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Old 11-22-2019, 10:57 AM
Marcus Flavius is offline
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Why was everyone in the past so well-dressed?


Street scenes from NYC in 1911

https://youtu.be/aohXOpKtns0

Notice how well-dressed everyone is. No yoga pants, no leggings, no pajamas, no basketball shorts.... everyone is dressed in a manner that we would consider 'formal.' All the men are dressed in suits, all the women are dressed in long dresses down to their ankles. People today dress extremely... uh... "casually" in comparison.

So exactly why did everyone back then dress so well?

Last edited by Marcus Flavius; 11-22-2019 at 10:58 AM.
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:09 AM
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First, that's a great video, thanks

Second, to answer your question - that was just what people did back then. In parts of the world today, it's what people still do.
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus Flavius View Post
So exactly why did everyone back then dress so well?
Because everyone else did?

I know, that doesn't really explain anything. My one WAG is that, in those days, people spent more time outside or in buildings that were less well-heated than ours, so they dressed in layers and wore suits and vests and hats and things like that to keep warm.
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:21 AM
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Because everyone else did?

I know, that doesn't really explain anything. My one WAG is that, in those days, people spent more time outside or in buildings that were less well-heated than ours, so they dressed in layers and wore suits and vests and hats and things like that to keep warm.
But they also dressed up in suits, ties & hats for baseball games in the summer. It was just a very different time.
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:27 AM
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They also had FAR fewer clothes than we have now, so what they had needed to work for multiple situations - work and weekend.

My Mum (18 at the end of the war) describes how everyone had a capsule wardrobe - she had one brown suit, two dresses, 3 blouses, a cardigan and that was about it.

Last edited by SanVito; 11-22-2019 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:33 AM
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Something of note in the film one rarely sees in Hollywood films- piles of horse hockey in the streets.
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:46 AM
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Before World War II, most of the population worked jobs that required hard physical labor. They spent most of the week wearing dungarees or khakis.

They liked dressing up for social occasions. The suit and tie was a welcome escape from the workday grind.

In the 1950s and 1960s, a large portion of the population moved up from the working class to the middle class. The suit and tie became a part of the weekday grind. That's when dressing down became popular.
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:47 AM
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People were expected to dress that way. If you didn't wear a suit, you would be looked upon as someone weird (unless you were a manual laborer, where you could take off your jacket while working).

There were people who didn't wear them -- kids, for instance (you can see some around 2:40). It was a big deal when they were old enough to get their first suit (or hand me down). Laborers didn't wear them while working. And everyone wore hats (the film was shot in the summer, given the fact that some men are wearing straw boaters).

But people in the past thought differently than we did. Modern concerns for comfort would have perplexed them.
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Last edited by RealityChuck; 11-22-2019 at 11:48 AM.
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:48 AM
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They also had FAR fewer clothes than we have now, so what they had needed to work for multiple situations - work and weekend.

My Mum (18 at the end of the war) describes how everyone had a capsule wardrobe - she had one brown suit, two dresses, 3 blouses, a cardigan and that was about it.
Yeah cheap imported clothing from China, India, and Pakistan did not exist yet and making clothes was a far more labor intensive process.
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Old 11-22-2019, 12:03 PM
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This must have been recorded after wearing an onion on your belt fell out of fashion.
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Old 11-22-2019, 12:21 PM
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*people in 2100 watching a video from 2019*

"Why is everyone wearing different clothes? Didn't they all have a shiny metallic jumpsuit to wear?"
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Old 11-22-2019, 12:22 PM
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Standards of dress always evolve, or perhaps devolve. In 1911, at least in Britain, what we think of as a man's suit was still called a "lounge suit" and was considered fairly casual -- something you would wear during the day if you wanted more to be comfortable than to be well-dressed. It was certainly not OK during any evening event. I think this lasted until WWI, after which standards were more casual. Standards got more casual again after WWII. Possibly the great traumas and loss of life in those wars led people to be less fussy about such trivia as clothing.

