Go on, it’s okay to flaunt the old-fashioned rules – Orlando Sentinel
Reflecting on past fashion maxims has become a bit of a late-August flashback tradition. For one thing, for people of a certain age group, as Labor Day (this year’s September 5th) approaches, the old ban on white shoes follows this traditional summer-to-fall transition sign. A rule may come to mind.
Also, it’s been years since I worked on my back-to-school clothing needs around this time of the year, but I remember those days. Serious question of skirt length. How many inches above the floor should the hemline be?
Do you think the people at Gallup thought the question was important enough to be polled in 1953? First Lady Mamie Eisenhower stood firm and said, “Last year’s Winter skirt length was maintained at 13 inches.
It seems to me that one of the legacies of the counterculture movement of the 1960s and ’70s was that it blew the whole skirt length issue out of the water. Expectations and regulations are much more flexible than they used to be.
There used to be more rules about fashion, some tied to the idea of seasonal appropriateness. I received a pamphlet with wardrobe advice.
No matter how hot it was, even in Florida, I didn’t want to be found wearing a “summer” dress after Labor Day when dark fall colors prevailed.
In a 1959 Florida Department of Commerce photo taken in Coconut Grove during the heyday of the 1960s, a model wears gloves and a crisp, shirt-waisted dress with pearls. It’s probably what the FSU brochure writers would have called transitional cotton.
“The classic shirt waist has been very popular over the years in collections by Florida designers,” declared a note accompanying the photo. Purses fit for a queen are dark in color.
Year after year, the old adage “Don’t wear white shoes” continues to gain media attention. Farmers even her almanac states that “fashionista Coco her Chanel bucked this trend in her 1920s, officially making white a permanent staple in her wardrobe.”
One theory traces the rules to the old money snobs of the early 20th century, when wealthy people escaped the city in the summer and dressed in bright colors at fashionable resorts. “In addition to its many orders of salad plates and fish forks, No White’s Dictum provided the elderly elite with a bulwark against upward mobility,” says author Laura Fitzpatrick.
Eventually, these up-and-coming folks got hold of the maxim, and by the 1950s, as the middle class expanded, customs were entrenched in rigid rules.
If it’s hard to imagine looking fresh in shirt-waisted dresses in August or September, it’s even harder to imagine back-to-school fashion in Florida in the 1880s and 1890s.
In her 1938 memoir, Orlando in the Long, Long Ago and Now, Kena Fries described a frontier fashion trend that relied on slate pencils for writing in school notebooks at the time.
Older schoolgirls used to heat a pencil in the flame of a kerosene lamp and use it to “frizzle” their bangs before going to school, Fries recalled. Another of his fads in the 1880s and his 1890s involved the creation of “button strings”.
“Buttons have been begged, traded and bought. I fear they will simply be plagiarized by older members of the family’s clothing. was worth it,” Fries wrote.
Button frenzy also manifests itself in Anne of Ingleside, one of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables books. The narrator reports, “Like measles, the collection of buttons broke out everywhere.”
Young Kenna Fries and the fictional red-haired Anne weren’t worried about wearing white shoes at any point in time. We’re saying it’s okay to wear white after Labor Day.
To contact Joy Wallace Dickinson: [email protected], FindingJoyinFlorida.comor in Letters to Good Old Florida Flashbacks, c/o Dickinson, PO Box 1942, Orlando, FL 32802.