America's frumps are tired of tuna casserole jokes, fed up with the bad rap that polyester has gotten, and proud to embrace coupon clipping as a way of life.
They are banding together to celebrate the ordinary lives of the dull and dowdy."Most people think frumps aren't interesting. But they are," said Barbara Hovanetz of Winter Park, Fla., president of the National Frumps of America.
At an August regional meeting in Cleveland, for example, midwestern frumps took in a madcap tour of the city.
"We saw the basement of the Terminal Tower building. We had snacks at Woolworths and we saw the War Memorial. We went to the bakery where they make Hostess Twinkies. Also Stouffers. They have a Stouffer thrift store where you get frozen food at a discount."
All of which proves, said Hovanetz, "You don't have to live like Don Johnson to have a good time."
Frumps are responsible people with regular jobs and sensible shoes. They carry library cards in their monogrammed vinyl wallets and when they're not hitting the garage sale circuit or trading Jell-O recipes, they're crocheting up a storm.
"Many frumps do crafts. We're into craft magazines more than we are into hardcore literature. Many of us are starting our Christmas planning now, crocheting ahead and making sure we have enough of those toilet paper covers," Hovanetz said. "You know, for the extra roll."
Being a frump comes naturally for Hovanetz, a computer analyst for an insurance company. She once held a garage sale on her desk at work.
"When I was young, people said, `Your mother dresses you funny.' But it wasn't my mother. I did it to myself. I was born a frump," said Hovanetz.
She not only saves rotting battery cables, worn out lawn chairs and broken flower pots, she buys them from other people at garage sales because they might come in handy some day.
There are no Paris miniskirts or sky-high heels in her closet. Like other savvy frumps, Hovanetz knows Goodwill is the place to shop for that indestructible no-iron wardrobe.
"They have the best selection. Church thrift stores are fun places. And for those frumps whose needs are not met at re-sales, Sears of course. And Penny's. You've got your catalogs so you can shop at home."
Shopping at home means you don't have to change out of that flowered housecoat. Frumps are never slaves to fashion or trends. The frump motto is "You just do what's comfortable for you."
The National Frumps of America started as just another collection of college radicals in the 1960s.
"It was a yuppie lashback, before there were yuppies. I was before my time," Hovanetz said.
Resigned to being a frump, Hovanetz found a half-dozen kindred souls at the University of Iowa. Some were men, some were women. All were a little, well, dull.
"We were all very frumpy. We never dated. Not even each other. But we had similar likes," she said.
Chief among those likes was "Swell Thing Hunting." They'd go out at night and rescue the perfectly useful things other people threw into the trashcans of Iowa City.
"That's what started us off doing things as a group," Barbara said.
They dubbed themselves the National Frumps of America and before long they were bowling together and taking in the meat loaf special at Howard Johnsons.
They even entered a Frump Queen in the annual homecoming parade. The honor went to Nadine Wolff, who carried a bouquet of plastic flowers and rode in a 1957 Oldsmobile decorated with toilet tissue.
"Nadine had to sit on the roof of the car because it wasn't a convertible," Hovanetz said.
The group lost touch until 1985, when they held a 20-year reunion. Hovanetz sent out a "Frump Update" newsletter, chock full of macaroni recipes and wry observations on the lifestyles of the unchic.
"Then everybody who got the newsletter said, `My brother wants one' or `My uncle wants to join.' It spread by word of mouth and membership grew to about 50," Hovanetz said.
Earlier this year, Barbara's husband Ed put a small ad in a local magazine inviting other unfashionable folks to join the Frumps. Membership skyrocketed.
By the end of August there were more than 300 card-carrying frumps across the nation, and inquiries were streaming in on pastel floral notepaper.
"What we're trying to do is bring attention to other people that are of like interest. We're telling them, `Be proud of your frumpability,"' Hovanetz said.
The frumps are busy organizing a national convention in New York City the first weekend in November.
"We've scheduled a walking tour of north Harlem and Grant's Tomb. We'll have lunch at McDonald's then take the subway to the Empire State Building," Hovanetz said.
A Frump of the Year trophy will be awarded at a gala Saturday evening banquet. They're hoping to reserve an Automat for that. The trophy was frugally purchased by Hovanetz at a garage sale and fitted with a new name plate.
If you stand tall in your socks and sandals, and look forward to comfy evenings at home alphabetizing the spice rack, you're probably frump material. Contact the National Frumps of America, P.O. Box 1047, Winter Park, Fla., 32790.