Friday, November 30, 2012

Random Weirdness Part 1 - Giant Watches

This is the first post of what I hope will be a recurring theme from time to time: Random Weirdness.  These are photos from Kathy's modeling career that have some kind of bizarre and utterly random - as only 70s fashion can be bizarre and random - feature about them.  And what better way to start than with a very brief, but very intense fashion item from the early 70s called "Giant Watches".

What? you say. What do watches have to do with fashion?  Well these are not just any watches, oh no no no.  These are giant over sized pocket watches meant to be worn outside in full view - obviously to make some kind of statement.  What kind of statement, you ask?  I have no idea.  That's what makes these both random and weird and quite 70s.  Let's start with an example, shall we....

Yea, now you see what I'm talking about.  Kay's weirdly over sized watch (facing the viewer no less) lets us know it's always the right time for fun, funky fashion!  Perhaps, she wore it to draw attention away form how cute Kathy looks in her strawberry accented short shorts (didn't work!).   Perhaps Kathy's massive smile is from NOT having to wear the watch.  Also we are told "to join forces with coordinated pullovers".  Coordinated with what? the giant watch?  And I'm not sure I want to join forces with ANYTHING made of Acrilian Acrylic (whatever that is, sounds like a varnish or something).   Lest you think this pic was just one odd blip in Sears catalog history, let's move on.....

Two photos do make a trend, don't they!  Here Colleen's "panne velvet" shirtdress is perfectly set off with another goofy giant watch.  Huh?  What the heck?  Once again Kathy is kicking up her heels in joy at NOT being selected to wear the watch.  Oh surely there can't be more.  Oh yes there can!

Okay, okay, this pic doesn't have Kathy in it, but it fits the theme.  Here we have TWO giant watches in the same pic to accessorize the corduroy jeans!  One worn by Colleen and another by an unknown model.  And the one worn by Colleen is on a, a, a, what is that?   It isn't a necklace exactly - more like a chain worn by a pimp or something.  Double random and double weird.   I love the chorus girl style lineup of the models.  It is sooooooo natural, especially the middle model staring randomly off into space. 

And then as quickly as the era of the giant watches blossomed, it met its demise.  Perhaps like the dinosaurs, they grew too big and wieldly eventually succumbing to excess of the very thing that made them unique.  Or perhaps they just didn't sell so Sears quickly moved on to something else.
Of course this brings up the BIG, unanswered question: were they functioning watches or just decorative pieces?  I haven't been able to find a pic with a description of these watches so this is an open question.  Anyone out there have any ideas on this?

Ironically, this fashion accessory would make no sense to kids today because many of them can't even tell time using a dial watch or clock (you can thank cell phones and digital clocks for that).  So wearing a giant watch would make about as much sense to them as wearing an abacus.  I know, I know, makes you kind of pine for the silliness of the 70s.  Of course, MY kids can tell time using a dial timepiece.  They can also use a slide rule, write in cursive, and start a fire using flint (no kidding, except for the slide rule, but they have at least SEEN a slide rule and how it is used).

So perhaps we should all channel our inner 70s and don our giant, goofy, pocket watches to freak out the kids, or maybe not.  They just won't see how cool and groovy fashion statements like that can be!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Denimy Daze at JCPenneys

Last week's post on Glad Rags got me curious about what else was out there in the early 70s world of denim fashion and oh boy did get I blindsided.  It seems that Glad Rags wasn't the outlier but instead it was right in step with the times!  Of course, I shouldn't have been too surprised.  After all denim is about the most American of fashion statements there is.  Naturally JCPenneys was all over this as these pics demonstrate.

The first pic is titled "Bold Tartan Plaid and Deminy Blue".  Isn't all tartan both bold and plaid?  I can't say I've ever seen "subtle" tartan.  Also, what does the adjective "denimy" mean?  It's either denim or its not.  Oh I get it.  It's the mood the outfits set - like dreamy only, in this case, denimy.

Kathy is a fine lookin' young filly in a overall style dress seems to say "Yee haw ya'll.  Meet me down at the JCP corral for a boot-scootin' night of two steppin, line dancin', and if it really gets wild - square dancin'!".   Her expression seems to say "Yea, I'm sexy and I know it".  Otherwise it looks like Hee Haw collided with Braveheart.   Note that the boots are 14.5 inches and made of leather! No pleather here in this pre-peta age!   Not sure why one would wear work boots to a square dance, but they definitely give the outfit a casual, working-on-the-farm feel.

