Many older women of fashion had a hard time in the 1960s. Youth was in style and new ideas filtered up from the street rather than down from designers who might have had some sympathy for older shapes. Perhaps to give comfort to the no longer young, the Consumer Service Division of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union put out a pamphlet called “Looking your Fashionable Age.” I was fascinated to discover that the union not only made clothes, but gave advice on how to wear them. There is no date, but the original collector hand dated it 1969.
After reading lots of fashion advice books, you begin to notice common themes that don’t change much over time. This pamphlet was full of old chestnuts: discover your personal style, pick pleasing colors, maintain good posture, and be meticulous in grooming.
But some of the tips come straight from the sixties. Embrace the stylish looser fit, advised the authors, Helen Lack and Viola Rossi. “A dress or jacket can be shaped-in in front without giving away how many inches you are around the bosom, waistline, or hipline.” (2) Shift dresses with a little flare below the waist are comfortable options for most occasions. But leave mini skirts to the young. “The hemline brushing the knee or a little below remains as fashionable, and a desirable discretion. Lower than this is dowdy.”(7)
The pamphlet urges older women to try fashion experiments. “’Mature’ and ‘clubwomen’ are old fashion words easily associated with being afraid to change your thinking. And that isn’t you!” But daring could go too far. Pants in public were probably a risky option for most, since ones body shape might not be pleasing to “viewers, (your husband, your friends, and the public.”) Instead, the authors recommend pants only for fishing trips or backyard gardening. “Other days you will flatter yourself from balmy June to September to sticking to some version of the shift or smock.” (9)
Did readers know what to do after finishing the pamphlet? Be in style, but not too trendy; be bold, but not too brazen; please yourself, but don’t offend your viewers. I was certainly confused…
This treasure comes from the capacious files of Lizzie Bramlett.