Things are so different now I can’t even believe it.
Author’s Note: I’m taking a break from writing about my girlhood outdoors. I have plenty of material and it’s waiting in the wings for the right mood to strike. In the meantime I got inspired to reminisce about the clothes we gals wore when we were young. All you Millennials have not had to suffer this crap and I’m so glad. You have the hippies to thank.
Here’s the number one worst item of ladies apparel of all time. The worst I tell you! Perhaps it’s best forgotten but I want all you young girls to know what we older gals had to suffer. The worst item by far was the “girdle”. The girdle was a contraption that held your nylon stockings up and your stomach in. Panty hose had not been invented yet and let me tell you panty hose were bad enough but still an improvement on the girdle. If your girdle was too tight, and it always was because that was the point, it screwed up your digestion. From time to time you would have horrible gut cramps because every once in a while you would have, let’s put it delicately, “fermentation” in your gut. The girdle did not care about processing of fermentation. So there you sat. Churning and wincing because you couldn’t faint and you couldn’t escape.
Also the “latches” that held your nylon stockings would be a visible reminder that you had something under your skirt. How gauche! Sometimes they unlatched on their own as if by magic and your stocking would fall down. They invariably showed through your skirt. Two annoying little bumps that you had to sit on, too!. If you didn’t hike those latches up high enough you might even have the tops of your stocking became visible at the edge of your skirt when you sat down. Woe to those who tried to combine a girdle, nylon stockings and a miniskirt. Forget miniskirt! Better wear a gathered or pleated skirt that reached below your knees if you were going to wear a girdle with latches. Oh Girl!
Nylon stockings. I know we were screwed up by fashion because if you went bare legged you felt “wrong”. Like exposed or something. Bare legs just didn’t happen back then. And it was hard to stay neat and tidy because stockings were always getting “runners” in them. Right in the middle of something you would look down and see the tell tale sign creeping up your leg and wonder how did that happen. So you kept a bottle of clear nail polish in your purse to stop the runner from widening to grand canyon proportions until you could get somewhere to just change out of the darn things. You would spend hours shopping for stockings to replace ones that got messed up.
Then there was the “training bra”. Training? Training for what? Your boobies were so firm or nonexistent that they didn’t need any training. Maybe it was just physical propaganda to get the adolescent girl ready to toe the line in a man’s world. Hey girl, you have to start adjusting so let’s wrap some useless bunch of fabric around your flat chest and get you prepared!
Later on if you achieved any sort of “mass” in the chest area you were made to wear a bra that made your boobs look like weapons of pointy mass destruction. If you didn’t have enough “mass ” to fill them out you had to resort to toilet paper or tissue.
Just so you don’t start thinking that this is just a story about underwear let me tell you a story about high heels. My mom decided one year that I was not “cultured” or “lady-like” enough so she sent me off to the local “charm school” to be improved. Virginia Boyce’s Charm School. There we sat on Mrs. Boyce’s couch waiting to be transformed into perfect little ladies. Mrs. Boyce told us “If your husband walks too fast when you’re wearing high heels just walk slower. He will have to slow down for you.” Thus began the insidious passive aggression and inability to speak out for what you need. Then she had us practice walking in high heels. I think this is where I got my lifelong fear of ankle sprains. While you were trying not to break your ankle you had to make sure you were walking properly. Well, maybe the more appropriate term would be “gliding”. We were not allowed to “bob”. We were to watch the horizon and if it went up and down we were deficient mules lacking all social graces. A few years later I was told by my boyfriend that I didn’t have any movement in my walk. Well, why the heck not and what’s wrong with that anyway? I am gliding, dude. Can’t you see that? What’s the matter with you?
Easter was a time of dread and high anticipation. Mom made it a gigantic production. There was the shopping and the new shoes that pinched and caused blisters. There was the stupid hat that we never wore ever again, the lace trimmed socks and teeny little handbag (to hold what?). Then there was the packing into the car for the Big Event (church) during which we squirmed and complained and mom kept socking us and telling us to be quiet. I couldn’t wait to get home and rip off those clothes and get back into my dungarees and t shirt. The shoes were patent leather that we “shined” with Vaseline. Sometimes Mom made us wear pointless little gloves that never stayed clean. Don’t touch anything Mom exclaims! There we sit like little stone sphinxes staring straight ahead until someone breaks a grin and we all start pushing on each other and laughing. I’m glad I was a kid in those days. Mom had it rough.
Gone and but not forgotten Hall of Fame: Itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini. Topless bathing suit by Rudi Gernrich. Sack Dress. Go-go boots. Nehru jacket. Beatles boots. Empire dresses. Baby doll dresses. Culottes. Bobbie Brooks. Shift dresses.
As soon as the hippie years commenced off came the bras and the girdles, here came the afros, raggedy bell bottom jeans, crocheted tops, second hand store wool navy trousers with the two rows of buttons at the top. My favorite coat was a double breasted black salvation army captains coat. It looked good with the jeans and my long hair cascading down my back.