Marcella in Milan, 1981

Found photo

Marcella could be a tourist from anywhere, but the writing on the back of this photo has a distinctly American look.  And would a European tourist be wearing what is essentially a pair sweatpants in Italy’s fashion capital?  Perhaps European readers can weigh in on this issue.

Anyway, this picture proves that athleisure is nothing new.  It is hard to imagine a more comfortable outfit to wear on vacation—a stretchy pair of pants with a matching tank top and a sweater in case you needed to cover up.  In my view, yellow is not very practical for traveling. Marcella must have been a lot neater than I am.  No spaghetti sauce stains anywhere.

Did Marcella decide to dress down for travel comfort, or did she always dress on the casual side? Whatever the answer, she was following a fashion trend.  My early 1980s edition of Fashionable Clothing from the Sears Catalog notes that the exercise craze that started in the 1970s spawned all kinds of exercise related clothes, even for those who never worked up a sweat. This matching outfit is a prime example. Note also her sensible shoes, which bear some similarity to sneakers.  Nothing is going to stop her from having fun.

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2 Responses to Marcella in Milan, 1981

  1. Eimear says:

    It’s a lovely photo….I would definitely have viewed Marcella s outfit as American, the bag is a great practical bag for travel isn’t it! In Ireland in the 80s, most ladies over 60 seemed to wear dresses or skirts. I know my mother who would have worn slacks, when she wore dresses in winter used wear a shade of nylon tights called tan italiano!

  2. Jennifer (aka @holliepoint) says:

    As a kid my grandmother’s closet was FULL of clothes just like these. She was a big fan of polyester knits. She was born in 1918 and I’ve often wondered about how freeing it must have been to adopt proto-athleisure wear for someone who’d witnessed and worn the rather hardcore shapewear of previous decades. I feel like this woman, like my grandma, was in the to-hell-with-it stage of her life and must have had a really meaningful appreciation for just how revolutionary these clothes were!

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