Did you ever have that moment during the day where you look up into a mirror you’re passing and realize you look like you think you’re en route to a MadMen extras casting?
No? That never happens to you? That happens to me at least twice a week. One good look at me and most people gather this thought: “You, my gal Friday, are not of this time.” Of course, most people would not express the sentiment as such, but my retort as such is another symptom that I may not be of this time.
That—that I’m doomed to only be the girl who should have been born in 1926 instead of 1986, that I can be written off as just Rockabilly Barbie, that I am unaware of my odd juxtaposition next to whomever I am standing with in the grocery store line—is a half-truth. Sure, I dress like I’m waiting on my beloved to come home from fighting Mr. Hitler. Sure, I’m still lusting after Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Yes, I may be just a few bored Sundays away from memorizing A Tree Grown in Brooklyn or The Sound and the Fury or any Fitzgerald from worn cover to worn cover.
So, absolutely, you might agree with my nearest and dearest that there must be a time portal in the back of my closet or at the foot of my bookcase. However, here’s the little trick: I am certainly a woman of contemporary thoughts. I know, I know, now you’re waiting for those dirty little descriptive words: feminist, empowered, smart. Really, it’s not so much that I’m a feminist, it’s that I’m a product of being born in a world post 2nd Wave Feminism, and cannot help but be proud of that (and possibly eager for the 3rd Wave).
I am a pop-culture addict, reality TV junkie, sportsfreak, trend-savvy young woman wearing a high-waisted pencil skirt with victory curls in my hair, listening to turn of the century (that’s turn of the last century, the 20th one, not the 21st) Delta jazz.
Sometimes it’s hard to reconcile the vintage parts of me with the up-to-date software edition of me. For instance, here on my desk: I type on my new MacBook Pro with a picture of Jack Kerouac hugging Neal Cassidy next to the device of modernity. (Really, both have something to do with me being able to write, one practical, one in theory.)
Among my throwback tendencies is this: I genuinely believe in the idea of “getting dressed.” Everything has a place and time in this world—and pajama pants and public settings have few causes to meet, in my mind at least. (Notable exceptions: eight A.M. college classes or anytime during senior year of high school, running to the store for vanilla extract or milk when you run out halfway through baking, or the Emergency Room—I will never question any fashion statement being made in the E.R. Really, changing into suitable attire is the least of concerns.)
I’m not sure why I usually seem to be the lone flag-bearer for dressing in ways people have done for generations. I was astonished that so many of my female classmates chose not to wear stockings or pantyhose with their dresses or skirts at our college graduation. They thought I was the odd one. I though, “This is just how this is done.” It’s practical, it’s flattering, it’s classic.
And no, I don’t think everyone needs to think like me on this—how boring and unfathomable would that make the world? I am all for self-expression. I do not think you less of a person because you find stockings stifling. I’m just mystified, is all.
For me, the idea of “getting dressed”—changing out of pajamas, wearing proper undergarments, taking the effort for accessories, makeup, hairstyling—is about personal pride. It’s my way of feeling ready for the world. Life should be an event all the time. Life should be exciting. Life should be, “We’re going out: we need hats and gloves.” Gosh, I yearn for that. In my perfect world, we all go out in gloves and hats (in that world, we also send Thank You cards and don’t answer, “Good,” to the question, “How are you?”) The idea that I want to feel well made up does not negate my feminism. Self-identity is different for each of us, this I realize. But, I digress.
Somewhere along the line, the idea of putting a hat on the top of your head before you exit your residence stopped being obvious. It’s said that men stopped wearing hats because President John F. Kennedy did not wear one. Imagine being that influential on fashion, without even being a creator of fashion—you walk out of your house (albeit, it’s the White House) for an event (albeit, your swearing in as leader of the Free World) hatless, so all men gradually stop wearing hats. This practice of men wearing hats in public was a practice hundreds of years old in 1961, when President Kennedy didn’t. Now, fifty years later, it’s all but a defunct practice.
Of course, MadMen and our grandfathers keep it alive. And of course, it still happens in my mind, where cars still have big fins, milk is delivered to our doorstep, people still read books not on electronic devices, and we all properly attire ourselves before stepping out from our front doors. Even the recent GQ spread, showing what the fashionable man is wearing this fall (note: I’m swooning, just for those of your playing along at home), did not picture a single hat. No fedora. No newsboy cap. No bowler (another hint for the at-home contestant: these are not easy to pull off, use sparingly, get advice before applying to head). And while hats of multiple variety were in fashion profiles and advertisements, a well-dressed man of this fall has not been directed to acquire a covering for his head.
Of course, we have been left with the abject conquer of one hat: the baseball cap.
Baseball caps certainly have their place. They have function. And yes, the function does not have to be just to keep sun out of one’s eyes; fashion is another fashion (bet you never thought I’d be taking a page from today’s leading rap superstars, did you? I am more versatile than a Halston turtleneck.)
Then, there’s women’s fashion. This I am particularly concerned with, mostly because I myself am a woman concerned with fashion. I still have the same problem on the other side of the gender dressing room. Really, am I the only one saddened that we don’t go around in hats and gloves anymore? And I don’t mean the knit ones we’re bundled up in to shovel our streets post snow storm.
We don’t pin pill box hats to our head. No one’s half veiled with a fascinator any longer (I really strained myself not making an “unfascinating” joke there). Sun hats have been left to the mockery of Jersey Shore. Do little girls even wear those white wicker hats with Easter dresses anymore? Why was I laughed at and mocked when I made a comment about “driving gloves” last week? It’s not like I said I was buying driving gloves, although, it’s not out of the question.
Oh, what has the world come to? Why have we decided we don’t need hats and gloves to go out and be proper in society? (Are we still worried about being proper in society? Is that just me also?)
I was going to ask you if you’d mock me horrifically if I started going about in hats and gloves (apart from winter), but I’ve realized: in a world where Lady Gaga is doing whatever it is that she’s doing with her wardrobe, I, in my retro regalia, cannot possibly be the most peculiar thing you see in a given day…can I?