Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Fashions of the Times

By Kay Kendall

I adore fashion. I can’t help it. It’s genetic. Both my grandmothers and my mother enjoyed clothes, jewelry, and dressing up. At the age of ten I had a weekly hair appointment at a salon. Shopping trips to the big city of Wichita from my hometown of 12,000 were a monthly highlight. In early years Mother and I even donned gloves for the 25-mile trip. When my Texas grandmother took me to the original Neiman Marcus in downtown Dallas, I almost swooned.

Now, flash forward to the eighties. Shoulder pads made the scene. Love at first sight! They helped balance my proportions, counteracting my hips. My mother, however, was appalled. “My dresses had big shoulders in the forties, and I'm not excited about things I wore before.” I didn’t understand. How could she be so stuffy?

With this new millennium, boho chic arrived. But it’s all sixties fashion to me. Retro hippie would be an even better name. The first time I saw nouveau bell-bottom trousers in an issue of Vogue ca. 2003, I groaned. Oh, surely that will never catch on again, I mused to myself, throwing the magazine aside in disgust. Then came the beads, the peasant blouses, and all the other hippie accouterments. The only thing not seen in redux-land is a version of my old macrame purse.

 Soon celebrities in the under thirty-five age group staked out hippie chic as their own look. Try an online search of images for entertainers Nicole Richie or Sienna Miller, and fashion stylist and designer Rachel Zoe. Every image of them is heavily influenced by the sixties. Nicole even wears macrame occasionally.

At first, like my mother twenty-five years ago, I spurned the return of styles I’d worn before. But boho chic gained strength and crept into more and more clothes. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since Stairway Press of Seattle published my debut mystery set in the sixties. Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery features a young bride from Texas who gets swept along by the tides of history during that turbulent time.

The choice of cover was tricky. The design had to evoke the Vietnam War era without turning off potential readers. Real photos from the period are too grungy, but countless current pictures are for sale of young female models dressed like hippies. We chose one of those photos, and the result has drawn raves. "Isn't she, er, fetching?" a bestselling male author gulped as he stared at my book cover, almost drooling.


To set the mood at my book signings, I often wear blouses and boot-cut pants (not bell-bottoms) like those I wore back then and throw on some beads and ethnic-y earrings to complete the effect. Luckily for me, there's no dearth of such clothes and jewelry to choose from.

How about you? Are there styles that have returned (from the dead, as it were) that delight you? That you are happy to wear again? Or are there other styles that have as yet to resurface and you wish they’d hurry and return?

Personally, I think how one dresses is a great form of self-expression. I love playing with style. Sure, it’s vain, I guess, but it is still fun!

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Kay Kendall is an international award-winning public relations executive who lives in Texas with her husband, five house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. A fan of historical mysteries, she wants to do for the 1960s what novelist Alan Furst does for Europe in the 1930s during Hitler's rise to power--write atmospheric mysteries that capture the spirit of the age.

2 comments:

  1. I enjoyed this, and I agree with you-clothes make a statement about you. I wasyoung in the sixties, and I loved the clothes. In a way, we wear costumes that say this is who I am-today.

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  2. Absolutely...or should I say "right on" like back in the day?!! It's taken me decades to figure out that the way you present yourself to the world is really saying something. The university I used to work with had a stocky, no-nonsense woman as its leader of its medical school. She had great legs though and wore sleek high-heeled pumps on her feet. I stared at the shoes all during her speech one day, trying to figure out what her shoe choice said about her. A month later I learned she drove a bright yellow convertible. The shoes and car spoke of a hidden side to her. I loved it.

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