Then in the 60's was the great cultural revolution against war and it's comrade, comformity, when in some circles the weirder the clothing you wore the better. (The irony was that if you didn't conform to non-conformity, you were a social pariah.) There was some backlash in the Reagan years, but freedom, once tasted, can't really be taken back, and it's been a pretty steady trend towards the casual ever since.
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Old 11-22-2019, 12:42 PM
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Still, a line must be drawn at ath-leisurewear, don't you think?
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Old 11-22-2019, 09:36 PM
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My guess is that it was, counter-intuitively,because laundry was such a chore. Most people wore outer clothes that could be brushed clean, and only laundered their underwear and shirts. And even with shirts, collars were detachable so you could wear the same shirt with a clean collar and cut down on the laundry. Monday was wash day, Tuesday was ironing. At least 20-25% of a woman's time was spent doing laundry. The outer clothes protected the inner clothes from street soil.

With the advent of washing machines and electric irons people had more clothes and more time to wear them.

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Old 11-22-2019, 09:48 PM
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When you worked, you wore work clothes. When you did social things, you wore social clothes. That was about all most people had. My mother (who grew up on a farm during the Depression) literally dressed up to go shopping right up until she died and my father reused his old suits and shoes for yardwork. My father finally got a pair of jeans when he was in his 60's, and they looked weird on him.
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Old 11-22-2019, 10:00 PM
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They weren't dressed "well". They were just dressed. They would no more have gone into town in pajamas or basketball shorts than you would go into town wearing nothing but a jockstrap. [ETA: yoga pants and leggings -- in the modern sense of leggings -- didn't exist.]

I was born in 1951, and I clearly remember my mother and sisters and I putting on skirts, and my father putting on a jacket, if we were going to do the grocery shopping and eat at a diner. It was just what you did. (By the 1950's the skirts were somewhat shorter.)

That started shifting in the mid 1960's; though even in the 70's nobody would have gone into town in pajamas.

(Neat video, by the way. Thanks.)

Last edited by thorny locust; 11-22-2019 at 10:04 PM.
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Old 11-22-2019, 10:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Roderick Femm View Post
Standards of dress always evolve, or perhaps devolve. In 1911, at least in Britain, what we think of as a man's suit was still called a "lounge suit" and was considered fairly casual -- something you would wear during the day if you wanted more to be comfortable than to be well-dressed.
What would a more formal suit in that time would have looked like? I mean the type of suit that would be worn during the day, not evening wear.
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:08 PM
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What would a more formal suit in that time would have looked like? I mean the type of suit that would be worn during the day, not evening wear.
Something like King George V or what William Howard Taft wore. Notice they wear vests and wing collars.

By the 1930s the style had gotten a little more informal. In the 1930s the Duke of Windsor (always a fashionably dressed gentleman) wears a "sack suit" with a conventional dress shirt and four-in-hand knotted tie. He's still wearing a vest under that jacket, but he dropped that when he went to the more causal atmosphere of Bermuda.

Of course, the highest form of daytime dress was the morning coat. Even then there were gradiations: striped trousers, homburg vs. top hat, etc.

Last edited by Kent Clark; 11-22-2019 at 11:10 PM.
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:10 PM
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I suspect the general worldwide optimism was reflected by the attire. Times were good and people dressed to flaunt the new era. It was the start of a new century and events like WWI and The Great Depression hadn't been experienced.
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:26 PM
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They weren’t dressed up. Clothing styles have changed. There were several different kinds of suits. Everyday wear types were different from more dressed up versions. The former have been long since replaced by what the OP calls causal wear while the later have survived, leading to your confusion.
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Old 11-22-2019, 11:49 PM
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I grew up in the Eisenhower years, a product of straight-laced parents in straight-laced suits. My parents would have "cocktail parties" where the men would wear "sport coats" that they thought were "casual wear" because the coat didn't match the pants. As a kid I realized that the dads had stopped home before the party and changed from their three-piece suits (can you imagine a coat and tie AND A VEST during Pre-Air Conditioned summer days?).

