Thursday, January 31, 2013

That's so 70s - Winter Wear!

Yes, now that the snowy grip of winter has swept over the land, people every where are thinking about adding that special stylish extra to their winter wardrobe.  Of course, back in the halcyon days of the Big Book catalogs, they had that covered as well - and in that special 70s way no less!  Let's go back and see how "in crowd" styled the winter blues away!


Alert for all you PETA types - prepare to be horrifyingly offended in this and the following pics.  No "pleather" here.  No, no, no.  Only REAL leather will due back in 70s.  Hey Karen, do they have mail order catalogs in The Matrix?  A short leather coat is not enough for Kathy.  She has to really jazz it up in that weird cap / hat thing.  Speaking of winter hats......


Oh my, Kathy positively lights up the winter darkness in a neon red coat and stripped belt.  Naturally this outfit wouldn't be complete without the outlandishly over sized hat, which is perfect if you are a cold war era spy - you could hide all kinds of James Bond type gizmos in that thing.  Even the gloves are too big.  From Kathy's expression, it looks like she is about to burst out in laughter at any moment.  Colleen is so shocked, she has to avert her gaze!  What could be more crazy than that?  Glad you asked......


I told you PETA types that you may not like this post!.  Here we have fur (or at least cheap fake fur, This is Montgomery Wards after all).  Still I doubt anyone today could get away with wearing what appears to be a entire polar bear pelt in public (see girl next to Kathy if you couldn't figure that one out).

Apparently this style is called "Chubbies" from the title.  And I doubt it caught on.  Besides from looking absolutely hideous, what self respecting women would buy anything called "chubbie".   What was their advertising department thinking?  You can see early on why Montgomery Ward bit the dust!

The PETA horror show continues with a fake leopard print coat and more leather coats ("Designed and Finished in Minnesota" no less - as if that is some kind of selling point?  I don't get it).  For the rest of us, the fashion horror show also continues with the whacked out pantcoat in the middle - trimmed in fluffy white stuff, with same fluffy white stuff collar and, naturally, a matching fluffy white hat.  That gal is ready to step out and face the icy blast of winter in style!


It certainly is revealing how, not only fashions change, but what is considered socially acceptable to wear. I'm not sure all these changes are for the best.  Come to think about it, I suddenly feel the desire to wear a polar bear coat (just kidding, please no hate mail.  I know how crazy you PETA types can be).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sorority Fashions from Vicky Vaughn

I admit that I know next to nothing about Vicky Vaughn.  We didn't get any of their catalogs back when I was young, and I never even heard of them until I was much older.  From all appearances they seem to be a little more on the high end on the fashion pecking order - more conventional and less outlandishly 70s.  Which is good if you are a girl attending a sorority, but, of course, it is a big negative for me (a lot less good blogging material). But, as consolation, they put out some really nice photos.  Check them out!

Ahh, yes, the sorority pledge class has gathered in the parlor for their group picture before commencing "hell week".  Yes, it is all ribbons, curls, and smiles now, but what challenges lie ahead?  Could that be, no it couldn't be, Colleen on the first row smiling?  If it is, it's a rare pose for her.

Forced to wear matching bumble bee outfits to class was just one of the horrors our intrepid pledges faced that week.  They became so distraught at the shame and humiliation that they even began to stare off in random directions!  I believe that the girl in the lower left is Kathy, but not sure.  If it is, that is the only pic I have seen where she had that hairstyle (perhaps that was part of hell week torture also). And is that Colleen again smiling in the back row.  This time with a HUGE grin.  Maybe she likes hell week?

Finally hell week is over and the pledges gather by the school fountain for one final picture.  Why are four of them staring off to the their left while two of them (including Kathy) are focused at the camera?  We'll never know.  Oh, and Colleen is up to her usually expression, no smile this time.

Settled into Greek life, the girls face one final decision "Which Vicky are you, Vicky Vaughn or Vicky Petite?".  If I have have learned anything, you never, ever, ask a women if she is regular or petite (that is unless you want a lot of annoying questions afterwards).  Shelley Hack and Kathy appear to be having a stare down over whose ridiculously long dresses are more bizarre!

According to the caption "you'll look great in top notch tweedies" made of something called Creslan Acrylic.  Hmmm, that doesn't sound too comfortable.  Whatever, Vicky Vaughn "lets rick rack ramble" and then "teams it with skinny ribs".  What in the heck are they talking about?  I do believe that the caption writer had a few too many at the sorority's initiation party!  I like the nod to honesty that these ads had back then "Prices slightly higher in the West."  West of what?  So many questions, so few answers!

