Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fashions long gone........

When you get to the top of the stairs and find you are clutching the butter and not the washing, you know you are losing your mind. It has been that kind of day. Do not even bother asking where I put the washing.

I was thinking earlier, as I plodded off to pay the bills, about clothing. As one does. How it has changed. When I was a student, it was the era of mini skirts, hotpants and maxi dresses. The era of extremes. I had one outfit I loved - a dress which was short, with buttons from the waist to the neck, and matching hotpants (shorts) to wear under it. It was orange floral. And those of you who are YOUNG can stop wincing this instant. It was classy and I looked stunning.

I remember walking up the thousands of steps at university wondering if my pants (as in underwear) were visible. We all did. Our skirts were SHORT back then. And then, we had the long floating maxi dresses too, which were a lovely way to feel cool and feminine. They created their own breeze. Hell to walk up stairs in, of course, especially when we were clutching heavy files, and couldn't hoik the dress up. It is a wonder our teeth were not knocked out when we tripped.

In res, we were required to wear academic gowns to dinner. And any evening function meant evening dresses. I must have had about 6 or more when I was a student. Probably more.....

If you went to the Opera House (the Nico Malan in Cape Town) to see an opera or ballet, the dress was black tie. Men in dinner suits and ladies in creations - long and formal. I can tell you it made going out ultra special. You would get there early and waft about in your long dress, sipping cocktails before the performance started. My Dad loved sherry over ice. I remember that well. We went to every ballet and every opera. And then there was the theatre....... we had 2 main theatres back then - the Nico and the Baxter, and you dressed smartly when you went to a show.

You know, it was great to have the chance to dress up. I loved it. And I have to say that I have never met a man who did not look stunning in evening dress.

When we got married, I did bring a maxi dress or 2 to the UK. My mother-in-law was appalled. So they were relegated to the back of the cupboard. But when I went to sea with Geoff when he was in the RFA, the dress code was veerrrrry strict. You could wear jeans ashore, or during the day, but absolutely NOT into the lounge or to a meal.

Mind you, in those days, wives were not allowed to darken the doors of the lounge without a male escort, so if G was working through meals, he had to organise one of his junior officers to escort me. There was much rolling of the eyes on my part, I can tell you. And we had to wear skirts at lunch time, and long dresses at night. Just as well I had so many.

The officers all wore their uniforms at lunch and the monkey jackets and dress uniforms at night. The ones with short white jackets, cummerbunds etc. Gorgeous. The stewards used to love washing and ironing my evening dresses and would be vocal in their advice about which one to wear each evening. Accessories too. Hysterical.

And when we had our first home, and entertained at least once a week, our friends wore evening dress. So did we. Unless it was a BBQ, of course. It all changed when the kids came along, though. The entertaining was more family friendly, because we were parents and exhausted! And it was often a last minute gathering of groups of friends, which I loved. I still love impromptu gatherings.

When Geoff left the RFA and joined a commercial company instead, he still wore uniform for dinner, and we (wives) still changed, but not into evening dress. Just into something smarter, usually a dress.

And now??? I think I own one or two dresses. I seriously doubt if they would fit. Scarlett o' Hara had the right idea. You remember the scene where she was hanging on to the bedpost while she was laced into her corset? I need one of those corsets. Urgently. Not to mention the bedpost to hang on to and the maid to lace me up. Everything seems to have lost elasticity and expanded alarmingly. And forget layering - unless it is of the elasticated variety. Layering just makes me look even more rotund. Groan.

I happened to be in Tesco this morning, and I saw a floaty top. It actually reminded me of the tops we wore when we were pregnant. All the fashion nowadays. Floaty can also hide a multitude of sins too, remember..... Anyway, I went to try one one, and it didn't look bad, but what do I know, so I opened the door to the changing room, and asked a passing young Mum (about the same age as my children) if I looked ridiculous in it. Whether my children would be horrified. Whether I would "pass in the dark" as my Dad used to say. She liked it. She also told me she would not say so if she didn't mean it. That was after I said she was free to be totally honest, and gave her the beady eye.

It is almost a full circle in some ways - wearing something which is the same as I once wore when I was young. That sounds strange, but I know what I mean. I miss those long dresses. the way they made me feel. The opportunity to dress up. Feel special. Pretty. I almost wish they would also come in full circle too.

Nowadays, the only opportunity to dress up happens at the occasional "special" birthday. I have some evening outfits - I love them, and they are timeless. But I miss the dresses. And the high heels - oh heavens, they were high. But we can talk about shoes another time. I am certain I wouldn't make it more than 2 steps before I did serious damage to something. White boots.......

Enough of the nostalgia for now. I don't think I have finished talking about fashion from days past.... I may return to the subject. It is fun looking back.

