Monday, December 21, 2009

In praise of skirts...

HALLIE: I miss skirts. Remember the days when hemlines made headlines?

They went from just below the knee (at school they made us kneel and your skirt had to touch the floor), to barely below your fanny, to the course of a few years (I'm not saying how long ago this was).

I was too late for poodle skirts, but my older sister had one that I coveted. Wish I'd saved that long black velvet skirt I wore for the holidays, and a swirly-twirly patchwork skirt made of strips of pastel ginghams, and that short leather skirt that barely cleared my fanny(tights and over-the-knee boots were de rigueur with that one).

Nowadays there's no one hemline, and though the stores are awash in sweaters and over-the-knee-socks, and sure there are plenty of suits and dresses, where are the skirts designed for folks past puberty? It's (almost) enough to make me drag out the sewing machine.

Do you yearn for skirts?

JAN: Well I play tennis, so skirts are very much a part of my everyday life. The question there is pleats? no pleats? What is Maria wearing?? What is Nike pushing?? But even in my non-athletic world, I just bought a new skirt this summer in France. But I don't think I have the nostalgia for skirts that you do. Usually I look better and feel better in pants. Even when I find the perfect skirt,it never seems to become a staple in my wardrobe -- outside of tennis that is.

RO: I LOVE skirts and have dozens. The leather, the silver sequined, silk, lace, denim, the one slit up to there and the long ones I wear to the opera. Some days only a skirt will do. You walk differently when you wear one. The other night I wore a pencil skirt and felt like an Italian movie star! I'm just sorry I didn't go all out and resurrect the elbow length gloves.

Hallie, it's not too late to get that poodle skirt..okay maybe sans poodle..but that swingy flared skirt, ...twin set..go for it!

If you wear your skirt to ALA, I'll wear mine.

ROBERTA: The trouble with skirts is shoes. Since I have a resistant case of plantar fascitis, I can't wear a lot of fashionable shoes or boots--especially narrow toes and high heels. But I love summertime skirts with Mephisto sandals. For a while it was hard to find them, but they are back in stores now I have a whole cedar closet full of wool skirts, mid-calf length. Not sure when I'll ever wear them but I can't bear to throw them away...And Jan, the same closet is full of my tennis skirts--mostly pleated. Can't wear those either, but they're there waiting, in case of a medical miracle.

Oh, and I have a black and white faux fur cow skirt that is simply aching for the right occasion--price tag still on it. Any suggestions?

RO: What's a cow skirt? Does it come with udders?

HALLIE: Roberta, sounds like we need to throw a hoedown! (Before ALA in Boston?)

Yes, the shoes are a problem.

The OTHER trouble with skirts is panty hose. ICK ICK ICK.

HANK: See, my problem is pants. I don't like to wear--slacks, trousers, whatever you call 'em. I wear skirts and dresses to work every day. I have some puffy shaped big skirts I wear with little jackets, long straight ones for boots, a row of black pencil skirts for white shirts and red belts. Suede, leather, fleece, lace. On TV, you can wear the most staid black jacket that will show on the air--with a slinky leopard skirt that no one at home will see.

And because the legs are the last to go, short skirts and tights are still (barely) doable. (Although not as short as some of those I see on office interns. Yikes!Did I do that at age 22?)

And for the holidays, I love big gorgeous ball gown skirts with a turtleneck sweater and lots of pearls and velvet ballet flats. I wish I had a huge jewel-toned plaid, long and satin--the kind my mother used to try to make me wear when I was a little girl and I loathed. Now, I see what she meant.

And Roberta, a cow skirt? I do have a suggestion. Maybe--smiling--send it to ME?

HALLIE: Legs ARE the last to go! That's priceless and so true.

Wednesday, we'll still be talking about clothes--but not in the fashion sense. Come back and meet one of the authors of the off-Broadway smash hit, "Love, Loss, and What I Wore," who also happens to be my sister Delia.


  1. I want a cow skirt. My father is a cowboy. I have legitimate reasons to wear a cow skirt.

    Re: panty hose, have you tried the spray on stuff? It's great!

