My sister, Jessica, and I stay in touch mostly through text messages. She lives in New Mexico and I live in Seattle so we only get to see each other once or twice a year. Our sporadic texts throughout each day keep us posted on the little things and some of the big. Phone calls are reserved for Really Big Things, like celebrations and emergencies.
One recent text-convo involved talking about some fashion memories. When we were kids, Jess preferred her long, shiny brown hair to be pulled up and pinned into a bun. She had a doll called Dancerina, like the one pictured below. This doll stood on one toe and did a pirouette whenever you pushed down on the pink crown atop her bunned head. Dancerina is the image that comes to mind when I think of my sister as a child. She was pretty, graceful, and willing to wear tights and tulle for long periods of time.
The doll that might capture my essence during this time was Holly Hobbie.
Her patchwork dress and long braids were more my style, although I preferred to wear patched-up jeans more than any style of dress.
Each of us had our own likes and dislikes, as every person does, but it would be limiting to simply put my sister in a “girlie” box and me in a “tomboy” box. Sometimes she played football in the house with my brother (and got two baby teeth knocked out in the process), and sometimes I played hairdresser to my Barbie dolls (and then immediately regretted giving my doll a pixie cut). We both danced in the living room to Kool & the Gang, Neil Diamond, and the BeeGees. (Who didn’t?)
A Little Bit Country and a Little Bit Rock-and-Roll
You might say we were both a good mix of that old Donnie and Marie song–a little bit country and a little bit rock-and-roll. Rare is the person who is all one thing or another and I don’t know anybody who wants to be labeled just one way no matter where they fall on a spectrum.
So, as a tribute to my little sister I put together an outfit that mixes ballerina and Holly Hobbie. For fun, and to see how jeans and shoes can change a look, I played around with different styles of each.
This jacket is a vintage gem from Suzanne Carillo’s Vintage Etsy store. It gets its heritage straight out of the Gunne Sax style by Jessica McClintock in the 70s and 80s.
My jacket isn’t Gunne Sax brand but the style of it is spot-on: tiny floral prairie patterns trimmed with cotton lace and black ribbon. It’s even quilted! So retro! And so perfect for a transitional season like Spring, I might add!
Under the jacket, I wore a stretchy lace top which I bought on Thredup.com. In the past, I have shunned lace–making the face you see below. My mother and I used to get into knock-down-drag-out fights over lace dresses she wanted me to wear. When I got old enough to decide for myself, I stayed as far away from it as I could get. It was so itchy that it turned my skin red.
Happily, I never make that face with this top–except when I’m kidding around. It’s comfy without a hint of itch! Plus, it poofs out just a little on the shoulders. Very Victorian/1970s.
The beaded collar is from the 1950s. You may recall it from a previous post earlier this year. I’m trying to get more wear out of this unique Etsy find. (Similar ones can be searched by following this link.)
The bottom half of this first style starts with skinny jeans and ends with high-heel, knee-high purple boots.
Skinny jeans are primarily worn by women these days, although some guys wear them now too. Still, once upon a time denim itself was relegated to men only. And, if we go back far enough–colonial era and before–that “tight pants” look was men-only as well. Women just didn’t wear trousers of any style back when men sported breeches.
According to Tim Gunn’s Fashion Bible, denim wasn’t really in style until the 1950s when men like James Dean and Marlon Brando acted in movies showing tough guys wearing jeans.
As you already know, jeans quickly caught on. My dad tells the story about how, when he was in college in the 1960s, he would starch the heck out of his jeans until they could literally stand on their own in his dorm room. I’d like to try that some day.
Have you ever starched your jeans until they stood on their own?
My jeans are Paige “Verdugo” jeans. I got them last year at Nordstrom and I’ve worn them so often they may become “distressed” soon. As of this writing, 6pm.com is carrying them for about $80, which is a good deal. You can find similar styles even cheaper on Thredup if you don’t mind secondhand.
The boots are oldies from Sundance Catalog. They’re not that comfortable, but I can walk in them for short periods of time. I keep them because I like the way they look when I do wear them. I found a similar (gorgeous) pair by Gianvito Rossi but TheRealReal.com has several secondhand options of high-end brands at significantly lower prices.
Marlon Brando in a Lace Turtleneck?
For this next look, I channeled Marlon Brando–if Marlon Brando wore a Gunne Sax jacket and lace turtleneck.
My generation was the first to wear ripped-up jeans on purpose. My parents and grandparents used to shake their heads and ask me my why on earth I’d spend good money on ripped jeans. These days I find myself agreeing with them. I’ve visited third-world countries where “distressed” is all a person has–and not because it’s the style. When I put on clothing that has rips and tears that I didn’t put there from years of my own wear and tear, I feel a little mocking.
Still, here I am wearing denim with rips I played no part in creating. When I bought them I told myself that at least the jeans aren’t holes upon holes. Maybe I can use those prefabricated holes to be mindful of people who have distressed jeans because they can’t afford something else. And maybe I can turn that mindfulness into action that might benefit others. Let’s go with that.
Apart from the twinge of conscience, these jeans do have an edge to them that is the yin to the top half’s yang. Add the black lace-up boots and you’ve got Marlon Brando in a lace top. (Grin.)
Mix It All Up and Add a Touch of Whimsy
If imagining Marlon Brando in a lace top doesn’t tickle your whimsical side, let’s break out the Van’s high-tops and see if that does the trick.
How’s that for yin-and-yang?
The same lady who sold me the distressed jeans sold me the suede Van’s. As with the denim, I was a little uncertain if I could pull off high-tops. I just wasn’t sure if they were my style. But they are so comfortable and, no matter what I pair them with, I feel young-at-heart and a little rebellious.
Michael Jackson is The Word
I leave you with this final photo only because it makes me laugh. It shows how much I was able to cut loose to create this post. Michael Jackson was my playlist for the photo shoot. In days gone by when my sister and I shared a room, MJ was a major part of my soundtrack. His music seemed fitting for this walk down memory lane. I’ve included a Michael Jackson playlist from Spotify below.
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