Tuesday, September 4, 2007

What Are You Going To Wear Tomorrow?

What Are You Going To Wear Tomorrow?
8.5" x 11"
For quite some years, now, we have been hearing young people explain that they want to dress like they do, in order to express themselves. That this lets them be individuals. And, even in the most conservative places, there will be at least one student, who will dress themselves in the strangest of hair and clothing styles, which astonishes the older generation.
However, if you look around, those expressions are not at all different, but are reflections of what is in style in other locales, or in the media. Even those with the "original" styles, are dressing just like someone else. Most likely, they wouldn't dress that way, if someone else was not already dressing in that manner.
In my drawing today, "What Are You Going To Wear Tomorrow?", I have shown that question being asked over our telephone, in the house where I grew up. We had a telephone on the wall in the small hall, between my parents' bedroom, and the linen closet. There were two more doors in that little hall-one to the bathroom and one to the the bed room that my sister and I shared.
There was a crank on one side of the wooden box that was our telephone, bells on the front with a little shelf below for writing, a metal piece for talking into, and a cradle on one side where the receiver rested, when we weren't talking.
We could turn the crank, stand on tip toes, and ask "Central" (the lady who ran the telephone office and kept the switchboard, which was in her house) to ring the person we wanted to talk to. Sometimes, Central would tell us that the person was somewhere else, and move our call to that place. Or they would tell us what the person was doing, if they had company, or were outside that time of day. In later years, we were encouraged to tell Central the phone number we wanted.
"Central, give me 161, please." or "Central, give me 1, please."
If there was a fire, and we heard the fire whistle at the City Hall blow, we could call Central, and she would tell where the fire was. We could also ask her what she had heard about most any topic of interest.
Central was a sweet lady, who had, with her husband, lived in a downstairs apartment from us, in my great-grandfather's house, when I was small. That was before she became the town telephone operator.
We didn't have a phone in our new house, or the old apartment, either. Times were hard, and everyone tried to save. Salaries were really small, too.
Finally, Daddy got a phone, and we called everyone we knew who had a phone.
As a young school student, we called each other to get help with homework, or an assignment that we missed. And, each evening, we had to make the rounds of calling each other to see what everyone else was going to wear the next day. We needed to fit in, and not wear things that the rest of the students were not wearing. Jeans or pants for girls were not allowed at school (except when it was really cold and the heat was not working on the top floors of the school) . There was a time, when the rules were relaxed a little, and we could wear jeans to class on Friday or pep rally day. And, for a while, we could wear overalls, just with special permission. Some of the boys showed up with Mohawk haircuts, much to the dismay of all the teachers. The boys were giggling, and we thought that was just awful to look like that. They weren't going to be allowed to play football with their hair like it was. So, other boys got Mohawks too. Everyone was shocked at such behavior.
I always wanted red hair, and my mother wouldn't let me put a rinse or dye on my hair. So, I went to the drugstore and bought a box of red rinse for my hair. I locked myself in the bathroom and made my hair red. My mother was upset, and I thought I had ruined my life. I was now a loose woman with dyed hair. I went to school like that, wearing my overalls, and waited for the compliments, or for some teacher to fuss at me for doing that to my hair. The band even marched in the football game that night. I was sure to get a lot of attention with my beautiful red hair!
No one said a word about my hair. I even told some people what I had done and it didn't get their attention. I don't think it stood out at all because my hair did look red in the sun, anyway. It wasn't a bright red, but looked a lot like it always did. But, I was sure that I had done something terrible, and permanent.
The rinse came out with shampoo, and, years later, I was told that I would have to have the color removed from my hair before I could get the lighter colors that I wanted. I never wanted to do that. But I did use peroxide on it when I was in college, and tried to do the red thing again after I had children. It wasn't that different from the natural color.
We pretty well stuck to the accepted styles, in our school years, mainly with fashions that came from movies or movie magazines. And, whatever the leaders in school wore, we wanted to wear the same thing. We wanted to fit in, not be different.
Some styles dictated that our skirts had to be exactly 2 1/2 inches above the top of our roll- over socks. The next year, skirts were shortened (shockingly!) so that there were 3 inches between the skirt and the top of the socks. Those things were not easy to accomplish, when socks kept sliding down. so, we devised using rubber bands to hold up our socks. (Not so good for circulation.)
We might wear a white peasant blouse with a circle skirt and ballerina slippers, and natural lipstick. Or we might all decide to wear a pencil slim skirt, a white shirt with turned up collar, pearls and pearl earbobs, rolled-over white socks with penny loafers. We had other outfits, too, of course, but those are just a couple of examples. No matter what, however, we had to call each other and see what everyone else was wearing.
Some older girls used a cake of brown mascara in a little case, spit on it, then used the little brush to apply the mascara to their eyebrows and eyelashes. Of course, we had to wait until we got to school for those things, and had to remove it before we went home. Now I know that we shouldn't have done that, but that is what people did at the time. One girl, who wanted to be an airline stewardess, even had a compact with pancake makeup in it, that she applied in the restroom at school, while we all watched. (I couldn't tell any difference.) But, we thought that this was a very grown up, and risque, thing to do. Later, about time for graduation, some girls wore a little face powder, for special occasions. There was red lipstick for Sunday and for dress up, but only natural for every day.
In the drawing above, I have shown the hall telephone, as I tried to find out what to wear the next day. My little sister liked to come in the hall, especially while I was on the phone with my friends-even if I closed all the doors to the hall.
That phone was hung just at the right height to catch her head as she ran through the hall. She would get a nice "goose egg" on her head after she ran into the corner of the telephone. At least, the phone was well built and sturdy.
I can still spend hours in the closet, trying to decide what to wear. Not that I have that many clothes, I just try to decide what is comfortable, appropriate, and looks nice. I keep changing my mind. It would be nice to be able to call a classmate and find out what everyone would be wearing, so we could all match. I would certainly save a lot of time.
"What Are You Wearing Tomorrow?" is a sketch done with pencil. I have thoughts of reworking this as a pen and ink drawing, or a painting in watercolor or oil.
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There are more things to come.

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