“You gotta have style. It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody. I’m not talking about lots of clothes.
“Of course, one is born with good taste. It’s very hard to acquire. You can acquire the patina of taste?”
— the late Diana Vreeland, longtime editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue
On Friday past, I drove my mother over to Lake City. Mama will be 86 in January. We talked about the upcoming Florida-Georgia game, and Mama began reminiscing.
“When your Daddy and I started going to that game in Jacksonville, everybody, and I mean everybody made the effort to ‘dress up.’ It was an event — a sporting event and a social event. I always wore a suit. One suit I had was royal blue with a mink collar and cuffs, and I thought I was a dressed up somebody; well, I was. I remember it rained during the game that year, and I remember Florida lost the game. Wet and cold, we started home and turned on the heater. That wool suit began to “draw,” and by the time we arrived home, I felt I was in a Barbie suit. Good times, but, you know, people dressed for everything then. People don’t dress up for anything now. I don’t judge folks, but my Lord, the way some people come dressed for church. You know, honey, the way I feel is that the Savior didn’t do a halfway job for us. He did all He could, and we need to do all we can when we go into His house to worship, and I don’t mean being puffed up with pride, but looking the best we can with what we have. I am not judging, but I don’t think a lot of people do that. I think, sometimes, they do what is convenient. My mother had six children with no modern conveniences, but she washed, starched and ironed every piece of clothing we had so we looked the best we could going to church.”
On she went: “People dressed in hats, gloves, and men in suits or blazers. You dressed differently for a semi-formal event than a formal event, and you dressed differently to go shopping than you did if you were going out for dinner. You dressed for everything back then. Now, you are as apt to see someone in pants and top, and not a dressy one at any event, and blue jeans has their place, but their place, in my opinion is not on teachers, principals, pastors in the pulpit, not people going to worship service, but I am old fashioned.”
Mama’s memories brought back some memories of my own. The late Cousin Thelma Boltin, longtime mistress of ceremonies for the Florida Folk Festival would not allow performers on stage UNLESS her rules about dress were followed. Ladies wore either a dress or skirt or blouse. No open toed shoes were allowed at all. We won’t go into foundation garments, which is about a thing of the past for ladies, but the answer to those was “yes” at the Florida Folk Festival. Men, who were performers, wore dress pants, collared shirt, belt, and shoes that covered the top of your feet.
When I began teaching in the School district of Hamilton County in 1981, I was told to wear dress slacks, long sleeved dress shirts, dress shoes and a tie. I did it. I wanted a job. Casual Friday’s did not come until later. As a principal, I wore a suit and tie every day except on casual Friday’s or field trips or field day.
Back to Mama, “The nation looked to folks then who led the way for fashion. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis did so much for the fashion industry. She was a model for many American women. Her clothes were for her body type. I think that is where some people get sidetracked. There is a difference between what is currently in style and what you need to wear for your body type. She knew what looked good on her. I have seen plus size folks, small folks, short folks and tall folks, who all looked great not because they had a lot of clothes, but they knew how to put it together. There was a lot of pride in the day when people dressed for all occasions.”
Mama has a point. We take more of a casual approach to life these days, and I think it shows in all areas of American life. What was once considered “acceptable” would now, by many folks be considered “affected,” or people would think, to use a good old north Florida expression that you were “putting on the dog,” which means “really fixing up.”
Times are very different now than they were when Mama described going to that first Florida-Georgia game and when shops like the Lovely Shop in Lake City, Varnedoe’s and Olan H. Luke in Valdosta, Bruce’s in Lake City, Gibbs in Live Oak, came to life with seasonal and event driven fashions that sold like hotcakes, as folks were dressing the best they could for occasions each week and at various times of the year.
I still think “putting on the dog” a little more would make us all feel better, look better, and have a more positive outlook personally and, as a nation. Just an opinion.
From the Eight Mile Still on the Woodpecker Route north of White Springs, wishing you a day filled with joy, peace, and, above all, lots of love and laughter.