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by Rose Madeline Mula

Come on, People! Does anyone really believe that shirt tails hanging below sweaters and vests are attractive? When did that look suddenly go from “sloppy” to “chic”?

Apparently none of the former fashion rules apply. Today you can wear a print blouse with a plaid skirt…an orange jacket with shocking pink pants…a pastel flowered shirt with purple, green and red striped capris. A recent fashion magazine proclaims that “such clashing patterns and colors create a look of carefree spontaneity.” Talk about putting a good spin on disaster. What it really says to me is that the wearer got dressed in the dark.

And these days it’s a no-no to allow your handbag to harmonize with any element of your outfit. Apparently your purse should make an independent statement of its own.

As for shoes, not only should they not match any other part of your attire, they can also be fabricated from disparate materials of mismatched shades. This is perfectly acceptable, especially if they’re expensive enough. In fact, the more costly the footwear, the more outlandish its design. Case in point: I saw an ad today in a slick woman’s magazine that featured a $3,000 pair of shoes with black satin toes, brown and tan leather sides, and rhinestone-studded raspberry velvet backs and heels (five-inch stilettos). As if this weren’t bad enough, the model wore them with saggy black ankle socks. I swear.

I will say, however, that those socks weren’t quite as saggy as the pants favored by young men today. What’s with those oversized khakis with the crotches at knee level, the waistband drooping at the hips exposing underpants, and the bottom of the legs draped over unlaced sneakers sweeping the ground? And I never will understand why jeans (both men’s and women’s) are more expensive if they are already frayed and holey when you buy them.

Women’s hemlines are another issue. Can skirts get any shorter? How do you sit without displaying your panties? Many solve this problem by simply not wearing any panties — and apparently not worrying about what else may be displayed.

Speaking of immodesty, when did silk and lace camisoles (with adjustable shoulder straps yet) first escape from the underwear drawer and reappear as outerwear for young (and, even more unfortunately, many not-so-young) women? Not too long ago, we would have been arrested for appearing in public wearing lingerie. Today, it’s perfectly acceptable to let it all hang out. And the body parts that are not hanging out are nevertheless also clearly visible under fabric so transparent that it leaves nothing to the imagination. Today one can see on any street or classroom costumes that used to be considered risqué on the burlesque stage.

I know I’m dating myself when I say that when I was a girl we would have died of embarrassment if we thought anyone even suspected we had breasts—and especially nipples. We camouflaged them under baggy sweaters or loose-fitting sack dresses (yes, Dior actually designed such a creation decades ago — and actually called it that — and it actually looked like its name).

Ditto derrieres. Our goal was to diminish them — certainly not to call attention to them. The flatter the better. We used to wear girdles to banish our buttocks. Today, instead, the gluteus maximus proudly proclaims its presence under skirts and pants so tight, it’s a wonder the wearers can move. And those who haven’t been endowed by nature with what they consider enough “junk in the trunk” can buy padded panties to correct the deficiency. Insanity.

But I guess it could be worse. At least today’s fashions aren’t as cumbersome as the togs of some past eras. Consider, for example, those huge stiff ruffled collars worn by the noble ladies of the Elizabethan age. They surely must have immobilized the head, much like the cone apparatus that dogs with eczema have to wear to keep them from biting their sores.

And can you imagine how uncomfortable those dames and duchesses must have been in their multiple floor-length petticoats and restrictive bodices, especially in the heat of summer? Not to mention the outer layers of the garments of both men and women — heavy, unyielding materials such as brocade, damask, or buckram-backed taffeta, depending on one’s social status. The more luxurious fabrics could be worn only by the upper crust. By law, the lower classes were restricted to clothing made of wool, linen or sheepskin — which doesn’t sound that bad actually. Fortunately for the hoi polloi, polyester had not yet been invented; otherwise I’m sure they would have been doomed to spend their lives encased in nylon and Dacron.

At least our clothing today is more democratic. We all have the right to look slutty and cheap, regardless of our social standing.

And, of course, the fewer clothes we wear, the easier our laundry. (Wouldn’t you have hated to be Elizabeth I’s personal maid?)

What’s next? Birthday suits as everyday attire? Just in case, I’d better see what I can do to spruce mine up. Right now it’s a wrinkled mess.

Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.


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