Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Changing times and dress sense

If this becomes the style I will bemoan the kids of today.
Warning: Rambly post.

Last Saturday I celebrated a friend's 70th birthday. The group of us all chipped in and had high tea; we hired someone who actually brings the high tea to you.  It was a lot of fun.

One thing this tea maven does is bring hats that you can choose to wear if you want.  Now, I can rock a hat like nobody's business, but because my hair is long and no longer bobbed, it's a challenge if I'm wearing it up (which I was that day).  I did manage to get a wide-brimmed pink at on my head (my bun was low enough).

I've joked that I wish hats were still a thing. It's one of the few articles of clothing I can wear and look good in (except for baseball hats, which should be outlawed for everyone, men included*). Everyone was joking about how we looked like we were going to the races.

I've always been into history--especially knowing about how everyday people lived in different eras. (I swear I do have a point.)   I had had a vague feeling that hats were a thing in the past, but I wasn't sure if they were something everyone wore, or only wore at certain times and for certain events (like today) or what.  As it turns out, yes, a woman would not consider herself fully dressed if she went outside without a hat on.  Unlike men, she did not take it off once inside (hence the hat pin, to fasten it securely to your hair).  And up until recently (say, the late sixties), it was perfectly normal (and desirable) for women to wear gloves when they were out and about.  There was an etiquette around all of this, of course. You'd hardly eat your meal at a restaurant wearing gloves, for example, so you'd take them off and put them under your napkin on your lap.  But they were something women wore as a matter of course. I can't imagine wearing gloves unless it was cold outside. But there you go; times have changed a lot.

I've talked to my parents about what was normal for people to wear.  Blue jeans--heck, any sort of pants--were unheard of for women.  If you were home, you wore those (perfectly awful looking) house dresses, or a shirtwaist.  I have been trying to picture my mother doing the housework in a house dress, and I'm really grateful that she and Mr. Levi Strauss are good chums.  Jeans weren't even a big thing for men for a long time; they were favored by rebellious teenage boys and people who did physical work (they were originally made for miners back in the 1800's).  I'm pretty sure if you used the term "designer jeans" with a straight face back in that era that people would think you were having them on or that you were an odd duck.

T-shirts are also a relatively new thing.  My father told me that when they started to become popular, it was teenage boys wearing their white undershirts as shirts.  I'll bet the older set was bemoaning the popular trend of boys wearing their underwear out in public.  (That doesn't happen anymore, does it? Oh, wait. Ha! It does.)  T-shirts with writing on them weren't a thing.

And of course, people dressed up, at least compared to today.  You didn't go out to dinner in jeans, designer or otherwise.

I'm not bemoaning the fact that we don't dress up as a matter of course anymore--far from it.  Sometimes you'll see me in the local Rite Aid getting a jug of water because I have been working in the garden and drank what I brought.  I'll look a fright--old jeans, ratty t-shirt, hair up and flyaway.  Sometimes you'll see me in my gym clothes if I'm going out for a hard power walk or if I was on my way to the gym.  Sometimes you'll see me in jeans and a t-shirt because they are comfortable.  (And you will never, ever see me in high heels.  I wore them when I was younger, and my feet, knees, and back thank me for eschewing them now.)  My mother is far more comfortable in jeans than in anything else. There's a reason why they have become so popular.

It's just really interesting how our mores change over time.

*Obviously, I don't think they should really be outlawed, I won't judge you for wearing one, I promise.  I just think they look terrible.


  1. I love clothes. Mostly I wear jeans and a t-shirt, but I love the magic of dressing up. It amazes me how a woman can go from "ho-hum" to "wow" with a change of wardrobe, hairstyle, and a little makeup. Shallow? Probably. But fun.

  2. I love to dress relaxed but honestly I do wish the styles of when women only wore dresses , hats and gloves were back.. Women looked so feminine and men wore suits and looked like men. These days it can be hard to tell which is which!

  3. My mother did not go to church without a hat and gloves in the fifties and sixties. Neither did I! I graduated from hs in 1964, so it was hats and gloves as a child and only gloves as a teen and college student and young wife and mother. After my first child, gloves left my wardrobe, too.

    My father would never have left our backyard in a tshirt. When I was seven, my mother had a miscarriage and was bedridden for two weeks. I washed, dried, starched and ironed shirts for daddy. Then, I took a knife from the kitchen to cut up a cigar box and cut my hand so badly that I needed stitches. Daddy had to take me. He was not the type to take care of kids, so it was scary for me.

    Mama told people that if I had not ironed a shirt for Daddy, that he would have had nothing to wear to take me to the doctor. He would not wear a t-shirt in an emergency, but I suppose that day he would have. Daddy never wore blue jeans, ever.

    Now, I absolutely love hats, great big picture hats with feathers or a little wool cloche or wool Diane Keaton type hat. Leather gloves or knit gloves are good for winter. I still have my long gloves from my wedding. I even have a black, velveteen pair for my Halloween costume, a dress I made. The velveteen gloves were a quarter at a garage sale.

    I love elastic waist knit pants and a t-shirt around the house. The feel of skirts to my ankles whether straight skirt or full ones suit me fine.

    Good post.