Monday, January 26, 2009

Nothing to Wear

A reader who left a comment on the previous post wrote that she loves the feminine fashions of the 50s depicted in this blog. So do I. In fact, a few of my most treasured clothing items are from that era. I have a little cropped jacket from the 1940s that will be with me until I take my last breath. The covered buttons, the padded shoulders, the subtle gathers at the waist make it a real classic. The workmanship and detail in yesteryear’s clothing will never again be matched.

Well-dressed women in the late 19th century, it has been recorded, may have worn more than 35 pounds worth of clothing in wintertime! More than half of that weight hung from the waist. A woman could do some serious resistance training just walking around, were it not for the unhealthy, constricting corset. According to an article by Dorothy Hartman, corsets could put as much as “22 pounds of pressure on internal organs. Long term results of wearing the undergarment included fractured ribs, collapsed lungs, displacement of the liver and uterine prolapse. Physicians rallied around the idea that corsets compressed the genitals, thus weakening the woman’s ability to bear children.”

Women's clothing did come a long way by the 1920s. Women were freed from these constricting fashions, with shorter skirts, looser clothing, and even trousers. Summer fashions were breezy and flowing, and in winter, practicality reigned with jackets, capes, trousers and hats with more man-tailored but still flattering looks. For me, no era beats the 1940s and 1950s for women’s clothing that was as practical as it was beautiful. Think of Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca; Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep (though of course they had the height and classic figures to look good in anything). And the clothing in all my 1940s-1950s magazines just makes me so envious. It’s not easy to find the really good stuff in vintage outlets.Where is it all? My theory is that all those lovely beaded wool sweaters were eaten by moths. Anyone with any tips, send them my way!

Women’s clothing from the mid-20th century was feminine yet classy. You don’t see the kind of cheesy fabrics and absurd daytime decolletage so prevalent today. For example, former President Bush’s former press secretary, Dana Perino, was recently on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart wearing what looked like a cheap bright red prom dress, really low cut in a non-flattering way and you just wonder, what was she thinking?
I’d like the pendulum to swing back to the detailed, feminine, yet non-revealing styles of the mid-20th century (OK, with the exception of the hideous shirtwaist dresses like those worn by TV moms like June Cleaver and Donna Reed), but that, I’m afraid, will remain a fantasty.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nava, you are so right about the fashion trends today. I was at a treatment team meeting for patients, and I leaned over to the woman on my right and asked her, "Why is Katherine (not her real name)calling the meeting to order in her lingerie?" It was no joke; this young therapist had on what certainly looked like something from Victoria's secret under her suit jacket. When she leaned forward (which she often did when the males looked her way) you'd think that all hell might break loose.

At least this year in our town, I notice that the teen girls are wearing camisoles under their plunging shirts, leaving no skin showing. It's the young career women who boggle my mind...Katherine looked like a throwback to that editor at Cosmopolitan. Betty Friedan would've choked. After all our work for women's rights, it's all shot to heck by these young execs who don't want anyone to harass them or tell them how they look.
A crazy world, eh?


I got in such HOT WATER for my idle comment. This therapist stormed into my classroom after school screaming that she was not wearing her underwear and that I could keep my fashion sense to myself. Actually, I only wrote the comment, I didn't say it to the group, for heaven's sake. Only mistake I made was showing the note to the female staff next to me who turned out to be "thick as thieves" with Katherine.