Friday, January 18, 2013

That's So 70s - Fashion as Couples Therapy

I noticed that I began a lot of posts with the phrase "One of weirdest fashion trends of the early 70s was __________".  So I thought, in the interest of efficiency that we could dispense with that phrase and just title these pieces "That's so 70s".

And one such example of that era was fashion as couples therapy.  In every catalog they pushed these insanely whacked out "his and her" coordinated clothes usually in the brightest colors that can be had with artificial fabrics.  Maybe it was a reaction to the sexual revolution "We're a couple, damn it! See, we even wear the same outlandish coordinated clothes".  Or perhaps it was just an example of 70s indulgence and narcissism on a family level "Hey, look at us, even though we're a married suburban couple, and we're still cool and all".

Not sure what I am talking about?  Let's ease into it with a toned down example (toned down for the 70s that is) and work our way up...

Matching shirt and blouse (down to the pointy collars), check!  Matching denim pants, check!  Matching belts, check!  And of course, matching denim leisure suit style jackets, check!  What are they trying to pull off?  It is like disco night down at the local rodeo.  It turns out just totally confused!  Adults should not wear denim, especially to work. Adults should not wear leisure suits, especially to work.  Ergo, adults should not wear denim leisure suits, especially to work, especially as a couple.  You'll notice one nod to "normalcy".  The buttons on the blouse and shirt are on the correct side for the gender.  Otherwise it looks like some sort of unisex nightmare!

Want something a little more blue collar oriented?  Not to worry.....

Matching unisex overalls for the couple that works all day together at the construction site (or more likely in their backyard suburban garden on the weekends).  They even come with matching hammer loops!  I'm surprised that they didn't come with matching lunch pails and hardhats!  Somehow, Kathy again manages to look totally cute / hot even in that garb.  The guy looks to be an early Zac Efron wanna be.

These his and hers coordinates weren't always exactly alike.  The more sophisticated (or kitschy) ones had a theme to them as shown below....

Ahh, how cute!  The shirt / blouse obviously go together but they are different parts of the same scene. Kathy is "up in the clouds" while the dude is trying to "get it up" in the balloon.  On second thought I better move on to the next pic before this gets out of hand.

Finally to highlight just how goofy these coordinates could get...

Hey, if you need symbols to know which one of you is the guy and which is the girl, then you have some serious relationship problems that I don't think you'll be able to solve with "His 'n Her" Sleepwear from Sears (Just a hint, Karen is the girl, no additional info required).

What I don't get is where would a couple wear these outfits?  I can't say that I actually saw anyone in these (except for the "Stupid" and "I'm with stupid" tee shirts), but someone must have worn them for they were pushed relentlessly by Sears and JCPenneys back then.  But f course, that was so 70s.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sizzling Sears Swimsuits - Part 2!

Oh boy, they're back and just in time to help chase away those mid-winter blues (1)!  Whether by the beach or by the pool, Sears was the name in swimsuit fashion in the early 1970s.  And of course, Kathy was one of their top models to show off the latest styles that every young girl of that time so desperately wanted to have.

First up is a some suits from the 1970 spring / summer catalog.

Kathy is sizzling at the shore (except for that wig) in her Two-Part Swimmer that skirts the "beach blanket circuit".  I'm not really sure what exactly that means, but it is trimmed in "rick rack" which I assume is the white frilly stuff.  You can almost hear Frankie and Annette singing "Beach Blanket Bingo" in the background.  Other suits featured include Big Girls' Pinafore, Clever Little Two-Piecer, and Dotty Little Dipping Dress.  Such descriptive superlatives to sell swimsuits!

Beach baby, beach baby, give me your hand, give me something that I can remember... echos in the background as Kathy couldn't look cuter in pigtails (thank goodness the wig is gone!) and in her "double dip of flowery polyester knit in splash-happy print" swimsuit.  No wonder she was a fave of the photographers - she could make anything look hot!

Next is some suits from 1972.

Let's go surfin' now, everybody's learning how, come on and safari with me... Kathy keeps a watch out for the next tastey wave in some kind of purple swimsuit with shirt-style top.  She seemed to like that pose a lot!  Maybe it is highlight her famous "side shot" look, or maybe she is just shielding her eyes from the sun (hey, photographer, I know you want the sun at your back but these models are going to go blind staring into the searing white sun while you try and get the perfect pic!).  In the bottom pic of Kathy, she is attempting to hold that golden smile of hers while trying desperately not to squint too much.  Who said modeling was easy!  Meanwhile, Colleen ALMOST cracks a smile.  Why so serious Colleen?

