, Kirsten explained, "It's Wacky Tacky Day at Oakbrook Middle School."
The annual event lets hundreds of middle schoolers — and their teachers and school staff — fire up their school spirit by dressing down, said Oakbrook Middle School teacher Debbie Runyon.
"I have a lot of school spirit," Kirsten said in justifying her wardrobe.
Runyon said Wacky Tacky Day is a reprieve from the usual dress code and a part of Red Ribbon Week and Spirit Week activities at the school. Teachers like to take part in the fashion faux pas as much as students do, she insisted.
"It's a chance to have just as much fun as the kids do," she said.
Bright colors, big, bold stripes, torn clothing and shoes plucked from deep in the closet are what girls considered tacky and wacky. Boys' choices included oversize T- or polo shirts (plain or with bold stripes), pants with holes in the legs, colorful, wide ties and hats from generations past.
"It's an excuse to be weird and 'out there,' " said Jacob Anderson, an eighth-grader. He borrowed his dad's old tie — a fugitive from the tie-dye era — and wore his shirt inside out and backward. "I like dressing ridiculously, and this is fun," he declared.
"You don't have to wear specific stuff," said Valencia Newton, a seventh-grader. Her fashion misstep included "part of a bathing suit and warm-up pants with holes cut into them to make them look tacky." She revved up her tack-o-meter by adding a scarf to her head and shoestrings in her hair.
Eighth-grader Stephanie Conley said tacky is about dressing "bad but funny." She tackled tacky and walloped wacky by mixing an Elmo T-shirt with madras shorts and black leggings.
Elizabeth Taylor, an eighth-grader, scrounged up a Salvador Dali tie.
Though the school encourages wacky and tacky on this day, Kirsten wasn't the only student whose parents had something to say.
Dustin Wade said his parents "thought I was looking kind of dorky."
Taylor Fay, a seventh-grader, said she was told her striped shirt and high-rise striped socks looked like something out of literature. "My parents called it the 'Dr. Seuss Look,' " she said.
"My dad told me to go upstairs and dress for school. 'You're not leaving the house like that,' " Meghan Hickey, an eighth-grader, recalled.
"I told him, yes, I am. It's Wacky Tacky Day,' " she said.
Kirsten said the only drawback to Wacky Tacky is that it's not done often enough.
"It would be cool if we could do it every week," she said.