Vogue Endorses Fashion Eccentrics, 1935

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Mabel Dodge Luhan, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

In article called “The Middle Ages,” (July 1, 1935) Vogue offered a long list of fashion “don’ts” for those no longer young. Here’s an abbreviated version: Don’t wear bias skirts; contrasting belts; very low necklines; bright colors; or skimpy bathing suits. Except for the warning against bright colors (what, no orange?), I was perfectly happy to follow their recommendations until I got to this piece of advice. “Beware [of] slacks and lounging pyjamas: they are unbecoming and undignified even on a boat or in the privacy of your own bedroom, unless you are very straight and slim.”

But perhaps the unnamed author got tired of coming up with restrictions. The article ends on this hopeful note: “When you get to the age where current fashions bore you and seem to have very little relation to you, do as you please. Be picturesque, dramatic, and eccentric—make the most of your opportunity of being a grande dame.”

Unfortunately, Vogue offered no illustrations of this kind of free spirit. It’s easy to find photos of eccentric older women today, but not as simple for decades past. After much searching I found a photo of writer and art aficionado Mabel Dodge Luhan, taken in 1938 when she was about sixty. Perhaps she’s not Vogue’s idea of a grande dame, but she certainly looks likes she is doing just as she pleased.

Do you have a photo of an older eccentric from an earlier era that you would like to share?

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2 Responses to Vogue Endorses Fashion Eccentrics, 1935

  1. Oh, by all means let’s get going on becoming grande dames! I had good fortune to meet a couple along the way…Martha Graham in her 80s mostly wore floor-length bat-wing tunics, which seems like a perfect way to go at that age, and blues legend Ruth Brown wore classic knit sweaters, pants and skirts, unless she was on stage where it was sequins and glitz all the way.

  2. Growing up in my little town in the 60s, I was enchanted by an older eccentric woman. Well, I thought she was ancient, but looking back on it she was probably in her 50s. Anyway, she drove a turquoise and cream Nash Metropolitan and dressed in wild get-ups that involved lots of leopard prints and crazy color combinations. I thought she was fabulous!

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