Monday, February 24, 2014

Me & My Ancestors, Dressing in Our Primes Part I

Today I thought we would look at the fashions worn by both our immediate ancestors in coming of age and then our own.  Let's see who really had it good or not as far as the leading looks of the day when they were in their prime. It is natural of course to think we had it best but visuals do not lie.  

1900-1919  These are our great grandparents. They don't look bad but they do look overdressed. It makes me tired even to think of putting on all of those clothes and underclothes. The men look a bit priggish but they at least had it easier. Looks great in a period play or film but who really wants to wear these clothes today? 

1920s  Our parents are being born or are quite young and their parents, our grandparents, are living it up here. This was a time of affluence and freedom and it shows. Clothes are beautiful. Some of the greatest clothing designers emerge in this era.

1930s  What happened to all that incredible style and elan from the prior decade?  The Depression, that's what. Plus they are now smoking openly too. Stress. This is a time that is dangerous to use many movie fashions because those were fantasies.  No one but movie stars and rich people were wearing the extravagant outfits like Fred and Ginger.

From 1941-1946, the dominant look for men was a serviceman's uniform. You were either too old, disabled or working on the bomb or other critical item if you were in civilian garb. The women were working and dating servicemen so they went from fantasy wear to business like coats and hats. From 1946 forward the clothes began to adapt to our post war affluence with all men employed (or finishing up college on the VA) and putting down roots (VA home loans). This is where we come into existence, a veritable onslaught of babies. Our parents looked like this as we arrived.

Because we are now here, we will take a much bigger look at clothes of the 1950s onward.

But it is not until we get into the 1950s that clothes become personal. Because we were there, I remember these with a sense of nostalgia and not as something I've seen only in a book or a film. I personally wore the cowgirl outfit like the little boy. I rode in the back seat in a green car which was a convertible like this one. I was in the restaurants which had the jukeboxes and served the hamburgers. I remember my mother in the stylish clothes and my father in the hat.

There is one thing shown in these pictures that is now completely dispensable for both men and women.  This is the hat. People still wear hats but if they choose to never wear a hat again for anything, no one will think it the least strange. I remember the A&P grocery stores and those fabulous Dior dresses that made up "the look".

And a few things creep in which we've never known before. Houses in the suburbs instead of towns and cities, cars as absolutely essential for daily use, and the tv set as the center of the house in the living room. Our clothing conforms to those three things so now we have casual clothes.

1960s  The sixties were our puberty and beyond. For clothing it was a decade of intense experimentation and wild extremes. It had the shortest skirts possible. The elegance that was in fashion in that era was not worn by the young.

Hats were weird but beloved as in Jackie's pillbox. There was a whole line of eye makeup from Cleopatra. Perhaps what it is known for best is that you could try out whatever you wanted and see if it hit. There was nothing too experimental. If the fifties looked halcyon, the sixties looked schizophrenic when reviewed as a whole. 

I have to admit one thing.  Back then I thought these 1960s fashions looked pretty good.  As I go through them now, they look bizarre to me. I cannot imagine going back to these fashions. I think it was wonderful people at long last could experiment with their dress and work out their own looks without fear of fitting in with the crowd. However, the one problem with not following a professional's advice is results like these. Good taste in fashion is not possessed by the majority of people acting on their own. Part II is tomorrow picking up with the 1970s.

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