Tuesday, July 16, 2013
The Clothes of Our Lives
I remember my mother’s 1960’s wool plaid Bermuda shorts, Peter Pan collars and Shetland cardigans which gave the decade just after the extremes of Dior’s New Look, a welcome change and a chic casual appeal. But upon entering the exhibit, it was deja 1970 all over again as I beheld the clothes of my 7th and 8th grade teachers; the plaid skirts and matching sweaters, sprigged cotton dresses with tan leather belts, and trim navy dresses with white plackets and piping. Apparently, some other women saw their Jr. High teachers too, or so they said on the video loop that was playing. Even my dear friend was heard to murmur something about a beloved "Miss Brylawski".
I love that the clothes on our teachers’ backs were for grown-ups and that there was no mistaking the adults in our school. If you were a male teacher, a daily coat and tie was required and if you were a female teacher, an outfit from John Meyer of Norwich fit the bill nicely and gave necessary authority in our unruly school. Like us, our teachers loved Tattersall, checks, tartans, pleats, wools, and crisp cottons.
We wanted John Meyer of Norwich because their clothes were in Seventeen and Ingenue. The shorter skirts with vests and chiffon blouses, Fair Isle sweaters, tartan coats - it all fit our 1970’s aesthetic - we wanted to look like Love Story's Jenny Cavalleri (Ali McGraw) to Oliver Barrett IV (Ryan O'Neal). Mom liked the clothes because they made us look neat and uncorrupted. Before long, bell bottoms, fringe, and hippie chic had their way with us.
John Meyer of Norwich conveyed an Ivy League sensibility that still looks terrific if a bit chaste. Afterall, there was no in-your-face cleavage; only alluring nipped waists and leggy looks. The company evolved and tried to embrace a more bohemian expression but my fascination remains with the roots of Preppy. It's where clothes took root for me too.
When my friend and I returned home, we pulled out my old Seventeens and scoured them looking for John Meyer of Norwich ads. It didn't take us long to find several colorful ones. These were the clothes of our lives.