Meanwhile Karen's outfit looks like Braveheart goes corporate with a combination tartan vest, pants, and a three button denim jacket (with tartan trim) and a red scarf.  Hmmm, let's see, she is wearing a shirt, a vest, AND a jacket - seems a bit much.  Also this ensemble seems to violate the denim-on-denim rule (1).   And both ensembles seem to violate the tartan-on-tartan rule (2).  You know a little tartan goes a long way, no need to overdo it.

As a bonus, there is something about both photos in this post that is unusal for catalog shots in this era.  Can you spot it?  The answer appears at the end (no peaking!).

Next up is another pic of Kathy and Karen wearing more denim, this time tartan-less.

Karen's sweater seems to scream "Hey over here, notice me!" with the 60s rainbow colors on the sweater AND the sleeves.  You see this kind of reach back to the 60s every once in a while in these pics.  Meanwhile, Kathy's outfit definitely looks like it came out a modern Cabela's catalog with the western style look, except for the massive gaucho pants!  Good thing she is sitting down in these because those things are not kind to any girl's figure (sorry, ladies but guys don't find these at all attractive on girls).  Maybe she DEMANDED to sit down for the shot "No, if you're going to make me wear these gawd awful things, I'm going to pose where they don't make me look fat.  And we'll be talking to my agent later!"  And again Kathy spotlights knee high leather boots, but in this case they look a bit more dressy and come in high heels!

Once again can you spot what is unusual about these two pics?

Footnotes: (Second post with footnotes!)

(1) The denim-on-denim rule is that you are not allowed to wear more than one piece of denim apparel at a time.  The only exceptions are: you are a real cowboy doing actual cowboy work (such as roping a calf), a member of a motorcycle gang (who is going to tell them no?), or John Wayne. 

(2) I just made up the tartan-on-tartan rule for this post, but it is like the denim-on-denim rule except there is only one acceptable exception: you are playing bagpipes and wearing a kilt.

Answer to the quiz. 

When I first pulled these pics I got the strangest feeling that something was different about them compared to the usual catalog pics of the era.  Then it hit me.  Look at the eyes.  That's right!  Both models in both shots are looking directly at the camera instead of staring blankly off at some odd, unexplainable angle like a human mannequin on narcotics.  They are posing for the pics like, well, a normal person would.  Both of these photos are from 1976, so perhaps the style of modeling was changing. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Print Ads 2 - Glad Rags Hooliganism

The fashion world is always in flux, always searching for that "next big thing".  For as soon as one trend takes off, it becomes mainstreamed and then looses interest with the avant garde group of fashion leaders, so they move on to something else.  And on and on it goes.  Of course, if this wasn't the case, we would still be wearing deerskin clothes and coonskin hats like Davey Crockett, which would actually be kinda cool...

Naturally the industry wants to spot these emerging trends and capitalize on them first.  In the early 70s this was the case as the 60s era hippie look had been mainstreamed, so the search was on for the next big trend.

Into that fray entered something called Glad Rags.  And no, this is not a brand of kitchen towels like I first thought, but a line of clothing carefully positioned to be the "next big thing" or at least they hoped it would.  We can see from the ad that they tried to borrow elements from the hippie look (check out the rainbow belt) and morph that into something else which looks like one part flower power, one part prep school, and one part migrant farm worker. 

They also wanted to give it that "edgy", avant garde feel.  Form the ad we learn that Glad Rags are cool "on campus or playing hooky".  Ah ha, that's the catch that gives these rags that "just outside the boundaries of acceptable society" feel that this company hoped would propel sales.  Just take a look below at the corruption of America's youth by this questionable fashion trend....

And what do these budding juvenile delinquents do on their Ferris Buller Day Off?  How do they flaunt the conventions of proper society?  Why they head to a park and play on children's playground equipment!  The horror of it all!  These young hoodlums are on the path to perdition for sure.  If they don't change their ways soon, the next thing you know they'll be dropping acid and holding up liquor stores!  This hooliganism must be stopped in its tracks!

And notice that Kathy is STANDING, STANDING I say, on the swing!  More thumbing their noses at the rules!  Where are the police, the truancy officers for heaven's sake?!?!

The flare pants with the cuffs were an item back then.  I love the red and white checker pattern which gives the outfit a down-home-ya'll feel.  Once again Kathy pulls off an amazing shot by manging to stand on the swing, twist her body at an odd angle, and stick one foot out to show off the awesome clogs.  I wonder how many takes they had to do to get that shot!

The poor guy has been led astray by a pretty girl.  Not only is he playing hooky, he is forced to push the girl on the swing set (and, let's face it, he has NO chance with Kathy)!  Such is the power of  fashion.  With the right outfit, a girl can make a poor schmuck do anything she pleases!

