Thursday, June 27, 2013

70s Summer Wear Showdown: Sears vs. JCP

Ahh, yes, summer is now in full swing.  Back in the 70s, one could always count on the summer catalog from all the major department stores to display the latest in casual summer fashion.  Now, I'm not talking about the Big Book catalogs that came out twice a year (Spring /Summer and Fall / Winter).  No, in addition to those, retailers like Sears, JCPenney, and the rest also put out smaller seasonal catalogs for the summer and Christmas to sort of fill the gaps, if you will.

So, I thought we'd take a look back at some of the offerings from these "little book" catalogs and check out all the happening summer fashions from the 70s.  And to spice things up, I thought we would make it a little contest between Sears and JCPenney!

The contest will work like this.  There will be three rounds.  At the right side of the post, you can vote for the winner of each round in a poll.  The poll will run for one week, and then we'll see who the winner is!

Let's start with round 1!
First up to serve is JCPenney.  What will they open with?

Some very nice knit tops which, naturally, make "striking statements".  Not bad from JCPenney, not bad at all.  How will Sears respond to that opening salvo?

Wow, Sears decided to counter with a blinding "White with Brights" display featuring Kathy, Karen, and Colleen.  Geez, this is a tough one to pick.  I didn't say this was going to be easy!

Now for round 2.
To make it fair, we'll let Sears go first this time.

Okay! Sears has decided to get down to business and show a bit more skin with the halter and short skirts.  It looks like Sears is taking this contest seriously!  JCPenney what do you have to match that?

Interesting counter!  JCPenney has decided to stay upscale a bit with stylish "middie" skirts topped with some scarfs to add some dramatic contrast.  Perhaps we are seeing the battle for skirt lengths being played out here.  JCP's strategy is bold - it may work great or backfire completely.  We'll have to see how it works out for them.

The competition is really heating up!  Let's see what the two competitors can come up with in the third and final round!
First up for round 3 is JCPenney

Zowee! JCPenney has really let down their hair with a trio of summer fashions featuring Kathy in a very attractive halter and Colleen and Kay in summer casual pant outfits.

What will Sears do to match that move?!?

Sears has decided to pull out all the stops with Kathy modeling four different kinds of short summer dresses! This third and final round is shaping up to be the most difficult to choose yet!

Summer in the 70s certainly produced its share of fascinating fashions as these two summer catalogs show.  The competition should prove to be a close one.  I know I'm glad I'm not the judge!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

That's So 70s: Let's Get Into Physical!

"Hey Grandpa, back in the early 70s, did you and Grandma do all those crazy aerobic tapes?"

"Dear child, no, no.  Jane Fonda's tapes didn't come out until the 80s, besides we didn't even have VCRs back in the 70s."

"What's a V-C-R, Grandpa?"

"Uh, never mind, I'll explain that later.  Anyway, the Mad Men days of the 60s with their 3 martini lunches and offices filled with tobacco smoke were giving way to a more health conscious America.  Dr Cooper's book Aerobics had just come out, and Americans were interested in shedding the pounds to look good in the discotheques!"

"Uh, What's a disc-o-tech, Grandpa - some kind of cool computer game?"

"Oh boy, kid, did YOUR generation miss out on some living!"

"Grandpa, I bet like everything else in the 70s, the fashions for exercise wear were CRAZY too."

"Well child, actually no.  People were still new to the whole idea of exercise to get in shape, so they were doing that mostly at home.  The fashions were actually fairly lame."

"Mostly exercise fashions were taken from the world of dance, so they consisted of plain leotards.  It wasn't until the Flashdance craze of the 80s that exercise fashions really started to take off..  Like I said, the average person was just beginning to warm to the idea of exercise to get in shape.  Prior to that the only people that 'worked out' were athletes."

"Exercise in the early 70s still emphasized gentle, stretching moves and the fashions reflected that.  Of course people were trying to amp up their workouts.  After all, they had to get their Aerobic points (1) in each week."

"Naturally, people turned to their Big Book catalogs to supply them with groovy (and obviously well made!) stationary bicycles!"  "They even came with illustrations on how they simulated rowing a boat or riding a horse!"

"Grandpa, what's a catalog?"

"Kid, you're really getting on my nerves."  "One of the things that really took off in the 70s was jogging.  Before Aerobics, the idea of running just to run might land one in a mental institution.  I still remember when my dad took off running around the neighborhood one day (in tennis shoes and black socks no less).  We thought he had lost his mind!"

"Even for running, the fashions of the 70s were basic - plain warm up suits without any company logos on them."  "However, just like today, people were looking for shortcuts to get in shape and the Big Books willingly offered them."

"I remember they sold these bumpy roller things that looked uncomfortable as heck.  Also they really pushed these belt machines where you would just stand there while the inches melted away."

"Grandpa, did they work?"

"Yeah, sure, they worked great for Sears and JCP.   They made a ton of money off of them!"  One could even buy a home sauna!"

"Now child, I must add that not all health products offered in the Big Book catalogs were sane.  Some of them were wrong, just so wrong..."

"Just so wrong, wrong, wrong......"

footnotes: (Yes even for exercise, we have them footnotes!)

(1)  For those of you that may have forgot, Dr Cooper's book "Aerobics" prescribed a minimum number of "points" that a person had to get each week to be considered "in shape".  As I recall from memory, for a guy, it was the equivalent of running 2 miles at a 8 minute a mile pace, three times a week.  Of course for other activities such as cycling, etc. the numbers were different.  The numbers faded from view, but the term "Aerobics" stuck like glue - dance aerobics, step aerobics, water aerobics, and on, an on....

