I strongly feel that the current rash of vaginal infections is related to women dressing in men's-style clothing. I'm an old square who thinks women look graceful and feminine in long skirts with lace and frills to accentuate their femininity. Pioneer women wore long skirts with no underclothes--at least for working--and had far fewer bladder infections than modern women who wear slacks, especially tight, rigid denims, and panty hose. In addition, the exercises of squatting and tailor sitting can be performed so much more easily in a large, loose skirt than in tight-fitting slacks.
I can't resist sharing my favorite warning about the dangers of pants for women, from none other than physician Robert Bradley, author of the very-popular Husband-Coached Childbirth.
This was a popular "science-based"argument in the 1960s and 70s for why women should not wear pants. (Strangely, it was not used to discourage us from wearing underpants!) Later studies found trousers innocent on all charges; instead the major culprits were nylon panties and pantyhose.
If you asked someone in the fashion industry, unisex was a fad that came and went in one year: 1968. For that brief moment, the fashion press hailed gender blending as the wave of the future, and department stores created special sections for unisex fashions. Most of these boutiques had closed by 1969. However, in the more mainstream realm of Sears, Roebuck catalogs and major sewing patterns, “his ‘n hers” clothing – mostly casual shirts, sweaters and outerwear – persisted through the late 1970s. The difference between avant-garde unisex and the later version is the distinction between boundary-defying designs, often modeled by androgynous-looking models, and a less-threatening variation, worn by attractive heterosexual couples.
Also: one more chapter to go! Huzzah!!!
I am still drafting the context chapter of the book, and thankfully, it is beginning to make sense. Or at least I think it is, so I'll post a bit here are see what y'all think. Don't be shy!
This comes after a paragraph about the inability of sex researchers to take into account their own culturally-induced biases. I use the familiar metaphor of the fish trying to understand water, which is often used to describe the difficulties encountered when we try to examine our own culture.
Reformers, advocates and activists working to expand civil rights were essentially trying to change the dimensions of the fishbowl. The Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States of America offer definitions of human rights that initially promised more than they delivered to many people living within our borders. The civil rights movements in our history have been efforts to include people who had been excluded from the promise of “life, liberty and the pursuit if happiness” offered in 1776 and the guarantee of “equal protection under the law” added in 1868. This may seem heady, serious stuff for a book on fashion, but it was the civil rights movement that made clothing and hair into national, contentious issues. Much of the fashion controversies centered on issues of gender expression and gender equality, which raised different questions for women and men, and for adults and children.
Many of the initial questions were seemingly trivial. Why can’t girls wear slacks to school? Why must men always wear ties, which seem to serve no practical purpose? Why do so many dresses button or zip up the back? Why can’t a boy wear his hair long just like the Beatles? Why do I have to wear white gloves and a hat just to go shopping downtown? Why is it cute to be a tomboy but not a sissy? If these sound like children’s questions, maybe it’s because at first they were. I remember puzzling over these and many other rules when I was growing up. The answers were even more puzzling – and annoying! “That’s just the way it is.” “Because I said so.” Culture, and the authority of grownups. In the 1960s, the Baby boom generation started to question more and push back harder, along with some allies in older generations. They were aided and abetted by a consumer culture that may have been more interested in their buying power than in cultural and political change.
A. Blouses/skirts, sweaters/skirts, or sport type dresses shall be worn.1. Blouses, dresses, and sweaters must have armholes high enough to cover undergarments.
2. Extremely tight fitting clothing shall not be worn.
3. Skirts shall not be more than four inches (4") above the knee.
4. Midriffs, backless, shoulderless dresses are not acceptable. Spaghetti straps or tie straps are not to be worn. Blouses should be worn under low necked sweaters.
5. Blouses must be worn tucked in unless the blouse [**7] is designed to be worn outside the skirt as an over-blouse.
6. Play clothes, such as slacks, pedal pushers, shorts, Bermudas, leotards without a skirt, etc., are not acceptable wear unless specifically designated for special occasions.
A. Hair styles shall be neat, properly combed, appropriately arranged, and extreme styles avoided. Bangs are to be neat and short enough to show the eyebrows.1. Pincurls, clippies, rollers, or glitter may not be worn during school hours. Head scarves are not to be worn in classrooms.
A. Make-up shall be applied sparingly and not to the point of attracting undue attention.1. Excessive jewelry is not appropriate for school wear.
A. Shoes should be appropriate for school wear. Roman type sandals or boots are not acceptable. Hosiery, anklets, or peds are to be worn for good health practices.
Beginning in 1964, newspapers reported numerous instances of boys – some as young as 9 – being barred from school for having long hair. Most of these confrontations ended with a quick trim. In a parochial school in New Hampshire, the administrator loaded 18 students on a school bus and delivered them to a local barber. The first legal case involving hair was Leonard v. School Committee of Attleboro (Massachusetts), which began with the first day of classes on September 9, 1964 and went all the way to the state Supreme Court, which in December 1965 upheld the school’s right to dictate the appearance of students. Leonard, already a professional musician performing under the name Georgie Porgie, had argued that the school did not have a written dress code and that his long hair was vital to his career, but the court ruled that the principal had the authority to tell Leonard to get a haircut and to expel him when he refused. When he attended an Attleboro High School all-class reunion in 2013, he was greeted as a celebrity; to his classmates and the younger students at the school, he had been a hero. To some fans of freedom of expression, he still is; his entry at the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame website, claims, "every kid who sports long hair, pink hair or a shaved head, or wears a nose ring, a tattoo or makeup, owes his right to do so to” the Pawtucket-born Leonard.