Not sure what became of Glad Rags.  They did do one thing right.  They put Kathy front and center in their ad!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sizzlin at the Shore in Sears Swimsuits

Attention Loyal Blog Followers:

As you may have noticed, I have been posting regularly each Friday.  However, next week I may be a couple of days late.  After all, I do have a regular job to pay the bills you know and that sometimes requires me to be out of pocket for awhile.  But don't worry, I will post, just late.  And now on to this week's post......

Since autumn is almost over and everyone has the upcoming winter season with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays on their mind, I thought that it would be the perfect time to look back at - Swimsuits!  Okay, not too seasonally oriented, but, hey, that is the beauty of your own blog.  You can post whatever the heck you feel like at the moment.

In addition to the two Big Book catalogs and the Christmas catalogs that retailers like Sears and JCPenney offered, they would also publish a little summer catalog between the Spring / Summer and Fall / Winter tomes.  Although small in size, these guys packed quite a punch for not only did they feature summer fashions, they especially featured swimsuits.  It was like having a second edition of the SI Swimsuit issue delivered right to your door - and featuring all your favorite models to boot! (1)

The first photo is titled "Great Moments in Sportswear" with the added tougne-in-check phrase "and proving that the most fascinating sea life isn't always under the sea".  They must be referring to the lobster prop (oh, you thought it referred to the models?).  This is somewhat unusual because normally there aren't any props in these catalog photos, or even much of a background.  This makes sense.  They didn't want to divert attention from the clothes they were trying to sell.  Actually the lobster, and the scene has a fakey look - like it was done in a studio and the lobster was photoshopped in later.  It would be interesting if anyone knows this to be the case.

The best explanation for the origins of this photo is that it was late in the day of a long, hard photo shoot and everyone on the set got a little crazy.  Then one of the stage hands had an idea: "Hey, Bob let's take Larry the Lobster from the lunch buffet and scare the girls with it, hee, hee.  No wait, they aren't scared, they're excited.  I forgot, they're half starved models.  Larry is in mortal danger! Run away Larry, ruuunnnn!!!".  Kathy definitely has the inside position for the upcoming scrum over this tasty morsel.  Colleen is totally out of position and her expression reflects her concern.  I would LOVE to see an after photo.  I guess "Great Moments in Sportswear" means moments when a poor lobster is ripped to shreds by a gang of hungry models who haven't eaten anything but celery for two weeks prior to a photo shoot!

Yes, I know "Why a lobster?"  After all, lobsters don't come out of the water to attack people onshore, except maybe in a really bad SyFy movie (hey that's an idea - This Saturday, A SyFy Original Movie: Mega Lobster vs. Crocosarus).  That's why I think this was a spur of the moment shot without alot of forethought put into it (kinda like your average SyFy movie).   

Next up is a typical swimsuit photo from the Sears catalogs of that era.  You'll notice from the descriptions that they are made with something called Arnel Triacetrate.  Not sure what that is - sounds like a preservative used in processed meats or something.  They must have thought it was a selling point because they kept mentioning it.

Kathy scans the horizon waiting for her ship to come in.  I think that it definitively has already!  The suits that she and Karen are wearing don't look at of date at all.  The plastic flower on Kathy's suit serves no functional purpose whatsoever except to come off after the second washing.

Meanwhile the suits that Colleen is wearing seem to say "Ahoy mates, come aboard" for they include handy, easy-to-follow directional arro.... Oh wait, those are ANCHORS!  I meant to say ANCHORS!  Yes, those are ANCHORS for sure!  What was I thinking?

Oh, come on, give me a break!  Did you REALLY think I wouldn't comment on something like that?  I bet every kid back then got it but half the moms didn't.  Imagine their shock when they found out: "Don't you think my little Suzy looks great in this new swimsuit?" "Uhhh, Irene, you do realize what those anchors look like?"  "No, what?" "Whisper, whisper"  "Oh dear! I'm sure my little Suzy doesn't know that" "Uhh, yea, right, sure, whatever you say". 

I threw in the next photo to complete the set.  It features three members of the K Club in a typical pic from a Sears Catalog of the era. 

Once again, the suits are not totally out of date.  In fact the one-piece with the cutouts (modeled here by Colleen, sans anchors) is back in style.  Maybe there is hope that other early 70s styles will be back soon.  That would be so groovey!

Footnotes: (A blog with footnotes, how cool is that!)

