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October 26, 2008

Well Good Morning

We are back.

We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, among which we must account the dearth of bloggitudinal fare here at VC lately. The Editorial Staff were otherwise occupied.

green_dress.jpgDon't ask us what this photo has to do with Mimosas, or with not having written anything for several days, because we could not tell you to save our lives. We spent yesterday (in part) looking at vintage clothing - something you perhaps did not need to know about the Editorial Staff: we have a mad passion for vintage clothing, though we rarely purchase anything because it is so rarely in good condition. However, the oddest things come up when one Googles "Mimosa", and green *is* just about our best color.

Among the odd items we saw on our travels was a 195x edition of The Lucky Bag (the Naval Academy yearbook). The Unit's father in law graduated that year, so naturally we stopped to leaf through the yearbook. It was an oddly touching reminder of a vanished world.

Can you imagine midshipmen showing up in suit and tie? Page after page of neatly attired young men and women, invariably putting their best foot forward, regardless of their social station? Men were always in collared shirts and wool worsted pants with neatly shined shoes, women wearing hats, lipstick, high heels and stockings with coats that coordinated with their outfits.

The Unit and I often comment, when we go to the airport, that people can't even be bothered to get out of their sweatpants or worst jeans when they fly. Look at an old film from the early sixties and you'll see people in suits and coordinated outfits, having made an effort to look their best for travel in public.

The end of an age... and perhaps the subject of a future post. Anyway, it was a lovely dress and it caught our eye: graceful, feminine and calculated to accentuate the best of the female form while not revealing more than needed to be revealed: alluring and beguiling without being cheap and tawdry. This, we think, is a lost art. There is something to be said for leaving something to the imagination. In a world of 24/7 online porn and in your face pop tarts who keep defining decency down, feminine mystery and the subtle charm of the reserved offers something truly special: the possibility that perhaps not everything in life is for sale or worse - free to all comers.

At any rate, being now fortified with our customary Sunday morning beverage of choice, the obscenely large Mimosa, we expect to be making very little sense in no time at all.

Thank you for your patience.

Posted by Cassandra at October 26, 2008 10:21 AM

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I find the old standards of dress interesting as well.

Part of what happened was that the common culture cracked. One reason people always put their best foot forward in public was that the culture required it; but the other reason was that there was a plain standard for what constituted "your best foot." There was a commonly recognized standard that you should look "nice," and there was a commonly understood standard for what it meant "to look nice."

Today, if you sent people an invitation to an event that stated they should "wear your best clothes," you might get all kinds of different apparel. Does that mean to wear a suit? A tuxedo? A silk shirt and $400 blue jeans? Even if people wanted to do it, they wouldn't know just what was meant.

Another interesting aspect: the old standard was actually not "your best foot" but existed to provide a common, middle ground that was attainable for everyone. A poor man might own one suit, that he could wear on the occasions when he had to come to town. A rich man would not wear his white-tie garments except to white-tie parties, but would dress to match the poor man -- a simple broadcloth suit.

Posted by: Grim at October 26, 2008 11:58 AM

"Free to all comers?" Interesting phraseology when describing Britney Spears and the Hollywood tart group these days.

In the early days of flying I remember being told to wear my "Sunday school best" when flying. Somewhere along the way public conveyances became an extension of the living room, bathroom, and bedroom.

The brain is truly the most important sex organ and leaving something to the imagination is the true power of femininity. I still tweak the dragon's nose by holding the door open for females in spite of the usual retort "I can get my own door!" To which I usually reply "I'm sure you can!" Some of the more angry women accuse me of being in "Their space" when I hold the door open. Anyone have an idea as to what constitutes the physical parameters of where their space ends and mine begins?

Posted by: vet66 at October 26, 2008 12:34 PM

Well, for whatever it may be worth, I find that when I am out men usually do still hold the door for me and I always make sure to smile and thank them as politely as I know how. I hold the door for both males and females. To me, it is just the polite thing to do.

I am not young enough to flatter myself that it means anything other than simple good manners, and thus I am always very grateful that there are still folks who still appreciate the niceties.

Posted by: Cassandra, Brunette-American at October 26, 2008 12:39 PM

On another note, I've noticed that when I stop and hold the door for men, they are often faintly surprised, but almost always pleased , too :)

That makes me smile.