Finally we have a pic from 1973.

Tired of the beach scene?  Then hang out by the pool with Kathy, Karen, and Colleen while they stare blankly off to the left at something out of frame (in unison, no less).  Kathy uses the pigtail look once more to turn on the cuteness in her printed velor bikini.  Again she gets to show off the flower print design - this time with a halter top (oh man, don't get me started on those!  Halter tops were designed to drive guys absolutely wild, and boy did they ever!).  Meanwhile Colleen gets to model something called "Leno Wave Stripper Dipper".  Huh?!?  I think they went overboard there on the cutesy names.  I'm not sure any girl (or especially her mother) would be interested in buying something with the word "stripper" in it.  Colleen does not seem too excited about it either based on her expression.  Smile already, would ya!

Well I hope this look back at Sears Swimsuits from the past has put some sizzle back into winter.  Soon it will be Spring, but unfortunately the Big Book catalogs and their stylish swimsuits are long gone.  However, with the blogosphere we can keep their memory alive to enjoy again!

Footnotes (can't stop using them).

(1) Okay, there's no lobster this time to make fun of (yea that was a great prop!), but hey, there are still some pretty spiffy swimsuits to check out!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Budget Time!

One of things about Kathy and the other members of the K Club is that during their heyday, they were everywhere, and I do mean everywhere!.  Not only were they regulars year in and year out in the mainline catalogs but they appeared in print ads, newspaper inserts, circulars, and on the covers of products.  They had quite a nice little niche going at the time!

Perhaps there was a hierarchy in the modeling then as now, but I get the impression that it was a little different world then.  Remember there wasn't the exposure from endless cable TV channels and the internet back then, so perhaps the idea was to take as many assignments as possible.

As an example, let's check out a couple of pics of Kathy and her cohorts for the budget conscious shopper of the era.

First up is a mail order insert from something called Gift House Fashions....

Kathy dazzles in a "Screened Print Flower Top" garden fresh pantsuit that screams quality with every stitch!  "Bloom with Beauty" you betcha!  What fashionista wouldn't want to be seen out on the town in print flowers tied together with "perky" bows (how in the world can printed bows be "perky"?).  The pants make a definite fashion statement with "blissful s-t-r-e-t-c-h waistband" (in other words, if you're packing a few extra pounds, not to worry).  This ensemble simply wouldn't be complete without the "pearlized" buttons (normally only seen in shirts worn by Country and Western singers of the same time period!). 

Karen's "star burst" shirt is matched by another "comfy" elastic waist pants.  Meanwhile Dottie Harris (another catalog regular) shows off the "peek-a-boo" look.  This must be at  the high end of the line because this outfit is described as "glamorous" and "graceful".  Not to worry, however, as the pants still have that "comfort elastic waistband" that savvy shoppers of this line demand!

Finally, Kathy indeed shows us that "variety is fashion statement" (are they missing a word there?).  And variety is the one thing that is never in short supply when you are dealing with artificially colored man-made fabrics (orlon, acrylic, and polyester, oh my)!  Her "stunning" (yea that is one way to describe it) "wool feel" (of course it is not real wool, duh) pantsuit is "wonderful" and "brilliant" (okay, enough hyperbole, let's just stick with "economical" shall we?).  Every mindful of truth in advertising, they actually admit that the pockets are not real (who knew, budget clothing with a moral compass)!  And, finally and naturally, we have the ever present elastic waistband which seems to be the one constant in this low-end corner of the fashion world.
Not to be outdone, Eaton's counters with their Budget Bazaar which attempts to out shine the competition with a seemingly random assortment of eye-searing patterns (perhaps they should drug test their designers, especially for LSD!). 

Kathy and Karen each sport bizarrely long dresses which dispose of the "elastic waistband" problem by simply having no discernible waist at all!  The message here is clear ladies - don't worry about the figure.  You can moo moo your way all over town without any unsightly bulges showing, and if all else fails, the bright patterns will act as a kind of "dazzle camouflage".  Of course, to add that special touch, each dress comes with over sized white collars so common of the era.

Colleen goes upscale in a pantsuit obviously designed for comfort (her skinny legs probably got lost in those massive pant sleeves!).  This outfit does comes with a belt, but not to worry!  The belt is obviously designed to be loosened as needed for continuing comfort all day long.
Yes, we think back on the early 70s as the post-hippie era.  But as we can see, budget shoppers existed then as well as now.  And comfort NEVER goes out of fashion.  Long live the moo moo and the "elastic waistband" pantsuit.  May they forever occupy their rightful place in the pantheon of fashion styles!