(1) As an historical note to loyal Kathy fans, Kathy made an appearance in the 1970 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.  It was only one photo, but noteworthy.  It could be the subject of a future post, but I'm a little hesitant.  SI could be one of those outfits that gets all "touchy, feelly" over the copyright thing. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hot Pants - Kicky!

Of all the zany, wild fashions of the 70s, some actually bring back fond memories - memories that is of my wasted youth.  The Hot Pants were one such fashion trend that is remembered fondly.  Oh how I would have done better in school if it wasn't for those hot girls in their hot pants!  Here are several pics of that most appreciated 70s fashion style.

Hot Pants - Kicky!  The adjective Kicky is code for "Buy these and you'll induce tongue wagging lust in men and green-eyed envy in women while staying just inside the boundaries of current socially accepted fashion norms". The title of this page from Aldens Catalog in the early 70s is perfect for a blog page today.  It is like the author was a blogger in the pre-internet era writing the title of a blog in the future which then finishes the blog of the past!  Sort of like the time travel paradox, but with mail order catalogs!  Yes you read it here first: fashion is like time travel with the past and the future co-existing simultaneously. 

Ohh my head hurts from these metaphysical ponderings.  But wait, look, Hot Pants, Yipppe! I feel better now!

You'll notice that Kathy is wearing a wig, at least I hope it is a wig because, to be honest, I don't find it a good look for her. You see her in this wig in a few shots from this era.  Perhaps she is trying for a more sophisticated look, or perhaps she is trying to go incognito to hide the fact from the other members of the K Club (Kathy, Kay, Karen, and Colleen) that she is getting extra work at Aldens. In fact I almost missed her in this shot when I was scanning old photos.

You'll also note the strange dress coats that are shown over the Hot Pants with bottom buttons left strategically undone.  So the message here is "Wear Hot Pants to be Kicky, but if you need to be a little more modest, wear this dress coats over them, but then if you still want to tease a little, leave the buttons undone".  So it's another paradox: show leg, don't show leg, show leg. Time travel is almost easy to understand by comparison.

Ohh, another paradox, I'm feeling ill, like I'm back in some college Physics class about Quantum Mechanics.  But wait, look, more Hot Pants, Yippeee!

Kickeroo!  Who says you can't turn heads while being a child of the Age of Aquarius?  This page from Simpsons Sears says, yes, you can have it all baby. Once again we have the Hot Pants with the strange dress coats - kinda like The Matrix meets Rowan and Martin's Laugh In.  Simpsons Sears was the Canadian version of Sears.  However, they must have used the same modeling agency because we have Kathy and Karen here too.  

The expression on the girl on the right is great for this shot.  It is like she dropped acid during a John Lennon concert and never came back.  She's been humming "My Sweet Lord" ever since.  Maybe that is why they had her wear the groovy indian headband with a heart!  She's so stoned, she didn't even notice.  I love the descriptions under the clothes.  Kickeroo?!? What, are we in Australia or something?!?  What does that mean exactly, and why the fixation of the word "kick" with Hot Pants.  Maybe the same guy wrote both the Aldens and Simpsons Sears pages.

Yea, I know, another knit hat on Kathy that looks totally out of place with the outfit - except maybe for the 70s. And the footwear.  Eke gads, those are hideous.  Why wear Hot Pants to show leg and then cover them up with bizarro stockings and cloddy shoes and boots that must have taken 30 minutes to lace up? Oh I know, another paradox.

Ohhh, I'm fading again.  But wait, look, Short Shorts! Double Yippeee!!  I'm saved now!

Who wears Short Shorts?  Kathy wears short shorts and looks amazing doing so in this shot from the 1976 JCPenney's Spring/Summer catalog.  Short Shorts were the ultimate evolutionary expression of the Hot Pants lineage. And when they arrived, blamo! They were everywhere for a fleeting, glorious golden highlight of mid-70s fashion.  Being banned from High Schools accross the land only made them more popular.  Also 1970s anthropologists have noticed that the test scores of teenage boys plunged dramatically during this time.  Coincidence or paradox? 

Then it was all over.  Hot Pants, Short Shorts, the Mini, they all seemed to vanish overnight into a 70s drug induced mist.  Were they real or only imaginary?  Perhaps fashion really is like the Time Travel paradox, where what we call the "past" and the "future" are only constructs of our own minds so that those terms have no meaning apart from our own existence.  Or perhaps we do live in The Matrix (fashion version) where everything is an illusion and the images in the catalogs programmed our minds to accept that illusion .  Say it ain't so!  The Hot Pants HAD to be real! THEY HAD TO BE!!