Dec 30, 2008

Mad Men & Wired Women

Well my shapely friends, you know it seems I am thinking an awful lot about the under things, the foundation garments, the lingerie of late. My prior post about Vintage Lingerie and my friend at Slip of a Girl have got me dreaming of a past I feel a little cheated out of.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happier being a cross dresser in this relatively accepting era than I might have been in the 50’s. And you have to admit that today, cross dressers and genetic girls alike have relatively easy access to genuine vintage fashion (under and outer layers) as well as newly made knock-offs online. And the more I look around the more it occurs to me that I am far, far from alone in my love for these garments.

Go ahead and see for yourself. Google up “vintage lingerie”, or browse around eBay. You might think that half the world is wriggling into a nice open bottom girdle and straightening out the seams of their full fashioned stockings.

As far as more everyday media references go, the television show Mad Men has been the runaway critical and popular hit of the last couple of seasons. Yes, I am persuaded that really good story lines, expert set decoration and a sensitive, subtle examination of the moral ambiguity of Madison Avenue all have something to do with all that. But I swear on my patent Mary Janes that the success of the show more to do with the bullet bras on breathtaking Joan Holloway and the basques on pretty Betty Draper than any of all that.

I spent a little time last night reviewing a discussion thread on about favorite times in history to be dressed. Hands down, 50's (and early 60's) is the favorite. And for me, all of this is all true and delightful. But the question remains, why? What is the hold that these looks have on us?

Is it pure nostalgia? Or is there something in the restricting materials and the complex fasteners that has intrinsic appeal? And why, o why did a generation throw it all away?

Timing is everything they say. I am not old enough to have been at Woodstock. Nor am I young enough to have been conceived there. By the time I was unbuttoning blouses, fondling flesh and
(when no one was looking), fastening a bra on myself for my own private fun, bras were at their worst. Formless triangles built to contain rather than enhance and display the beautiful fruit within. Panties were not much better. Cottony hipsters stripped of lace and conducting none of the warm human electricity that silks and satins do. The Maidenform Woman was nowhere to be seen. 18 Hour Support gave way to 24/7 bounce. Garter belts to pantyhose. Romance gave away to free love.

Liberation was the paramount cultural ideal of the time. And the liberation of the dresser drawers of the nation followed. All progress comes at a price I suppose. But my, what a price.

When did the dark night start ending for you? To me, the late 70’s and early 80’s post-punk fashion sensibility helped things along. Pioneers like Siouxsie Sioux and Debby Harry paved the way for Madonna’s inner-wear as outer-wear displays of the early 90’s. Fishnet stockings, stiletto heels and corsets hit the nightclubs, and sometimes came home with me. Delicious and confounding stuff. I was always stuck between leaving my new friend dressed to be admired, ripping things off in an animal fit, or peeling things gently away hoping to find a way for me to wind up dressed and caressed. I sometimes missed all 3.

In 1994 Eva Herzigova said “hello boys” and re-inflated the long limp Wonderbra brand. The battle for the bust was fully engaged. And way, way out in the open. Not long after Intimate Brands did a public offering and Victoria’s Secret went from a specialty catalog to a retail juggernaut (absolutely no pun intended). And whatever was in the milk or the tap water caused average adolescent cup sizes to swell to epic proportions. Surely I would not have graduated high school had I been there at the turn of our new millennium.

Today, there is more lace. There is more lift. There are more clasps and ribbons and bows. There is more silk and sizzle. And there is a lot more romance. I think all of us are a little better off. Even when we are just admiring ourselves.

How about you? Do you have a favorite vintage piece? Does another era stand out in your fantasies? Where do you go to shop back in time? Do you have a theroy about how we lost our way, and a suggestion about how to ensure that future generations enjoy what we nearly lost? Please leave a comment here, or drop
Petra a line anytime.

Happy Dressing, whatever decade you are in…


Anonymous said...


Petra Bellejambes said...

Jackie - thanks so much for your too kind words. The encouragement is so ... encouraging for lack of a better word. I will keep it up as best I can. Tell friends to come and visit, and if you have a story idea, well I am all ears... Best - Petra

Couture Carrie said...

Love this post, Petra! Thanks for the links!


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