  2. Spray on stuff??? What spray on stuff?

  3. I love the J. Peterman catalogs because they have the most gorgeous swirly skirts. And the descriptions of them are always exotic.

    Happy soltice! Now the nights start getting shorter and skirt weather will soon be upon us. "Soon" is, of course, a relative term . . .

  4. I'll loan the cow skirt out Hank and Ramona, but I can't give it up:). And oh by the way, my BFF Yvonne has one that matches exactly in case of an occasion where we need two...

    And the photo Hallie posted was dead on.

  5. Does one of us actually own the spectacular beaded skirt in the pic? I'm soooo jealous.
    I'm going to see Carmen on New Year's Eve and will be dusting off one of my long, rarely worn skirts...I'll be thinking of all of you.
    I can't wait to see Love, Loss and What I Wore. I remember loving the book.

  6. Roberta, I would not give up that skirt, either.

    Hallie, Google "spray on panty hose." I wear this stuff all summer. You just have to avoid riding in cars with white interiors.

  7. It's impossible to find great skirts any more (and equally impossible to find dresses that are not somewhere mid-thigh length or shapeless drapes to the floor.
    I wanted a Christmas dress/skirt. Only very formal ones still exist.
    I'm thinking of turning dress designer....
    And I used to wear the barely over the fanny with the long white shiny boots. My daughters were furious that I hadn't kept them.

  8. RHYS! Photos, please.

    And Ro, no, the beaded skirt isn't mine, at least, more's the pity...

    Yes, Fran, I always wonder about those Peterman skirts. SO gorgeous. (Does that place still exist?)

  9. I'd never heard of poodle skirts. Very nice. But I remember school uniform and skirt length regulations. We had to kneel down before PE and the teacher would check all our hemlines touched the ground.

  10. OK - I looked up spray-on panty hose. Bizarre. It basically paints your legs (colors: "natural," "terra cotta," "bronze"!) But does it do anything to keep you from freezing?

  11. Hallie, I only wear the spray-on in summer, and the color I use is "nude." I use it because I avoid sun exposure so don't tan, but I don't want a fake orange tan. Nor do I want to blind anyone with dough-boy legs. I'm embarrassed to admit that I first read about spray-on hose in an article called "Beauty Secrets from the Red Carpet" or something like that.

    I don't know any solution to freezing legs. Sorry.

  12. Yes to the "spray on" hose -- I use Sally Hansen's 'Air Brush Legs' in Light Glow for Fair Skin. Evens out the skin tone and adds a bit of polish to the bare-legged wearing of the skirts. If you blend a narrow stripe of highlighter down the shinbone, it reveals nice contours, too. (Learned that as a theatre major doing '40s plays.) Watch the hosts in full shot on today's TV talk shows or celebrities in shorter skirts on the more casual red carpet - except when wearing tights in winter, they are pretty much all bare-legged, and $5.00 says they've got the highlighter stripe down the shinbone, too. ;)

    Ah, the things I learn teaching media studies to a steady stream of fashionistas of all ages: These days, the fashion magazines -- from Vogue right on down to Seventeen say totally ditch the pantyhose, wear stockings with a garter belt only if the stockings are super special-- a pattern up the back of the calf, sparkly or bejeweled for a party, fishnet, retro-seamed &tc.

    Conversely, in winter, tights in colors and patterns and black are Very Much the Thing. So here in Texas, if we're going to be au courant in a skirt and heels, we're bare-legged three seasons out of the year.

    And thus, Sally Hansen's 'Air Brush Legs' -- a great improvement on fish-belly pale, basal cell carcinoma brown, streaky self-tanning or going orange from fake-bake.

    I do like a pencil skirt, but the skirt envy I've most had was provoked probably by any of the ones Grace Kelly wore in Rear Window. I like the JPeterman skirts, too. They have swoosh!

