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Sandy’s Fashion Statement

May 31, 2019

From a distance of seventy years or more, I don’t have very many specific memories of clothes and their importance to me. I certainly wasn’t what you’d call a “clothes horse,” but my mother always saw to it that I was dressed nicely and probably pretty much like the way other girls my age were dressed in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

Of course, I have no recollection of how I dressed when I was a toddler, but I do have one photo. Here I am in a very dark long dress, talking on the phone, or probably pretending to. I know that the photo was taken at my cousin JoAnn’s house on Boss Avenue in Shreveport because I remember that bull “statue” from later years.

My cousin Gail and I must have spent some Easters together because these photos have us too dressed up for an ordinary Sunday. That’s not to say that we didn’t get dressed up every Sunday. Everyone had Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes that were saved specifically for the Lord’s Day. Check out the socks worn even when we were dressed to the nines. Very much different from the way girls dress today. We were probably nine or ten years old in these photos. Girls of nine today are sometimes wearing heels!

During those years, girls always wore dressed or skirts and blouses to school. It gets really cold in the South during the winter, so we were allowed to wear long pants under our skirts until we got to school. Those pants had to come off immediately and be hung up in what we called the “cloak closet.” We could put them back on to play outside during recess and lunch and then again to walk home.

On Saturdays, we dressed in jeans (nothing like the designer jeans today) or shorts. Not too much different from 2019. I was probably about twelve in this photo. The long legs haven’t changed in all those years.

I know that when we moved to Pensacola in 1953 my interest in clothes was much more pronounced. My mother sewed many of my clothes when we lived in Mobile and New Orleans, but when my parents took our little family to Pensacola, she began working outside our home and didn’t have time to sew. My dad opened up an Auto-Lec Associate Store in our new city, and just down the street from the store was Uden’s Dress Shop. My mother and Mrs. Uden had their own private barter agreement. Mother kept track of what Mrs. Uden bought at our store (toys, bicycles, appliances, tires, etc.), and she kept track of what Mother and I bought at her store (all of our clothes!). Every few months, they’d tally up what each had bought and pay the difference if there was one. Very convenient for both families! I don’t remember getting anything from Uden’s except skirts, blouses, and dresses. Girls still couldn’t wear pants to school.

This is a little strange: I hear people talking about poodle skirts being popular in the ‘50s and almost indicating that every girl wore nothing but them. I’ll tell you something. I saw very few, and I never had one.

What I do remember, though, is that all of us girls had crinolines. We wore them almost every day under our full skirts, and sometimes we even wore hoops under them. Yes, even to school. I remember a special program at my junior high school, when a girl was on stage, wearing a beautiful evening gown with a hoop under the skirt. I think it was a program in which one girl represented each month of the year. One girl sat down on a throne on the stage, plopped down on the edge of one of the hoops, and up went her skirt, showing all that she had underneath. How embarrassing!

I can remember washing and starching those crinolines every Saturday. Then I’d hang them on the clothes line in the backyard to dry. It took all day, but they were beautifully stiff when I took them down . . . all ready for Sunday.

By the way, on Sunday I wore a dress kept only for that day, a hat, and gloves. By the time that I was in ninth grade, I was wearing heels on Sunday. They weren’t four-inch heels, just two or three, I guess. The only time I ever wore really high heels was for high school graduation, and I prayed the whole time that I wouldn’t fall off as I was walking across the stage to get my diploma. The Lord heard my prayers, and I think I threw those shoes away. I know I never wore them again!

During my high school days, I did lots of sewing. Both gored skirts and gathered skirts were popular in the ‘50s, so that’s what I mostly made. My best friend, Sharon, and I went to town almost every Saturday, and one of the stores that we always visited was Gilberg’s, the fabric store. She sewed, too, so we load up with bright-colored fabric so that we could get to work on new outfits. I continued to sew even after Frank and I married and had children, but that’s another story.

College was no different from elementary, junior high, and high school as far as wearing skirts and dresses was concerned. The only time that we could wear pants or shorts was to go to gym, and then we had to wear a raincoat over them. The skirts that we wore fell about mid-calf. I must say that that was a comfortable, decent length. And then came Meredith Johnson, the Registrar’s niece. She was from Washington State and hit the campus with a bang. She wore mini skirts! They weren’t the mini skirts that we see today, ones that practically show panties. They were a few inches above the knee, though, and we were horrified. We were sure that she’d be kicked out of our very conservative Baptist college, but she wasn’t. I do think, though, that her uncle had a “come to Jesus” meeting with her because miraculously, her skirts became a bit longer. Today, on the campus of Mississippi College, you can see shorts and jeans and, yes, mini skirts. My how times have changed!

Just one more story about clothing. When I taught at Pascagoula High School right after Frank and I both finished college, the same rules were in force . . . dresses and skirts only. The same applied at Woodham High School, where I taught when We moved to Pensacola. I never qustioned the rules. Evidently some teachers had, though, because when I returned to school after three days of personal leave to accompany Frank to the Spring Sales Show for our store, as soon as I walked in to the school, there were my friends wearing pantsuits. Oh, my goodness, they were going to be fired . . . or so I thought. The truth was that while I was gone, the school board had approved women’s wearing pantsuits during the week and something more informal, like jeans, on Friday. I don’t remember that many of us immediately bought a new wardrobe of pantsuits, especially not on our teachers’ salaries. But gradually, we began to change, not every day, but occasionally.

As my mother-in-law used to say when she finished talking to us on the phone, “So there you have it. Good-bye.” And I’ll claim her finish as mine. So there you have it, my clothing history of sorts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 4, 2019 12:02 am

    I was finally able to post Sandy’s fashion draft but could never get the pictures to appear. I have a lot to learn–even after all these years–about wordpress!

  2. June 4, 2019 12:48 am

    Hmmm . . . I don’t see how to post photos.

    • June 4, 2019 2:34 am

      It gave me the option to post from Google photos. Grrr.

      • June 4, 2019 6:29 pm

        Not to worry about photos. I may not include any more, and the ones that I inserted aren’t all that important anyway. If I decide that I want to put any in, I’ll include them in my narrative, but you don’t need to worry about their being included. Oh, dear . . . I guess I’d have to just put in covers of books, huh? Is Google photos the same as Google images?

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