Return of the 70’s - From My Window

Jane Thibodeau Martin

I recently needed a plain, dressy white or off-white top for an event.  I stopped at a national chain’s local retail outlet, thinking my mission was simple.  I don’t shop often, but surely a wardrobe basic like I needed would be easy to find.Instead, I found that while I was distracted with other matters, the 70’s styles of my teen years have come roaring back.

First I looked through the section intended for “working” women (like all of us don’t work,)  but what I found was lots of ruffled looks (a hard no for an aging tomboy like me,) and even worse, tops with little poufy sleevelets.  I think these poufy sleeves look adorable on young women, and Disney princesses.  I am neither of those, and the thought of seeing myself so attired in the mirror was scary to me, much less how it would negatively impact others.  The few pieces that would have worked for me were sleeveless, less appropriate for the event, and a risk in the weather swings we are having.

I drifted to the next section, where style-conscious younger women would shop.  I was stunned to see the fashionable spring colors are cocoa brown, turquoise, mossy green, burnt orange and the harvest gold once found on kitchen appliances.  Ah!  Earth tones!  At 16, nearly my entire wardrobe was in these hues.  However, orange and gold are decidedly unflattering for me – they give me a skin tone like aged Swiss cheese, not inappropriate for my Swiss heritage, but not a good look in the mirror at all.

Next I saw an entire wall of what I called “peasant tops,” back then – poufy sleeves, ties at the neck, yoke embroidery in flowery, geometric or Native American motifs.  These wouldn’t work at all for my needs, but I was quite entertained at this resurrection from my high school years, and the memories it generated.  Some are gathered under the bust, a nice touch for those with unruly tummies.

Another couple of racks held “body suits.”  Remember those, ladies?  In order to have a nice silhouette above your hip huggers, you would wear a form-fitting top in stretchy material which snapped at the crotch, preventing it from creeping up or “untucking.”  I actually stood in front of the display for a while with memories flooding my brain.  I wasn’t tempted, though, believe me.

I next went to the dresses area, hoping to find a business suit top hiding amongst the dresses.  Another shocker – granny dresses!  Well I remember my first one.  It was actually a nightgown styled like the fashionable granny dresses and I insisted on wearing it like a dress in spite of the fact it was intended for sleeping.  I eventually got a real peasant dress, red and blue patches of gingham, and I absolutely loved it.  I found out these dresses are very trendy but are now called “nap dresses,” I guess because they look like nightgowns?  Anyway, the style is the same as I remember – cotton-type material, floor length, loose fitting, flowery or gingham patterns with gathered necklines and sleeves. 

I don’t know how I feel about the style now at my age, but I can vouch for the fact these types of dresses are really, really comfortable.  They have that going for them!
After utterly failing in my mission, I drove home musing about the style in pants.  I hadn’t looked at them – were bellbottoms and flares returning too?

A look at a few sites on line followed my return home, and I see women in hip-hugging, very wide leg pants or flares; all of them tiny waifs, looking like their pants are at risk of dropping entirely off at any moment.  Some fashionable and famous women were pictured in “boyfriend jeans,” jeans that basically do look like someone needed dry clothing after a fall into a pool, and was forced to wear a much larger male friend’s jeans.  They hang low on the hips because they are too big, and are accented with a “crop top,” a very short shirt, showing quite a stretch of flat tummy between the bottom of the shirt and the top of the low-riding jeans.  So it’s an uber-fashionable pairing of pants that are too big with a shirt that’s too small.  Brilliant!

I am not going to return to the styles of my youth, but I have to say my shopping trip was a success even though I still don’t have the top I need.  I came away with so many fun and sweet memories, and it didn’t cost me a cent.

PASSAGES:  Gordon Lightfoot, a Canadian song writer extraordinaire and singer, died last week at 84.  This also evoked the 70’s, when I listened to his song “If You Could Read My Mind” on WMAM radio at night.  I was so fortunate to have seen him live last year.  Among the hundreds of tributes I read after his death was the fact that some wolf researchers named a pack in Minnesota the “Lightfoot pack.”  Gordon had the reputation of being a very humble man; I hope he knew about the wolves before he died, because it strikes me that this gesture would have pleased him greatly.

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