Georgie Porgie and his band appeared at least once with the Cape Cod garage band The Barbarians, who recorded the 1965 hit "Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl", the unofficial anthem of the Great Hairy Cause.
I've noticed a shift in the mid-1960s away from something I will call “personality dressing”, which is the common women’s magazine trope that asks, “What kind of woman are you?” and then offers style and grooming advice based on the responses. For example, in 1965 Seventeen featured “Personality types and the clothes that go with them” using the categories “dainty vs sturdy”, “dramatic vs demure”, and “dignified vs vivacious for three pairs of outfits. A fragrance ad in 1968 offers a short quiz and three choices, “romantic”, “modern”, and “feminine”. I've seen other writers describe what replaced personality dressing as “event dressing”, but I feel that the “moment dressing” is more descriptive. In the late 1960s and 1970s, there were many choices (minis, midis, maxis, pant suits, jeans, menswear, peasant, vintage...) and plenty of women opted for an extremely varied wardrobe
Which outfit came out of the closet depended not only on the event or occasion, but the woman’s mood at the moment as well. The significance of this is that mood dressing was a rejection of an essentialist view that women came in a few, easily categorized varieties. Like the W-O-M-A-N in the Enjoli perfume commercial who can “bring home the bacon, cook it up in a pan, and never let you forget you’re a man”, the woman of the 1970s could do anything, or least dress for anything.
That's my take, anyway. What's yours?
I'm about to ask some messy questions. Writing about gender can get that way. In 1967, cultural critic Russell Lynes observed that the gender-bending styles of the young had a curious effect. in his opinion, the new fashion of women dressing more like boys or men helped homely girls look more attractive. Lynes gives the example of Barbra Streisand, but his comment reminds me of the recent viral video of the Dustin Hoffman interview about his cross-dressing experience in "Tootsie". Nearly 40 years later, Hoffman is reduced to tears with the recollection that the make-up people had made them as pretty as they could, and he couldn't measure up to his own standards of a woman worth spending time on.
Then I am reminded of a recent conversation with a colleague who knows a bit about the subject -- she's taught a course on the history of drag -- where she mused about the relative "success" of male-to-female gender performance, compared to women attempting to pass as men. Here's the question: Do men find otherwise plain or unattractive women look more attractive -- as women -- when they wear masculine clothing? Is feminized men's clothing more threatening than mannish styles for women in our culture because it is a challenge to the existing power structure, or because the artifice involved in performing femininity -- make-up, body shaping and elaborate hair modification -- is exposed as the trickery it really is when a man does it? What are the limits of beauty culture, and how do girls and women negotiate their own sense of self worth within those limits? Do we experience a Tootsie moment when we know we look our best and know deep in our souls that it isn't "enough"? What does it feel like?
Personally, it feels like my own personal cloak of invisibility. I can look quite presentable when I try, and I do still enjoy the effort. But I can also choose, when I feel like it, to pull on something comfortable, skip the makeup and enjoy the sensation. Oddly enough, androgynous clothing helps me do that.
P.S. Getting dragulated by RuPaul is still on my bucket list
I turned 13 in 1962. Before I graduated from high school, three books hit the bestseller lists, each offering a completely different, competing view of what sort of woman I should try to be. Let the authors speak for themselves:
When a man thinks of a married woman, no matter how lovely she is, he must inevitably picture her greeting her husband at the door with a martini or warmer welcome, fixing little children's lunches or scrubbing them down because they've fallen into a mudhole. She is somebody else's wife and somebody else's mother.
The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange starring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the 20th century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shop for groceries, match slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, she furred Cub Scouts and brownies, lay beside her husband at night–she was afraid to even ask herself the silent question–“ is this all?”
Never before in history has there been a generation of women so disillusioned, disappointed, and unhappy marriage is in our times. Many feel that married life does not offer what they had hoped and dreamed it would. Some feel neglected, unappreciated, and often unlocked. When they search for answers, they feel lost in a sea of darkness. Some are resigned to this condition, but others still hope and search for answers.
I hasten to say that although I didn't read any of them, the ideas each author advocated swirled around me throughout my high school and college years. (And they are all still in print fifty years later, which is telling.) Which woman should I be? Helen Gurley Brown's independent, sexy, young single girl? Betty Friedan’s liberated woman with a career and perhaps an equally liberated husband? Or Helen Andelin’s domestic goddess, realizing her power by cultivating her femininity?
When faced with a multiple choice test, the young women of the 60s and 70s tried to turn it into an essay exam.
I've been collecting dozens -- no, make that hundreds -- of images as part of my research and I want to share them with you all, because they are fun, thought-provoking and even astonishing.
They are all here on my new Tumblr, Gender Mystique. Enjoy!
The concept of age compression, or kids getting older younger (KGOY), has been controversial for years. I just caught an example of this from the Sears catalogs in the late 1960s and early 1970s. On the left, you see an image of the Junior section of their spring 1967 catalog, which features popular model Colleen Corby (born in1947) in an outfit that in style and sizing is aimed at young women in the high school-college age range. In short, for younger women about her age. In 1970 Sears introduced their young teens line called "The Lemon Frog Shop", sizes 6J to 18J, and described as perfect for girls from 11 to 14 years of age. Who do we see? Why, there's Colleen Corby at the far left, now in her early 20s. Colby was a popular model for girls about her age in the 1960s. What effect does her appearance have, when she is modeling clothing for girls 10 years younger?