I have always loved clothes and the soft feel of textiles. As little girls my big sister and I had matching winter coats that our mother had lovingly sewn for us. We called them our “pink minks” and we felt like princesses when we dressed up in our fleecy coats with our black patent leather shoes.
Ballet recitals were opportunities for us to wear beautiful brightly colored satin costumes with stiff pink tutus made of netting. I distinctly remember twirling around on stage in a purple glittered costume one year – and finding glitter stuck to my skin for days after the recital.
By high school mother no longer sewed our clothes and for several years we both attended parochial school where we were required to wear uniforms complete with saddle shoes, gloves and beanies. We were horrified if one of our neighborhood friends, especially a boy, saw us coming or going in such ugly attire!
At the local town dances we favored the “preppy” style of the 1960s. We wore circle pins, a-line wool skirts and matching wool sweaters trimmed in grosgrain. A friend of our mother’s owned the Yankee Lady in Andover and we would frequently stop in to see if she had any new Villager sets for us to add to our wardrobe.
School proms were very special occasions requiring months of planning and shopping. One year, as president of the senior class at Presentation of Mary Academy, my sister was at the head of the line at the Christmas Cotillion. All the seniors were presented to the bishop in their white gowns while those of us younger students rustled around the room in our pastel taffetas.
After college Janice parlayed her love of fashion into a position as the youngest-ever manager of the designer salon at Bonwit Teller in Boston. By the time that I graduated she had moved on to Lord and Taylor and she got me a job there too. At lunch time she let me know that I had better rush up the escalator to the designer salon since she had just marked down the Pucci dresses. That job actually cost me money each month – even with the employee discount. We also found my wedding dress at Lord and Taylor – the same design as the one Kathryn Ross wore in the movie The Graduate. My marriage did not last, but I still have that dress!
My sister passed away last year, but I still have wonderful memories of all the fun we had with fashion. The recent Iris Apfel exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum reminded me so much of my sister – and her unique fashion sense and style.
At the American Textile History Museum we provide the opportunity for our visitors to enjoy fashion and the memories that are conjured up with certain styles. Through April 18th we have a highly nostalgic exhibit entitled Aprons: Fifties FUNctional Fashion.
This one is truly fun for all ages and guaranteed to bring back fond memories.
Linda Carpenter—Director of Advancement