Cumberland Times-News

Maude McDaniel - Living

July 2, 2011

The old times always come back except when you want them to

Something they never tell you about growing old is that, assuming you stick around long enough, you get to go through fashion trends all over again again that you thought you had outlived — thank goodness — 50 years ago.

Like hats. They are not just for the British royals any more.

One of the best days of my life was the day, sometime early in the 60s, I think, (one of the few good things that can be said for that decade) when I gave up on hats. It wasn’t for lack of them, either. As I’ve mentioned before, I had hats for every occasion, mostly church, where you would never be caught dead without one. (Though there’s probably no better place to be caught dead in.)

Those modern movies that dress their ’40s and ’50s women up in hats to go for walks or to go shopping are pushing it a little — I never wore a hat to the store in my whole life. They were mostly for church and, over the age of 14, you wouldn’t appear there without one! Or a reasonable facsimile.

And some of them were lovely. I adored my white straw half-cloche, with yellow flowers on it, that I wore for my going away outfit. (Nowadays, they don’t have going away outfits for after weddings, because brides and grooms don’t go away anymore — they’re either already there, as at destination weddings, or not planning to leave the reception any time soon, so they can get their money’s worth.)

But we left about 6 p.m. after the reception on our way to Canada, and I wore a beautiful grey suit with a yellow-and-grey stole and that hat — which I still have somewhere. There were other hats I loved, too — the dark blue straw picture hat, and the green felt pillbox (shades of Jackie Kennedy). Anyway, my point is that hats can be absolutely delightful to wear, or a pain in the neck, as they gradually got to be, especially when hairstyles began to trend very, very full, sometimes known as bouffant. Either you had to perch your hat on top of a huge head of hair, looking like an inverted cup and saucer, or else you went without a hat entirely — and that is what we all ended up doing, even to church. A few fashion plates who didn’t want to get rid of any of their complete outfits hung on a while, but most of us saw immediately the advantages of going hatless, and, believe me, I have never looked back.

Now, hats appear to be making a comeback, with all the bother and hair muss that come along with them. Luckily these things take time. I can only hope I will be gone before it becomes a moral law to wear hats again.

And here’s another possible horror story. Girdles and corsets seem very slowly and secretly, to be on their way back as well. In these days of female equality (more or less), it’s hard to imagine that anyone, male or female, would ever voluntarily adopt anything as constricting and uncomfortable as these, which are now being called, oh so innocently, shapers and skimmers. I beg you, both my dear readers, male and female alike, to resist the siren call of these evil inventions. I speak as one who wore one for some 30 years (not the same one) and, take my word for it, the slight improvement they make in some parts of your anatomy, is more than made up for by the corresponding bulges and increments in adjoning areas of your anatomy — and it ain’t a pretty picture.

Beyond that is the biscuit-dough effect. A dear relative of mine was unfortunate enough to live smack dab in the middle of an unbroken hundred-year range of corset-wearing history. She wore one all her life, except, I hope, for the first 10 years or so. When she took it off, the flesh underneath was like one of those modern mattresses where the imprint of your hand stays on forever — yep, just like biscuit-dough. Unbaked.

But I digress, as I so often do. What I meant to get at here was this: Where are the comebacks that we really need? What we need most nowadays is not a new era of hats, nor, heaven help us, corsets. If old styles must come back again, is it too much to ask that modesty, intelligence, and good clean humor also repeat themselves? I see advertisements for new fall TV shows (“Whitney,” “Playboy Club,” etc) and the clips leave no doubt but that they are more of the same our young people have been watching for the last few years — raunchy, violent and profane. (Whatever happened to the children’s hours on TV?) Between TV and video games (now protected by the Supreme Court), our kids have no choice but to become raunchy, violent and profane themselves, and totally uninnocent from kindergarten on.

Laugh if you want to, but the country was better off in the days of the “Lucy Show,” “the Dick Van Dyke Show,” and, yes, even “Father Knows Best,” where cursing, smut and uncommitted sex were unheard of, and the fun was rooted in normal human and family situations, instead of trumped-up trash.

I don’t ask for typewriters back again, or old-fashioned paper maps, or the geometrical print dresses the old women wore in the 1950s. (But those are back anyway! In strapless, thigh-high, neckline-down-to-here teen dresses.) I just want the spirit of the old days back, when kids didn’t have to grow up at the age of six.

Please?

(I just got back from grocery-shopping. How about bringing back the old prices, while we’re at it!)

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears on alternate Sundays in the Times-News.

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