  13. I confess I own the Sally Hansen Airbrush in a can, but I've yet to use it. I'm a Jergens moisturizer with a little self tanner in it gal. Will try the shimmer on the shinbone trick.
    Sorry ladies..controltop pantyhose rules unless it's all about when the skirt comes off. Then I'd have to vote for the garter belt. Otherwise they're too bumpy for a tight skirt.
    The real problem with skirts is having to tuck something in and then looking lumpy..unless you're Kathleen Turner in Body Heat. The best skirt and blouse combo ever.

  14. Susannah,
    I was in Urban Outfitters today and bought the black lace tights you are talking about. Bought a footless pair.

  15. Hallie, I think we had the same high school standard, and there was much grumbling in the later sixties when skirts started rising. My zenith? In college I had a dress whose hem came exactly to my fingertips (I had to be very careful about what I wore under it!).

    But I do remember my mother tweaking her hemline lengths on a yearly basis, per fashion dictates. Sometimes it was as little as an inch, up or down.

  16. Just remembering how I used to roll my skirts at the waist to make them shorter...and shorter...and shorter. And then, came the mid-calf length skirt (the "midi"?) and if you wanted to be au courant you had to go out and buy new clothes. Women finally rebelled, I think. Or maybe I just outgrew the need to look like one of the pack.

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  18. Sheila, I measured my skirts by the "fingertip" method, too. Wow, that was really short! (But it appears to be back in "style"--are those dresses people are wearing realy dresses? I'd call them--blouses.) (And voila, I'm my mother. Sigh.)

    And I once got sent home from school because when I knelt on the floor, my skirt didn't touch the ground.

    It was the day before graudation, too.

    And--chiming in: me, too. Tights or bare legs. I'm trying out colored tights this year. Electric blue. Soft gray. Really fun.

  19. From Rosemary: "Kathleen Turner in Body Heat. The best skirt and blouse combo ever."

    Yes -- dang, that was a casual outfit brilliantly put together.

    Bebe Neuwerth wore something very similar as Lilith Sternin (and pulled her hair down and danced in it) on an episode of Cheers -- remember the episode where Lilith bid for and won a "celebrity" date with Sam, to make Frasier jealous? Frozen, clinical Lilith putting the moves on Sam, and the amazing Neuwerth got to dance.

    And then there's Cyd Charisse (she always got cool skirts) in "Singin' in the Rain" --

    Claudette Colbert had a nice skirt moment in It Happened One Night, though I'm not crazy about the outfit:

    I was just watching a rerun of episode #2 of Mad Men, "Ladies Room", and January Jones wore a killer dress -- beautiful skirt, very Grace Kelly -- in that episode.

    And then there are Pfeiffer's costumes in Cheri. Longer skirts with a lotta wow, eclipsed only by the amazing hats. As here:

    -=Susannah, currently in jeans and tennis shoes, who in another life would have been a costume history curator

    P.S. JPeterman still exists. Huge online and catalog presence, too. With skirts! Checkit!

  20. Neuwirth, Neuwirth, Neuwirth, Neuwirth, Neuwirth

    Type it five times fast and you can spell it.

    -=Susannah Charlestone

  21. Fun blog!

    I own 19 skirts and 4 pair of pants. The pant/hem thing has always been problematic: do you hem for heels? Flats? Buy two pair and hem for each? And what if your feet get tired mid-day and you want to change shoes...must you carry around the second pair of pants so your heel-hemmed pants don't drag?

    I don't think Grace Kelly had these problems!

  22. Yes, Diane, the pant-hem thing is a major-league dilemma!

    Susannah, you should do a wikipedia entry! Amazing.

    How about Fay Dunaway's skirt and slinky shirt in Newtork?

  23. I have skirts that I don't wear in the winter because I have to walk four blocks to my office from the bus. It's a tad cold, even with tights, to wear a skirt. But when the weather warms up, the skirts can go out.

  24. I've never heard of spray on panty-hose either. Although, for some reason that reminds me that last year I bought a skirt that stuck to me and kept creeping up as I walked down the street.
    And Hallie, I never knew you sewed clothes. I'm impressed.

  25. Skirts are coming back and they are coming back wiht a vengeance. I miss those pencils skirts!