It occurred to me the other day that the last time I wore a dress, Ronald Reagan was president.
I’m not sure exactly when or why I lost my interest in skirts and dresses. Back when I was in my 20s, I wore dresses all the time – if you could call them dresses. The ones I wore looked more like long blouses because the style back then was the mini-dress. And believe me, I embraced that style whole-heartedly, even though I never had what one might call shapely legs. In fact, they’ve always kind of resembled two tree trunks with varicose veins.
Still, I owned a closet full of mini-dresses…the minier the better. I still wonder how I ever managed to sit down in them without unintentionally flashing everyone in the room. And forget about bending over or squatting. If I dropped something on the floor, it stayed there. If I saw a coin on the sidewalk, I walked right over it. There was no easy way to pick up something on the ground or floor while wearing a mini-dress, not without getting arrested for indecent exposure.
The other day, when I was looking through the clothes in my closet, I happened to notice the last four outfits I’d bought to wear to major events – a wedding, two anniversary parties and a Christmas cocktail party – and all four were pants outfits. It made me realize that over the years, I’d somehow gone from being chic and hip, to looking like a fashion clone of Hillary Clinton.
But I’m not the only non-dress wearer around. From what I’ve seen, the majority of women don’t bother to get all dressed up nowadays the way they used to. I can remember when going to church involved wearing a dress, high heels, a hat, white gloves and a purse. Now, a lot of women go to church looking as if the minute the service is over, they’re going surfing.
I also remember how “gussied up” (I’m showing my age here) everyone would get for the annual Christmas parties where I used to work. Every year, the company always held a huge bash at the Chateau restaurant in Manchester. This, of course, meant I would have to spend weeks of shopping in advance, searching for just the right dress to wear.
Linda, a co-worker of mine back then, and I usually went shopping together. Our favorite store for party attire was Pariseau’s on Elm Street in Manchester. One year, the hottest new style was something called a pant gown. It resembled an evening gown, but the skirt portion consisted of these voluminous pants, kind of like culottes on steroids. Linda and I were eager to be the first to wear them and make a grand entrance at the annual party.
I’ll never forget the first pant gown Linda tried on. It was made of sparkly copper, gold and silver brocade, with a bodice heavily decorated with crystals, pearls, shiny gold balls and glass beads. She looked like a walking Christmas tree. All she needed was a light-up star on top of her head.
“Hmmm,” was all she said as she admired the gown in the store’s 3-way mirror. One thing about Linda was she had a perfect 36-24-36 figure, so she could have tried on a burlap sack with armholes cut out of it and still looked stunning.
“Well, do you like it?” I finally asked her.
She shook her head. “It’s not fancy enough” She turned to the sales clerk. “Do you have anything flashier?”
The pant gown she ended up buying was so bright, it could have qualified as its own float in the Disney World electrical parade. I settled for a pant gown that had a white lace bodice with silver threads through it, a pink satin waistband, and a black pants-gown skirt made up of dozens of tiny accordion pleats.
I can’t help but wonder what everyone would wear to those same parties at the Chateau nowadays. I’m guessing yoga pants and T-shirts.
I think one of the reasons why dresses aren’t as popular as they once were is because there just aren’t as many of them around. I can remember going into just about any department store years ago and seeing racks of dresses everywhere. Now, if stores have even one rack, it’s surprising. And the dresses on those racks usually aren’t very party worthy. They’re more like dresses you’d wear while running barefooted along a beach – or cleaning out the lint trap in your clothes dryer.
It seems as if the older I get and the more varicose veins and sagging skin I acquire, the less enthused I am about wearing dresses. But if I ever do decide to wear one again, it definitely will have to be during the winter. That way, I can wear black opaque stockings or, even better, knee-high boots, to conceal my legs. I don’t know what I would do during the hot summer months, though. Somehow, I don’t think a cotton sundress and knee-high boots would make a very cohesive fashion statement. I mean, it would look as if my body couldn’t decide whether it wanted to go to the beach…or a ski lodge.
And speaking of leg attire, I’m a little disturbed that the bare-leg look currently is all the rage. Women are opting not to wear any stockings at all, rather than suffer with the discomfort of pantyhose that either stop the circulation from the waist to the knees, or end up sliding down until the crotch is somewhere at mid-thigh. But I’ve always considered pantyhose to be my dear friends, despite the discomfort and chafing they cause. What I like about them is they hide flaws, suck in fat, and they add some color to my legs, which normally are about the same shade as milk.
So now, with Christmas parties looming in the near future, I’m wondering what kind of stylish new holiday outfit I should buy. Maybe a classy black dress and some high-heeled boots?
Nah. I’m leaning more toward sweatpants and a hoodie.
MY BOOK SALES TO BENEFIT ANIMAL SHELTER
NOTE: For those of you with electronic reading devices, my book, “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” currently can be downloaded free of charge at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com or Smashwords.com.