What fashion item do you remember most? Tell me.... I would love to hear!


Anonymous said...

Is this a case of great minds think alike, or what? Well, maybe my mind isn't that great, but I was just reading my sister's blog and she was talking about a top that I'd knitted for her about 30 years ago. She still actually wears it and also still gets compliments about it!
I couldn't believe she'd actually kept it all this time and it made me think.
Actually, it made me sick because I know even if I'd kept stuff for that long, I wouldn't fit into it now!!
I was so stunned,I had to talk about it on my blog too!

Vee said...

You say that you wondered whether the pants (bloomers) were showing. It is still with horror I remember ascending the stairs behind some young gal in a mini skirt. At that moment, I was glad that my mother had that rule about skirts having to touch the top of the knee. No hotpants for me, but I do remember the big elephant pants...that is what they called them, I think...they weren't very flattering either. Anyway, those I wore. Natch. And I wore the maxi dresses. And the floaty maternity looking shirts. I just saw an old photo where I was wearing polyester pants with one of the maternity style tops that featured a giant green pepper on the front. What was that all about?

I enjoyed reading about your many fashions and the rules aboard ship. I agree with you...men look wonderful all dressed up.

Sheila said...

I enjoyed your trip back through memory lane.
As a young teacher, I remember the first day of school when each teacher was introduced on the loudspeaker and then the principal called out the class list. As I stepped to the forefront I was wearing a mini dress and in those days I had long red hair. I heard cheers and wolf whistles as the grade 6 boys learned they would be in my class. I wore Hot Pants that year as well. I loved wearing formal long dresses with long white gloves, being given corsages and slipping off my silver shoes when my feet were tired after all the dances. I was given a faux fur white stole by my parents and wore it to balls at the local military college. Those were the days!

Linda said...

Oh Linds, I remember it all. I had lots of very short dresses and one particular pair of leather boots that went all the way up to meet the top of those dresses. Loved those boots!

The Bookworm said...

I was a teen / young adult in the seventies, so just young enough to miss the really short dresses but to get the full benefit of flared trousers and platform shoes. And rising damp, as the trousers had to be exactly ground length. Not the best idea in the British climate. I never had the chance to wear evening dress - we just didn't do anything or go anywhere that required it, and I don't remember my mother ever owning one. From the late seventies I have vague memories tent-like dresses and gypsy skirts trimmed with broderie anglais.

I regret that partly through lack of opportunity I never learned to really dress up. Having teenage and almost-teenage daughters means I am now more fashion aware than I would otherwise be, as I have to pass muster with the fashion police. The girls both have school proms this year (middle school leavers prom and post-GCSE Year 11 prom), so dress shopping is currently on the agenda. The middle schoolers generally wear short dresses, and the Year 11s a mix of long and short. Angel wants short, and has her eye on a peach dress with a corsage she found online. Star has her mind on trawling the designer outlets at Bicester Village in the hope of matching her aspirations with my budget! We are also possibly, maybe, thinking of going on a cruise next year to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, which would give us all a chance to dress up. I think I am actually looking forward to the idea, whereas at one point it would have terrified me as I would have felt I just didn't know how to dress.

Janine said...

I had a outfit that was top and hot pants all in one with a zip down the front - it also had a long skirt which went over it and just tied at the waist. I loved it! Keep seeing clothes in the shops and thinking "I used to wear that".

Lu said...

You have put my own thoughts in to words, particuly about the floaty tops being like those worn when I was pregnant. Not that the young hid their bumps any more. I can remember in the 60's wearing skirts the where length of the hems met my finger tips when I put my hand down by my side.
I really miss the dressing up for an occasion, seeing all the beautiful evening dresses, as you say you felt special, at a friends wedding one guest arrived wearing jeans

Needled Mom said...

I, too, wish there were places to get really dressed up. Even the theatres now allow such informal wear. Shameful, comfortable but shameful nonetheless.

One of the styles I remember wearing was the Dr. white coats. There were two Dr. shows on television - Dr. Kildare and Dr. Marcus Welby. The style of the white jackets with the buttons going up the side to a mock turtle neck were quite the rage. That was before the mini skirts!!!!

Crystal said...

I had some really short mini-skirts in the 70s and I'm actually quite amazed that my very conservative mother let me out of the house with them! And hot pants! I had two or three outfits that I'd sewed myself and I loved wearing them. Do you have many pictures of you in your formal evening wear? Alas, that type of dress was not required in the farming community where I grew up so I only had my grad dresses and later long mother-of-the-bride/groom dresses. I love my husband in a suit and tie - it 'suits' him perfectly! We had a conversation after church on Sunday with one of our friends who loves wearing a shirt and tie too.

You are so good at finding new discussion topics for your blog!