I'm not certain I've mentioned this before, but I'm fascinated with history. I love looking at old movies to get a glimpse of how things were done "back then." Particularly with old photos that capture a moment in a person's life, I wonder what the person was thinking and feeling, and usually study their style of dress, as it reveals a lot about their larger culture, social standing, values, emotional state, and so on. I also often find myself wondering what the person in the photo would wear today. What style choices would they make if they were still them, exactly as they appear in the photo, BUT in our society. Interesting, right? Well instead of just thinking about it, I thought it would be fun to actually put together outfits I think the people in old photos would wear today, based upon what I know about them and their time. Here it goes.
PRIM & PROPER W/ A LITTLE VAVOOM
This is my mother with my grandmother and aunt in 1950's Jamaica. My mother grew up in a very small town where everyone knew each other and went to the same church. They look so very much a part of their time in this photo—prim, proper, and extremely modest. My grandmother, though loving and kind, was also very stern, and made sure her girls were well brought up (think Marilla in Anne of Green Gables). Absolutely no panty lines, and girdles a must. (This was passed down to me, and to this day I just don't feel comfortable without a girdle on.) My mother also had a very strict religious upbringing that severely restricted the clothing she could wear. That is, no pants, no short skirts, no jewelry, no make-up, and basically nothing that could be misconstrued as sexy or "worldly." When I asked my mother about this photo, she told me it was "an event" in her town to have a picture taken. She was wearing her "Sunday best," and said her belt was a big deal. Perhaps her belt was perceived by others as pushing the boundaries of what was considered modest dress, but my mom didn't care. I love that she tried to assert her individuality despite the most restricted of dress codes. I imagine that if she was living under similar constraints today, with our society as it is, she may be inclined to wear a fierce pair of shoes or colorful earrings that make her stand out just a little from the rest.
GOOD TIME GIRLS
photographer joel meyerowitz via red light politics/jennifer lopez by photographer jason merrit via ehow/alexander wang white pumps/urban outfitters electra lipstick color/dolce and gabana leopard print dress
I love this 1960's photo from famed photographer Joel Meyerowitz. The description says that these girls are on the street in NYC. From what I know of the 1960's, I'd guess that these girls were the party girls of their time. The one checking herself out with her compact case must be super into her look. And all four of them are wearing white shoes. I don't think I realized how trendy white shoes were back then— did you? If I'm not mistaken, I think it was pretty risque for women to be "hanging out" on the street at that time. Perhaps these girls were street smart with an attitude, and may have very well been the Jennifer Lopezes of their time. I imagine that if they were young today, they would certainly be wearing a form-fitting, sexy dress, with red lipstick to complete their come hither look.
FANCY "IT" GIRL
There are several copies of this vintage photo on the internet, and according to the description, it is an African-American girl in 1899. Based upon some of the comments made about this photo on other sites, this girl's dress suggests she was more well-to-do than many other African-Americans of her time. They argue that her feathers and pompadour hairstyle were all the rage in 1899, and shows she was in the know. Then there are others who believe that her feathers and exposed arms were not considered respectable dress during her time, making her more of, shall we say, a woman of the night than a high society girl. Whatever the case, this young woman is dressed in fancy attire during a time when many Blacks were photographed as sharecroppers in tattered clothing. So I imagine she may have been somewhat ahead of her time— unfazed by the social limitations of her day. I'd like to think she was daring and fashion forward, and if she were around today, she would certainly qualify as an "it" girl.
Now your turn. How do you think these young woman would dress today? Maybe you've thought of their style in a whole different way. Feel free to share.