Posted by: Cassandra, Brunette-American at October 26, 2008 12:40 PM

Seen on the wall of a stateside gin-mill:

MEN: No shirt, no service.

WOMEN: No shirt, free drinks.

Kinda sums it up, dunnitt?

Posted by: BillT at October 26, 2008 01:26 PM

Perhaps one reason people don't dress as much for air travel is the difference in expectations over time. I have only traveled economy, or, on military flights. I remember traveling by myself with toddler and infant. Meals were provided, snacks, courtesy and respect from the staff.. and the extra help a harried mom sometimes needed was provided cheerfully. The leg room was also sufficient to squeeze by the person in the aisle seat without that person standing. Now, shoes are chosen so they can be quickly removed and put back on during security screening, more and more stuff is brought aboard because of the check in limitations, and since you are quite likely to have your seatmate overflowing onto your part of your narrower seat, one takes that into account regarding apparel. Attendants are still friendly, especially on SWA, but are much less available. One tends to dress up when treated as a treasured guest, but not when treated as a load to be transported.

Posted by: HChambers at October 26, 2008 01:33 PM

I tend to travel in a 'uniform'. It's casual, but sort of Audrey Hepburn-esque: a concession to modern casual dress but it allows me to be comfortable on the plane and get through security quickly.

Black stretch tapered capris (my non-jeans pant of choice - classic, neat and casual without looking sloppy)
a bright sleeveless sweater
a matching cardigan with 3/4 sleeves, in case I get cold
flats or heeled sandals I can easily slip off

Well Bill, I suppose that's true.

I prefer to pay for my drinks, thank-you-very-much.

Although I suppose some would say one pays one way or the other.

Posted by: Cassandra, Brunette-American at October 26, 2008 02:54 PM

I hold the door for both males and females. To me, it is just the polite thing to do.

That's how it is around in the South too, Marietta and Atlanta.

Do you think this is a Southern thing or do you see it elsewhere as well, Cass?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 26, 2008 03:10 PM

I think it's more of a rural thing.

No matter where I've lived, the less crowded the place the more likely people are to hold doors, greet strangers when they walk into a room, stop and help a person stranded by the side of the road (male or female) or someone in a parking lot who needs a jump start, or make eye contact and offer a friendly greeting when passing in the hall or on a sidewalk.

I think a lot of it has to do with the dehumanizing influence of crowding - in cities people avoid eye contact more and go into isolation except with people they know. Northerners are a bit more reticent, but that may also be climate (disclosure - I spent the first half of my life in New England). But it's also more crowded up there, so it's hard to tease out the influence of crowding from climate.

Posted by: Cassandra at October 26, 2008 03:23 PM

The Deployed Gentleman always holds the door for a Deployed Lady.

And I get the *nicest* smiles...

Posted by: BillT at October 26, 2008 03:30 PM

I think a lot of it has to do with the dehumanizing influence of crowding - in cities people avoid eye contact more and go into isolation except with people they know.

Ya think the fake liberal need for inclusion and diversity are a psychological wail over how they have lost their empathy and humanity in the Big Cities that they value so much?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 26, 2008 04:03 PM

In the South (I love capitalizing it, because really, it is truly different here with regard to chivalry) I am absolutely delighted when a man holds a door for me; I thank him. When I am addressed as ma'am, I still look around for my mother.

But what absolutely has me in hysterics, is the women. Many of the older women in their late 50s and older are Dressed For Success. Makeup, hair done, nicely coordinated outfit that reminds one of Lucille Ball or Patricia Neal. The younger women of the under thirty group are dressed as if their clothes are their second skin. No feminine allure with regard to modesty. No sense of style.

The women my age do the sweater/jeans or stretch pants with nice shoes, but only the older women are more dressy.

Sigh. Being allergic to 99% of the eye makeup and skin makeup on the market, I am happy to have healthy skin, which looks pretty good for a Woman My Age.

I can wear makeup once in awhile, but only if I take it off the second I get home to avoid a reaction.

Posted by: Cricket at October 26, 2008 05:19 PM

Atlanta is still a friendly town. I have to take my machines to a place in East Point, just around the corner and down the street from Fort Mac. I take them there because they do good work and keeping them in good repair keeps me sewing. I am treated with courtesy and as if I were part of the family.

