My mother used to regale my sister and me with stories of how she and her five sisters would turn their unglamourous under vests upside down and pin them to their dresses, so that the thick straps on the vests did not show if they danced the Charleston a little too vigourously. Their father, a rough and ready man from the North of England, used to remark “If it were’t fashion to show yer arses yer would.”
Unfortunately, Grandad was close to the truth. We are slaves to fashion, even those of us who would prefer not to be. I can’t imagine what new styles the fashion gurus have in store for us – or should that be you. I am in the happy state of not being obliged to follow fashion any more, having reached my late seventies. Sometimes, though, it is hard to buck the trend. When fashion went ‘big’, it was difficult to find clothes that actually fit. For the last ten or eleven years we all wandered around in clothes that looked as if we had borrowed them from a much larger relative. After a few months of watching others parade around in oversized clothes, I was brainwashed into thinking that they looked classy. I embraced the ‘large look’, realizing that it covered a multitude of skin.
When I had adopted the old ‘new’ look and had enlarged my wardrobe accordingly, the fashion designers decided on a new ‘new’ look. They chose form-fitting clothes again. If I was younger, that might have been fine, but at my age I don’t want ‘form-fitting’ — I want form disguising. Besides, new clothes don’t have the same allure that they had even twenty years ago. I don’t dress to impress any more. I have been married to the same man for fifty-eight years. He hangs onto his clothes for so long that some of them eventually come back in style – and with much self-congratulation, he wears the ones he can still fit into.
Skirt lengths have gone higher and higher. The flappers of the 1920’s wore dresses above the knee, which was scandalous at that time. The 1960’s saw the introduction of the even more revealing mini-skirt, making it advisable for modesty sake to wear tights underneath, but not all young women are modest and sometimes it is hard to know where to look. At the other end of the scale, skirts down to the ankle are still stylish, but a few inches below the knee, which I favour, seems to be out of style at the moment, but that too will change in time.
Hairstyles alter quite regularly as well, but a photograph of me, taken when I was three, shows that my hairstyle then, when my mother cut it, was much the same as it is now. I can remember when my sons were teenagers, their long unkempt hair drove me to distraction, but they were just following fashion and long hair for men has been the style quite regularly through the ages. Today, there seems to be more tolerance for a variety of styles. Long hair is still acceptable, so is the short, bristly, ‘crew cut’, ‘brush cut’ or whatever name it goes by now that was popular during the 1940’s.
For a while, back in the 70’s, wigs were the thing. Even though I have been blessed with thick hair – or cursed, depending on how it behaves, I wore a wig just because it was fashionable. If I remember correctly, the wig was short, straight and grey – just the same as my hair is now.
While thinking of fashion, we cannot forget shoes. High, high heels are back, but not for me. I have enough trouble walking in the ubiquitous runners which my age group has adopted as uniform. I remember when I too perched precariously on a pair of stilt-like high heels. Pointed toes are de rigeur again. Naturally, our feet are not pointed like the shoes, so several inches of shoe is just for show – which makes our feet look bigger. Is that something we desire? But what the heck – we are in style!
Just when you think necklines can’t get more revealing, they do. But there again, I remember coming across a small pieces of fabric called a ‘modesty vest’, which my mother, a young women in the 1920’s, wore to cover up a neckline that plunged too far. In just the same way, some young women of today wear a sleeveless top underneath their necklines that reveal too much – the modern ‘modesty vest’. On the other hand – some don’t! Does that prove that we are less modest than we were? Perhaps; but maybe we should wait and see what fashion has in store for us next year. The fashion dictators might decide we all need to cover up from head to toe again!
About the Author: Pam Kent started writing when she was sixty, after she learned how to use the computer; and she hasn’t stopped since. Her articles and essays have won awards and have appeared in newspapers, magazines and online, and have been included in anthologies.She lives in Aldergrove with Gord, her husband of fifty-eight years,and her two rescued dogs, Barney and Chia.