Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Boxy Man-Tailoring, Lacy Lady-Tailoring, and the Very Early 80s

It was a therapy day so it was a dress-up day. I seem to be a bit stuck in the late 70s and early 80s these days and this dress-up day was no exception.

It may seem odd, but I often make a point of dressing up for therapy because...

... therapy often makes me feel like this -- exhausted, sad, drained, wan, shaky, and overwhelmed. Dressing well helps just a little bit. My therapist thinks that my love of beauty, including beauty in fashion, is one of the things that gave me joy and therefore kept me sane in my hellish childhood. I'm learning that she's right, but this is after decades of feeling ashamed, thinking that my love of fashion was vain, materialistic, and foolish.

I finally found a good trauma therapist, someone who has worked with other survivors of child sex trafficking. It's great to have found her. It sucks too, of course, because now I'm facing all the hells of my background, including the fact that I was left permanently, physically disabled by the abuse I endured.

I usually leave flushed and blotchy too. I don't know if it's because I'm so white or just because I'm me, but, when I'm emotional, even if the emotions are positive, I flush and get overly warm. No matter my original hair style, when I get like this, I end up pulling my hair back and up to cool down.

I've already asked our wedding photographer if she can get rid of that redness in our wedding photos because I'm quite sure I will be beet red under the chuppah. She says she'll do her best.

I hadn't planned to take photos for the blog in this outfit but, when I saw what my casual updo had accidentally created -- the perfect late 70s, early 80s bun -- I decided to go for it.

Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan in Remington Steele
Such seemingly casual, messy updos, with their curling wisps and tendrils "accidentally" falling down around the face, were all the rage then.

Jan Smithers from WKRP in Cincinnati
They bespoke a sophistication combined with a lack of time for vanity. They were meant, I think, to look like the hairstyle of a woman too busy with her career to worry too much about her hair. A pencil would not be out of place in this bun, don't you think?

Most of these updos were, in fact, quite complicated and took quite a bit of effort. But, every now and then, hair accidentally does something fun.

Skirt and shirt: Mod Cloth; Hair clip: Stylize; Tights, jacket, shoes, earrings, brooch, ring, watch, and necklace: vintage
Mine now perfectly matched my outfit.

My main reservation in photographing it, aside from post-therapy exhaustion, was the fact that everything I was wearing was too big, and I haven't yet replaced a few missing buttons on the shirt. I kept having to tuck things in and hike things up.

But, you know, what the hell? I'm a warts-and-all sort of a blogger. Perfection is a lie. We all feel a little cobbled together from time to time.

I've already established the late 70s and early 80s popularity of skirts like my plaid one in another post, so I won't dwell too much on that and will instead talk about the other elements that make this outfit of its time.

But don't think my inattention to the skirt is a lack of love for it. I wish it fit a bit better, but I do like it.

Now, let's get a closer look at my shoes, shall we? I LOVE them. Not only are they wonderfully stylish with many different dresses and skirts, but they also don't hurt my back when I walk in them.

Shoes like these were very popular in the 80s.

I think every fashion period includes a few footwear trends that are actually comfortable (and therefore disability friendly too, depending on your disability).

I was nervous about buying shoes on Etsy but these worked out really well.

Stephanie Zimbalist as Laura Holt

Such shoes were part, I think, of a larger trend toward man-tailoring in women's clothing. As women started entering the work force in larger numbers, they struggled with how to look professional and, at first, aped masculine office-wear trends.

Women were looking for ways to express their new power and may have erroneously equated masculinity with strength. I think we still do that. My last post is a case in point.

At any rate, man tailoring was all over the place.

Diane Keaton in Annie Hall
Another theory as to why is simply this: Diane Keaton in Annie Hall. Wasn't she a revelation? Women copied her immediately.

Geri Jewell (one of the first disabled actors to have a regular role on a television series) and Lisa Whelchel on Facts of Life
But whatever the genesis of this trend, it was everywhere, and very often included the boxy man's jacket.

My sweetie, Beau

This jacket first belonged to Beau's brother-in-law and Beau was was skeptical about whether or not it would look good on me.


Once he saw my outfit, he changed his mind and liked it. He does that a lot.

He doesn't have the mental rolodex of fashion that I have so his fashion imagination is more limited than mine. I see, say, a men's corduroy jacket and I immediately mentally slot it into the right time period and location in my wardrobe. Usually, it works. Sometimes it doesn't. I'll let you decide for yourselves if it worked this time.

So the boxy jacket it was. My pairing of dainty, older style jewelry with it might seem odd ...

... until you look at the shirt, with its feminine pleats and lace details.

Simultaneous with man-tailoring, there was a revival of lacy, puffy shirts (and skirts, and dresses), sometimes called the Prairie Revival. Happily, there are always contradictory trends in any period, giving women options about what to wear and what to project to the wider world.

I thought of the 80s immediately when I bought this shirt, remembering how badly I wanted such shirts way back in my tweens, long before the term "tween" had been invented. I finally got one when I was twelve, a dreadful, plaid, ruffled thing with itchy gold threads shot through it. My acquisition of the shirt corresponded with my chest development so it didn't fit for long, which was a sort of blessing in disguise.

In its worst iterations, this trend led to a profusion of puff and lace and darts and pleats not seen since the frothy confections of the early 1900s.

Combined with the boxy jackets ...

The cast of Designing Women
... the 80s didn't stand a chance against the massive shoulder pads that were to come.

The cast of Golden Girls. Yes, that is Betty White on the right.
You know what I'm talking about.

But, for now, in the early 80s, for the most part, the look wasn't too bad -- yet.

The juxtaposition of the masculine with the feminine looked good. It often does.

Don't you think?

My therapized self bids you adieau, and reminds you to stop and smell the flowers, even if they're only metaphorical and come in the form of fun fashion.


  1. I can't get over your gorgeous shoes! Soooo glad you've found some to love.
    Yes, we do all feel cobbled together from time to time. I love that expression. Like a shoemaker tacked us all together temporarily...oh that'll do!
    Also so glad you've found a therapist fit. So important.
    As you will see in my latest post, I'm stopping to smell the roses/scented candle quite a bit these days :-)
    You and Beau are adorable! xo Jazzy Jack

    1. I've found that beautiful shoes that don't hurt my back are really important to me, so that's something I spend money on. But these ones were only $40 and they're some of my favourites! I often feel cobbled together, but I hear from others that I seldom look it. Nice, I guess.

      Sorry I haven't been reading people's blogs as much lately. I only have limited stamina in a given day and time just gets away from me. Wedding planning, for instance, takes a lot more work than I realized!

  2. You are amazing and those shoes....oh my! Have a beautiful day.

    1. Thanks, and yes, aren't they great? I saw an identical pair in size 10 on Etsy. They might even still be there if they'd fit you.