Thursday, June 13, 2013

K Club Special Part 2 - Karen Bruun

Karen, like the other members of the K Club (1) dominated the world of catalog modeling for a long, long time.  She was born in Seattle but grew up in New York and got involved in modeling when she was just 15.

I assume that the $60 is her hourly rate?  If so, that is pretty good for back then.  However, I admit that I do not understand what the"5-6-7" and the 7 1/2b mean.  They must be measurements of some kind, perhaps some kind of shorthand?

She appeared in some girls magazines in the 60s like so many of the better known models did back then.

Is that Colleen in the bottom pic?  Probably so, she was on practically every page of those mags back then!

Of course, like the other K Clubbers, she was literally everywhere in print media during the 70s.

Here, she is in one of the sewing rags called Columbia Minerva (whose awesome displays of 70s fashions have been explored before and will be found on this blog in the future)!

Like the other K Clubbers, she appeared in a lot of other print ads besides catalogs.

A really nice pic of Karen!

In addition to  her popularity in catalogs, she was probably best known being one of the iconic Black Velvet girls.

This is the one and only pic of any of the K Clubbers (that I have found so far) in a liquor or tobacco ad.  Naturally, that gives me the opportunity to comment on the complete ridiculousness of these ads.  Does anyone really think that by drinking second rate scotch, that a beautiful women will fall all over you?  However, I like the Black Velvet approach of ONLY showing the girl - instead of some dude with 2 or 3 women draped over him (2).  It makes me think that "Heck yeah, maybe that girl really is available and wants me to drink with her all night, well maybe?!?". 

Of course, for us, Karen is best known for being everywhere in the catalogs of the 70s.  She was often paired with Kathy.  At times they seemed like sisters!

Kathy and Karen displaying the groovy fashions of the 70s!  How many times have we seen that!  That jumpsuit with the matching purse? / handbag? / giant beer kuzie?  is sooooo 70s!! 

Karen (along with Wendy Hill) on the cover of JCPenney's 1976 Spring Summer big book catalog!

Like I said before, her career was a long one.  Here is a pic from 1978 (3)!

Unfortunately, I must end this post on a sad note.  As many of you probably already know, Karen passed away in 2010 at the age of 59.  Below is a photo of her from 2000 and a link to her obit which gives a pretty good rundown of her career.


(1) For those of you that just stumbled across this incredibly awesome site, K Club is the term I use for four of the catalog models of 70s:  Kathy Loghry, Karen Bruun, Kay Campbell, and Colleen Corby.  Their names all begin with a hard K sound, hence the name.

(2) These old liquor ads are a hoot!  I wish the K Clubbers were in more of them because that would make for one fantastic post!  Back then, these ads were all serious like.  Remember that time wasn't that far removed from the Mad Men days of the 60s.  Nowadays, alcohol ads spoof these old ads with good effect as in "The Most Interesting Man in the World".  I have an old print liquor ad from the early 70s that I swear is the guy that Dos Equis copied that idea from.  

(3) Actually I have a pic of Karen from the early 80s which perfectly captures the spirit of THAT decade.  I almost included it here, but it fits better with another subject.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Denimy Daze - Part 2

Hah!  After last week's blog, I bet you thought that we were going to be looking at 70s fashions featuring stripes.  Well that was the original intent, but frankly I was getting bored with the whole plaids / stripes thing so I thought we'd give them a rest for awhile (however I have a sneaking feeling that the plaids won't stay gone for long!)

So let's take another look at 70s denim.  After all denim is something that is timeless in America lore.  I mean what can go wrong with denim?

See, that's more like it.  A nice pic of Kathy in a denim outfit - nothing crazy, nothing randomly weird in that special 70s way.  Nice!

Another nice pic of Kathy in a denim jacket.  See how calm and soothing this is without all the craziness!  Suave!

By the way, does anyone else wearing, no living, in their denim jackets in the mid to late 70s?  They were all the rage back them, practically de rigueur in my high school!

Oh no, things are starting to take a turn for the worse.  We're starting to get all "Urban Cowboy" here. Kathy is wearing denim - scratch that, she is wearing polyester that LOOKS like denim.  The horror, the horror.  And that "western" style shirt doesn't even have pearl snap buttons.  The Horror!  I do not like where this is heading!

Okay, we've officially crossed over to weird-ville here.  What, oh pray tell what, is that denim monstrosity that Karen is wearing?  It looks like C&W on acid (of course this IS the 70s do that is entirely possible - even in middle America).

Now we have western style stitching on some kind of white denim with big pockets .  Sorry, but that hat on Karen is NOT any kind of proper cowboy hat.  We are definitely spinning out of control here.   However, Kathy's outfit in the small inset pic is nice.  (Yeah!)

Okay, now we've done it!  Kathy is wearing denim pants with a horsey design on them.  What the ?????  And what is this about "Catch the Brass Ring".  And the knit hat on the model on the right? Huh?  What does this have to do with denim and C&W?

Of course, denim is iconicly American, indestructible, even by 70s standards.  What, oh what, could possibly go wrong?!?!?!?

Eke gads! Red Denim?!?!?! The horror!  Obviously this 70s trend did NOT catch on (thank goodness!).  What, oh what, where they thinking?