Sunday, 27 January 2013

#337: Mad for Fashion

Having declared my fascination with Mad Men, I have to say that it is the clothing that really makes my aging heart go pit-a-pat.  I remember clothes the way men remember cars, and I loved my 60s wardrobe;  the filing cabinet in my brain labelled "What Nancy Wore" is packed with outfits from this era.

I admit that my passion for 60s fashion is partly fueled by its association with my personal history. (For instance, I can recall the jackets, dresses and high heels I took to Europe in 1964.)  But there are other reasons why these clothes still pack such a psychic and fashion punch.   I had a hands-on relationship with my 60s wardrobe. I sewed almost everything from 1959 to 1971, so I can look at what Peggy or Megan are wearing, and recall the fabric, the texture, and how hard/easy it was to work with.  And the look was so "modern"!  The new waist-less shapes-- tubes and A-lines-- were a refreshing departure from the structured clothing of the 50s.  Not to mention, easy to sew. These were clothes-for-the-young:  cute and sexy.  And with shorter skirts and eye-popping colour they also carried a whiff of youthful rebellion.  Change was on the horizon, and year by year throughout the decade, it was reflected in what we wore.
Sew easy

The advantage of having been so thoroughly seduced by the fashions of this period is that I can now watch Mad Men and predict when "the look" will change.  Will Don and the boys ever lose the snap-brim hats?  Will Joan succumb to comfort and try a fashionable, new, lower heel?  Right now, as I await Season Six, I anticipate the arrival of the *gasp* pant suit.  It was a Big Deal at the time, so it is bound cause a flutter in the office of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.  It is hard to imagine anyone today wasting intellectual effort denouncing a particular style because it might ruffle propriety.  Flip-flops in the White House:  that is what now passes for fashion outrage.  But pants in the workplace?  Western civilization was at risk.

There was, in fact, a dress code at the University of Alberta which forbade women to wear trousers, even in the coldest winter weather.  Finally, one frigid snowy day I committed a radical act and boldly wore a pair of warm pants to campus and was rather disappointed that no-one turned me in.  Did Mrs. Sparling, the Dean Of Women, think that we would be less ladylike thus clad?  We were certainly less cold.  The powers-that-be perhaps assumed that keeping women in skirts would somehow staunch the tide of feminism.  But I don't recall behaving too badly in my first pant suit,  a modestly cut, fully-lined ensemble of grey and white striped flannel with a tailored, collarless, three-button grey jacket.  I saved my temper for the sewing machine and the challenge of creating this outfit. I am sure that I even behaved quite well when I eventually went bra-less under that jacket.  And that raises another question: will the ladies of Mad Men abandon their bras?  Now there is an interesting prospect.

1960's Simplicity 8401 Womens Pattern Jacket Skirt Pants Suit Scarf Misses Vintage Sewing Pattern Size 10 Bust 32 1/2
Aggggh! Pants Alert!
No mistake: I loved the Sixties Look when I wore it and I love it now when I see it on TV.  It fills me with nostalgia: "a sentimental longing for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations" (thanks, Wikipedia).  When I wistfully consider this definition, however, I conclude that it is not the clothes, or the events, or the stuff  that I really miss:  it is youth, my youth.

I suppose other people must get sentimental over reminders of their special decade, too, although I find it hard to imagine nostalgic longing triggered by That Seventies Show.  Not all decades are created equal. (A bit harsh perhaps?  But then, I was in my thirties by 1974. Obviously untrustworthy.)  Objectively speaking, my decade was special because it was the beginning of so many movements that are still unfolding. All that positive energy, optimism and hope is what made the 60s swing. I am just happy to have gone along for the ride  -- and to have had the matching wardrobe.

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