My Featherweight was Not Catching The Thread. After he discovered that the needle was in backward (a CLU must have done it, right? You aren't buying it? Darn), he told me something was off and adjusted it right there. Didn't charge me.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. I really believe that if you are kind and courteous, others will be too. They may not be that way back to you, but planting a seed is a good thing.

Posted by: Cricket at October 26, 2008 05:27 PM

I'm just glad the TSA has accepted that some people set off the alarms and changed their old policy of forcing us to repeatedly set off the alarm in some effort to prove that we were holding out on the pocket knife or nail clippers and being too obtuse to surrender these things before stepping through the scanner. I wear shorts and sandles and a Homeland Security Badge around my neck whenever I fly so folks that make it through the security point can wonder, "what's up with that guy"?

Posted by: Curtis at October 26, 2008 06:51 PM

I guess my problem is one, that I grew up wearing casual clothes and two, they are more comfortable. I used to joke about sacrificing comfort for style as if it was a necessary evil. These days I don't sacrifice comfort, but I try to be somewhat in style.

Perhaps when Americans chose to not have their clothes define their class by having everyone dress the same, thus de-emphasizing the importance of clothes, then eventually it became less important to dress up at all.

Maybe "church clothes" stopped being a style when more and more people stopped going to church and now there is just business clothes and business casual.

Posted by: baberuth at October 26, 2008 08:44 PM

I don't expect a man to hold a door for me, but when it does happen, I acknowledge it with a "thank you". And, I will hold the door for others, too, man or woman. As Cass says, it's just the polite thing to do.

As for travel - not that I have had to do it lately (I haven't traveled by air in about 4 years) - I dressed for comfort and, post-9/11, for convenience. Skirts and heels just aren't practical when having to drag around lots of bags, or having to run through airports to make connections when they are close or your previous flight had been delayed. But, I don't think I dressed scrungy, either. One consideration might have been that I never was going from the airport directly to the customer site - I usually traveled weekends to be onsite with the customer only on weekdays.

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at October 26, 2008 09:03 PM

Perhaps when Americans chose to not have their clothes define their class by having everyone dress the same, thus de-emphasizing the importance of clothes, then eventually it became less important to dress up at all.

Well, don't stop there. You can go back and look -- who was it that started rejecting the "dress to match" culture, when, and why?

I would say the clear turning point was in the late 1950s:

The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, by Sloan Wilson, is a novel about the American search for purpose in world dominated by business. Tom and Betsy Rath share a struggle to find contentment in their hectic and material culture while several other characters fight essentially the same battle, but struggle in it for different reasons. In the end, it is a story of taking responsibility for one's own life. The book was largely autobiographical, drawing on Wilson's experiences as assistant director of the US national citizen commission for the public schools.

The novel was made into a movie in 1956, starring Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones as Tom and Betsy Rath, with Fredric March and Lee J. Cobb and Marisa Pavan in supporting roles (March plays Tom Rath's boss, a character based on Roy Larsen, Wilson's boss at Time, Inc.).

The movie and book have become hugely popular, and the book continues to appear in the references of sociologists to America's discontented businessman. Bob Greene wrote, "The title of Sloan Wilson's best-selling novel became part of the American vernacular -- the book was a ground-breaking fictional look at conformity in the executive suite, and it was a piece of writing that helped the nation's business community start to examine the effects of its perceived stodginess and sameness."

That was when we started to see the rejection of "the grey flannel suit," and the "sameness" that allowed all Americans to have a common standard of dress -- rich or poor. People were looking for individual meaning, and turning away from the idea of being part of a common culture.

If you take 1956 as a rough starting point, you can see the new mode of thinking begin to grow through the end of the 1950s: the Beat poets, On the Road, rock n' roll culture among the youth, and so on. The 1960s are when the idea begins to flower, and by 1968 it is in full flower. And then the 1970s, when people referred to their compatriots as "the Me generation."

The cultural shift, then, is that shift.

Posted by: Grim at October 26, 2008 09:54 PM

We have the French ennui to thank for the shift in sloppy speech, manners and dress. A second revolution occured at the Sorbonne in the fifties.

Or so I have heard.

Posted by: Cricket at October 27, 2008 09:38 AM

The "French ennui" hehe

Posted by: Ymarsakar at October 28, 2008 11:10 AM