Friday, October 28, 2016

it's nostalgia time

I don't know but this might be fileable under, "No matter how awful the past actually was, the farther you get from it, the better it looks."

Charles has posted two old Simplicity pattern ads. (That's the second one; the first is here.

I look at those and wow, do they take me back. My mom sewed most of my clothes when I was a kid. Part of it was a frugality thing: in the 1970s it was still cheaper to sew clothes (especially kids' clothes) than it was to buy them. Part of it was that we lived in a small town with no mall, and until she was in her mid-30s (I just barely remember it) my mom didn't have a driver's license. She had just never had any need to, but I guess finally my dad said "You need to get one in case of some emergency" - so he taught her how to drive, she practiced, she took the exam. (As far as I know, she passed on the first go, unlike me - it took me three tries because the road test freaked me out and brought out all my latent performance anxiety).

An aside: I suspect if you compare quality for quality, it's STILL cheaper to make your own clothing, especially if you have a decent dressmaker shop and you shop their sales. I know I've gotten complete dresses (pattern, fabric, and all notions) for less than $70 shopping the sames at Sewing Studio when I was up visiting family* and the eShakti dress I FINALLY got that more-or-less fit was close to that cost. And the dresses I see featured in "Southern Living" are hundreds of dollars and they don't seem any nicer than the ones I make.

(* And that is going to be part of my Christmas break - I want to make a couple new dresses for myself. Or maybe a dress and a skirt and top, I don't know)

Anyway. I commented over there that looking at them from 40-odd years on (some odder than others, har har), the 1970s styles seemed more cute and fun than the 1980s styles, which I mainly remember as:

1. Shoulderpads
2. Those "Quaker stitch" sweaters (I think it was a variant of brioche? I had one but I didn't knit in those days so I didn't pay too much attention)
3. The business suits on women with the little ribbon ties, which was enough to tell me I wanted to go into academia where you could dress more bohemian.
4. "United Colors of Benetton"

But a lot of the 1980s I do tend to remember as having a grey-flannel-suit air about it, though again, that may be a faulty memory of mine. (Also, I was a kid in the 1970s and my main clothing-worries was "don't get your good school clothes or church clothes muddy" and in the 1980s I was growing up and beginning to formulate what passes for my sense of style today. I also remember the first time I actively rejected a piece of clothing my mom made for me - it was the early 1980s and I was starting to get harassed at school because I didn't have "cool" clothes to begin with. I regret now having been such a little brat about it to my mom, but....I dunno. There are a lot of things I regret about junior high school; I think it's just a universally terrible time for most kids)

But distance may have something to do with it - I do sometimes seek out some of the 1970s nostalgia sites on line (I was thrilled when I found one that had an old catalog from the Diener company, which made the animal-shaped erasers that were such an important toy to me when I was a child). And when I see people dressed in 1970s styles - mostly the wholesome "prairie" or "western" type styles that the Little House on the Prairie tv show probably inspired, like the Simplicity patterns had - I think of my own childhood. I grew up in a small town. I guess disco and its associated behaviors were out there, except (a) I was a kid and (b) I don't think my town had anything approaching a disco, so instead, we went the prairie/Americana/wholesome/back-to-the-lander route. And, okay: I have some nostalgia for that. It was a simpler time in a lot of ways, at least for me. I remember playing "Pioneers" with friends of mine; I remember my mother baking bread. I remember going out hunting wild strawberries in the summer and I remember my mother's immense garden, and all the food she froze or canned. (And again: a lot of that was done as a frugality measure, but you know? Some forms of frugality aren't so bad. We probably ate more healthfully than a lot of people when I was a kid thanks to my mom's bread-baking and gardening and her insistence on making almost everything from scratch. And still today I mostly cook from scratch. And a lot of it I do have happy memories of - helping my mom make jam, or following her around in the garden and she would tell me what she knew about bugs and plants)

Edited to add: more '70s nostalgia: The Sunshine Family Dolls. I had these! I wasn't a big doll-fan as a little kid, but I enjoyed having adventures with Steve, Stephie, and Sweets - they were sort of hippie/back to the lander type dolls. Most often, I imagined they were pioneer people in the mold of The Little House On the Prairie even though the play sets (I never had any of those, just had the dolls) clearly showed they were modern-day people.

(One of the nice things was that they came with booklets showing you how to make things - there were, for example, instructions on how to turn one of those green plastic strawberry baskets into a bassinet for the baby, and how to make spools into things like chairs.)

Again, I just liked them because they were *wholesome.* (Married couple with a baby). I was a pretty....conservative....child, I guess you'd say. (Maybe that was why I didn't like Barbie). I felt like I could relate to the Sunshines - I was a child in a family and I understood the "adventures" a family could have (going hiking, planting a garden, building or painting furniture) but I couldn't quite imagine Barbie's adventures and even those I could, "going to the beach" seemed less interesting than "planting a garden."

But we did all that stuff in my family: worked in the garden, painted furniture (I think there was something like an Unfinished Furniture Outlet near us - the blanket chest I have now started life as a toychest my dad painted, and my sewing machine table was a desk they painted for me when I was a kid). I've talked a lot about going to the library and going hiking with my mom and dad, and how much I enjoyed that.

I dunno. I wonder if it was partly an attitude thing: that the 1970s frugality my family did, because my mom presented it as a "this is a better way to do things, the bread you are eating is better than Wonder Bread" made me have happy memories of it, whereas now I look at the pushes to "do more with less" and a lot of me rebels.

(Of course, the other thing: a lot of the frugality measures my parents took? Require an enormous investment of time. My mom was a stay-at-home mom and I think she probably got bored, which is maybe why the bread-baking and gardening. I barely have time to keep my yard up to minimum city standards let alone grow enough tomatoes to freeze for sauce in the winter)

I also think perhaps in a lot of ways the 1970s were less conformist. That patchwork skirt? Would probably get you laughed at some places today. I also think there was a strain in the culture that maybe doesn't exist so much any more, where people "doing their own thing" were celebrated or at least left alone to do it; now it seems like you can "do your own thing" but it has to be within the norms of some in-group (for example: the hipsters).

No, I don't want to go back. Stagflation was a bad thing. Lines at the gas pump were a bad thing. Being told to turn the thermostat down and wear a sweater in the winter* would be depressing, I think. But the era of more colorful and distinctive clothing, especially clothes you made yourself? Maybe yeah.

(*Though the way it's gone this fall here, it would be: "Turn off the airconditioning and just sit in your house and sweat")

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