Friday, August 18, 2006

Dressing Down the Decades

School Uniform

This is a middy blouse. Mine was worn with a navy blue tie and a navy blue pleated skirt. It was my uniform at St. Mary of The Palms School for Girls, in Mission San Jose, California. It was a boarding school. I attended St. Mary's after my father died, although we were not Catholic. Some day I'll have to tell you how hearing that all non-Catholics go to hell makes a little girl with a dead father feel.

When we lived in Puerto Rico, because they didn't speak English in the public schools in 1952, I attended a Catholic day school and wore a uniform much like this. I think the skirt was green. I think that middy blouses and pleated skirts were fairly standard for Catholic school uniforms in those days.

Squaw Dress

This is an example of the sort of thing I wore to school when I lived in El Paso, Texas and in Roswell, New Mexico. Lots of ric-rac. Our mothers had silver concho belts to wear with theirs, and sometimes there was turquoise inset into the belt.

Squaw dresses came in solid colors, like this one, or with alternating colors, so that the top and second gore were one color and the first and third gores were another. We tended towards combinations like turquoise or pink and grey or green and brown. We could choose the colors we wanted, because our mothers made all of our clothes. Black and white was a particularly dramatic contrast and I made myself one eventually. The only reason I could wear it without washing out was that I was so young -- I'm not the right coloring for black and white. I loved it.

Full Petticoats & Circle Skirts

In Roswell, in addition to squaw dresses, we also wore full petticoats and circle skirts. You may have seen pictures of poodle skirts, and there were some with poodles, but most were poodle free. I had one with my name embroidered on it. And one in light gray with a dark gray patch pocket and one in purple with lilac flowers at the hem. Again, my mother made them all.

Under the skirt, we wore anywhere from two to six petticoats. We soaked them in starch and/or sugar, so that they stood out quite far. Since we could never decide which made them stand out farther, we often soaked them in both. Two girls were about the limit to walk side by side in the halls at school or on a sidewalk. We would have been in real trouble had there been a fire.

These things took a lot of care, from soaking of petticoats to walking abreast to sitting with modesty. The fashion didn't last long, which was just as well. It was really training for being the kind of woman that society wanted in those days -- willing to do whatever was necessary to look good.


Cherry said...

Love the circle skirt!
My mom made me a few, and not for costumes. I was quite the skirt wearing tomboy. I loved to twirl around in them and they were roomy so you could still run around and climb trees.

Missed out on the big petticoats, although I did always seem to have one in my closet for occasions I don't recall. I just remember them being scratchy.

Maya's Granny said...

Yes, they were scratchy. Very scratchy.

saz said...

I had a gray poodle skirt with the poodle. We called those scratchy petticoats "crinolines" - have no idea where that name came from - french?

Maya's Granny said...

Yes, we called them crinolines, too. I had forgotten that.

laluna said...

Wow, I never knew the petticoats were so time consuming to keep up. I just love the 50's style poodle skirt, and the hairstyles of the era.