I am very happy about the current swing towards all things vintage. It seems that Mid-century Modern homes are truly in vogue. And people drool over all that MCModern furniture. Gosh, I bet those Danish Modern chairs that we had as newlyweds and finally donated to Goodwill are probably worth a mint.
I see farmhouse sinks in all the magazines. My grandmother (or some other old lady) used to have one of those. When she lived on a FARM. It is quite remarkable how things that were invented for purely utilitarian purposes have become so very posh. Good grief—it is now completely fashionable to have Edison style light bulbs shining inside your Craftsman reproduction light fixtures, hanging over your soapstone countertops.
My mother is no longer alive. I think she would be closing in on age 100 if she were still here. And guess what? She wore three inch spike heeled pumps. I used to play dress up in them. And you know what else? She had espadrilles. Yup. I never realized how totally chic she was. More realistically, how chic she would be if she were here now, and wearing that stuff. She would be the complete fashion doyenne. I am not sure how chic she was when she was young. Maybe espadrilles weren’t what they are now—maybe chic women wore something else back then.
I think it is very wonderful to just lose yourself in the past and fill your life and house with items from another, less complicated time. I love claw footed tubs. Those beat-up old kitchen chairs that don’t match? SO evocative! The fact that they evoke the Great Depression? I don’t think that the designers are going for just exactly that. However, I guarantee you that if my mother were to leaf through some of today’s “shelter” magazines, she might get confused and check to see the publication date. All that zinc, faded and “antiqued” paint, the “shabby chic” and worn rugs would make her feel nervous for the financial straits of that particular homeowner. I don’t think she would find all the vintage trappings evocative of anything besides starvation and chilblains.
It is great that we have come so far from that desperate time in history that we can relish all the vintage accessories. But I bet all Mom would remember about those high heels would be her aching feet and corns. Perhaps there was a sexy story attached to the espadrilles. But she didn’t tell it to me.
As a matter of fact, the only item from her youth that I remember her extolling was pedal pushers. She wore them as a cycling child, and later as a young mother. I think she wore them with the prototype for today’s tank tops. Anyway, I remember those pants. They were loose and comfortable. She scooted around town in her Ford Fairlane, wearing the pedal pushers and espadrilles, dashing into the grocery, then stopping in at the dry cleaners. She vacuumed in them. She did the laundry in them. They were comfortable. Some of them (probably all, as I recall) had elastic waists.
I am not proud of the fact that my sister and I teased her mercilessly about these pants. We called them flood pants, and told her she looked like a farmer. It didn’t affect her one whit. She wore them anyway. I seem to remember that she had them in a rainbow of colors. And in the fall, she wore Dad’s shirts over them. We totally found that embarrassing!
My Mother’s purses were huge. My sister and I joked that she would never need luggage. They were leather, hung over her arm, and had enough room for a scarf, a sweater, an umbrella (just in case), a couple of sandwiches, her wallet, a hairbrush, an economy size bottle of aspirin, a pair of sunglasses and a pair of reading glasses, and a thermos of coffee. It was ridiculously embarrassing that mothers felt the need to lug those gigantic pocketbooks around, right?
So tonight, as I leafed through Town and Country Magazine, what did I see? Besides all of the Edison light bulbs hanging atmospherically in the backgrounds of the fancy photo shoots? Skinny young supermodels, strolling down the aisles of fancy restaurants. And they all were wearing a variation of the following:
Staggeringly high heels. Or espadrille-like sandals with four inch platforms. Either very slim or very loose pants, that ended somewhere mid shin. Shining long hair, in tight, 1950’s waves. And over their arms? Handbags of gargantuan proportions. They looked confident, sexy, and completely retro. The ones in the makeup ads wore MEN’S SHIRTS. Eureka!
My mother was not a complete embarrassment. She wasn’t even clueless. My God, my mother was a fashionista, a visionary, predicting fashion trends sixty years ahead of time.
Could she have actually known? Was she that astute? When she got dressed in the morning in her brown and gray striped pedal pushers with the blue “french sandals,” as she called them, did she think “My girls will eat their words some day when they see Cat Deeley wearing the exact same outfit that I am putting on right now, except for the fact that I don’t have any dinner plate sized hoop earrings?”
We will never know.