Although the silly title to this book may have boosted sales, I think it does a disservice to the contents. Maureen Valdes Marsh does insert her share of “weren’t folks quaint in the past” comments. But behind this is serious research, illustrated by photographs from Montgomery Ward’s and other catalogs. You can find images on Walsh’s Pinterest page.
Divided into eight short chapters, the book examines major trends in seventies fashion, like the explosion of polyester, the move toward more colorful menswear, and the rise of the platform shoe. I was particularly interested in her examination of how the pantsuit for women went main stream. From her I learned about the “pants-in” of that decade. She convinced me that daily newspapers can be an excellent source for studying this fashion shift—pantsuits quite literally made headlines.
Another surprise was the diversity of the catalog models, particularly in menswear. Stylish black men with discrete Afros modeled leisure suits, dance clothes, rakish hats, and platform shoes. Young black women posed with white models in polyester shirtwaists. There were no older women, but perhaps Marsh wasn’t looking for them.
My 2006 edition of this book, first published in 1996, includes a fairly current short list of vintage clothing dealers. While the bibliography is skimpy, I did discover two fabulous treasures. An archive for Montgomery Ward is held at the University of Wyoming, while Southern Methodist University has records from JC Penneys from its 1902 until 2004. I can already see some research trips in my future.
Thanks for the gift, Jen!