Monday, August 21, 2006

Dressing Down the Decades
1969 - Present
The Pantsuit

And then, life changed forever and much, much, much for the better. I moved to Fairbanks to teach in the local Montessori school, and stopped having to wear skirts. Alaska, because of the weather, was ahead of the Lower 48 in allowing women to wear pants to work. It was wonderful. I had skirts, I sometimes wore them, but rarely. Mostly it was pantsuits. The one pictured here was one of my favorites, gray that could be worn with any dark, intense color. Notice the three sets of chains that I bought to go with my gray mini and vest. I'm posing in the living room of the log house we lived in, which we called Antler Manor because there was a set of moose antlers above the front door, and it seemed nicer than calling it Horney Hall. Richard, Julie, and I shared the house with various roommates at various times, often another woman with a child.

Another good thing that happened with clothes, and happened very rapidly, was wash and wear. When we moved to Alaska we brought most of our clothes in suitcases, but the ironing came up by mover. The mover lost my belongings for six months, and when I finally got them, the only clothes my children owned that needed ironing were the ones in the shipment -- in six months, mothers had been freed of the iron unless they wanted to deal with it.

Pantsuits come in all sorts of styles and fabrics, good for summer as well as winter, or as in this case, for California as well as Alaska. By the time I had returned to California, in 1975, pants were being worn for work by many women there as well. Things had really changed in the five years we lived in Fairbanks. I was walking uphill on the UoP campus, the same UoP that had threatened to expel my aunt for wearing a pair of dress slacks to the grocery store just six years earlier, and there on the grass was laying a young woman with a short skirt and her feet pointing down hill and you could see she had on no underwear. Students and teachers were walking by and no one turned a hair.

Business Suits

For a while in California I owned my own training and consulting firm, and for that I had to wear skirted suits. I did it. It was a uniform, like the middy and pleated skirts I'd worn at boarding school. Of course, I used my own style on it as much as I could and had one turquoise suit and learned all sorts of things to make them more individual. But, when I was standing up in front of business people and expecting them to accept my authority, I had to know how to dress for that. Dark suits, high heels, dark glasses frames, all the tricks that make a woman who is just 5'2" tall seem imposing.

Now that I'm back in Alaska and I'm working in social service agencies, I'm back in my slacks. I'm back to free movement and easy care in my clothes. I can still play with color and enjoy clothes, but I no longer need to be constrained by them. I haven't worn a skirt that wasn't ankle length since a job interview in 1993; I have some long skirts, but no short ones. I haven't worn high heels since that day, either. Or pantyhose.


Charis said...

Ugh! Pantyhose! My main reason for living in trousers. What else can you wear with a short skirt? I resent having to shave/wax my legs as well. Just another stupid rule we women have to live by. Can you imagine if men had to shave/wax their legs, struggle into panty hose and mince up the road in high heels? Yet millions of women do it every day without questioning why they are doing so.

Deja Pseu said...

Pantyhose were invented by a sadist; I'm certain of it. I call them "sausage casings" and refuse to wear them. Yet I can't stand to wear closed shoes without hoisiery, so wearing a skirt is a rare occasion for me as well, and either involves sandals or boots with nice cotton socks.

For a while I had a nice work uniform, either a grey or black slacks/blazer combo, with different color accents. But then the workplace went all casual and my pantsuits felt just too stiff and formal. I'm still trying to figure this one out.

Gina said...

I kinda like the sound of Horney Hall. But, maybe not with kids in it.

Ally Bean said...

I've enjoyed your parade of fashion. So many styles have come and gone for you. I'm glad that you're now in comfy pants and shoes. At least the clothes part of life is good right now.

Cherry said...

J & I worked at a company that didn't allow pantsuits until 1997. It was all skirtsuits all the time before that. Luckily we didn't work anywhere near the corporate office and we generally were allowed to wear whatever we wanted (within reason).

Now, I rarely wear anything but jeans, a t-shirt and tennis shoes or sandles. Its not very femine, but its easy.

saz said...

I love that green outfit! Another foto at the moment that is sitting close to your mom's pic and you look so much like her.

kenju said...

NO one "turned a hair"? Good one!

Deja Pseu said...

Ditto on that green ensemble! I love those kind of jackets and the color is wonderful!

Kate said...

Do you remember (or did you ever know?) about my non-illustrious career in the dorms at Cal Poly? I was coming back after a weekend at home & the car broke down, so we were late. You got docked a point for every minute you were late, and every 45 points led to a day's detention. It got compounded when we didn't keep our room clean enough & got more points added on. If that happened, you started all over ... I spent most of the spring of my freshman year locked in my dorm room, for nothing that was my fault or in my control.

I'm liking the trip down memory lane for dressing too. I can also remember when we were first allowed to wear pants to work: I was working for Turco, so it must have been ca. 1969. Pantsuits only! My, but things have loosened up since then!

My first day on the new job, & I wore jeans & a t-shirt. I was overdressed: the rest of the group were all in shorts.

Joy Des Jardins said...

Thank God for the pantsuit! Pretty much what I lived in most of my adult life. You look great in that green one with your beautiful red hair. Pantyhose and heels....not my bag. I'm all for comfort at this stage of the game.

Maya's Granny said...

That green outfit was a winner, wasn't it? Now days my hair is mostly white and I've expanded, but I still love that shade of green -- or, to tell the truth, any shade of green. You should see me in chartreuse!

The great thing about wearing pants is not having to wear panyhose or garter belts or any of that nonsense. And being able to sit and move comfortably.

I have come a long way from the days when I had to try and keep my little white dresses clean and untorn.

Kate -- I didn't ever know you got a semester's house arrest, but I remember those rules. Lock out, a thing modern college girls have never heard of. My roommate and I used to sneak out early in the morning and climb up in the foothills to watch the sunrise, and we got in trouble for that, as well.

Mary Lou said...

Oh I LOVED the pant suit, I made them myself, and had 5 of them. Then I got promoted upwards, and had to go into real suits, so I had a closet full of Pendleton WOol Suits and the day I retired, I packed them away, and went into jeans and tee shirts, and here I sit 3 years later with no bra, no pantyhose, sometimes no uderwear, hair long and not curled, no make up and birkenstocks on my feet.

AHHHHHH Comfort at last!! Took me 37 years to do it though.

LauraHinNJ said...

Loved this series of posts!