The Kennedy years loosened up a bit (he didn't wear a hat to his inauguration), but it was the rebellion of the Nixon years that really made the world safe for comfortable clothes... my still-a-suit-guy father used to yell "Why don't you want to look as dressed-up as you can?" By which he meant cut your hair, part it straight, and dress right: get some starch in your button-down shirt, wear a navy blazer with your school tie and polished shoes.

And once I started wearing t-shirts and jeans, my mom would always remind the entire dinner table that "Denim is what convicts wear."

So, it's a change I love, and I fist-pumped the air when I read Roddy's post, and his great line:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roderick Femm View Post
...but freedom, once tasted, can't really be taken back, and it's been a pretty steady trend towards the casual ever since.
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Old 11-23-2019, 12:05 AM
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Clothes were expensive, and most people had very few changes of clothing.

So you could tell how wealthy a person was by the way they dressed.

You could tell if a person was a manual worker or an office worker. You could sometimes tell their profession. You could judge the quality of fabric, and if they went to a fancy tailor or dressmaker.

This meant that everyone wanted to look as good as possible. Dressing down would have been like saying, "I'm poor, I can't afford anything better."

Last edited by GreenWyvern; 11-23-2019 at 12:06 AM.
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Old 11-23-2019, 12:08 AM
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I checked the 1895 Sear's catalog and the 1895 Montgomery Ward catalog. A word search for pajama drew no hits. People wore nightshirts to bed if they wore anything at all other than underwear in the summer and everything in the winter. Although pajamas existed at that time, ordinary people would have thought you pretentiously rich if you spent money on them.

BTW, people in 2011 likely thought that wearing pajamas outside the house was at the very least eccentric and more likely a sign of a mental disorder. You don't have to go back to 1911 for that. Customs can change remarkably quickly. 1911 and 1921 were far apart in fashion.
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Old 11-23-2019, 12:20 AM
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What always astonishes me about old photos and films, up to about the early 60s, is the virtual absence of overweight people. It's like we've become a different species.

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Old 11-23-2019, 01:15 AM
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Also remember that most of the fabrics used nowadays for comfortable/leisure clothing just didn't exist back then.
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Old 11-23-2019, 01:54 AM
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Personally, the sooner mens neckwear (any and all kinds) dies a horrible screaming death the better, don't give me the bovine excrement excuse that "your collar isn't fitted right", I simply find neckwear *uncomfortable*, just as I find turtlenecks uncomfortable (even if they're tactical, and slightly darker black...

neckwear serves no *functional* purpose and is nothing more than useless cosmetic frippery and/or a sign of mindless conformity

If I ever gain possession of the Infinity Gauntlet, or get the powers of the "Q" Continuum, I will "Snap" 100% of the neckwear in the multiverse and all parallel dimensions out of existence.

the move towards casual clothing is a *good* thing.
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Last edited by MacTech; 11-23-2019 at 01:55 AM.
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Old 11-23-2019, 02:01 AM
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Part of it was what you grew up wearing. In elementary school in the '50s we wore collar shirts and nice pants every day, with white shirts and ties for Assembly on Fridays. No ties in high school but no jeans either. And definitely no shorts, ever, even when it got hot.

If you grew up wearing that stuff, wearing it to work and out wasn't so odd. If you saw your father go to work in a suit every day, you did also.
My kids never saw me go to work in a suit.
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Old 11-23-2019, 02:09 AM
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What always astonishes me about old photos and films, up to about the early 60s, is the virtual absence of overweight people. It's like we've become a different species.
I correlate USAnian weight increase with the spread of McFood and growth hormones, and ever-decreasing physical activity. People were skinnier before the 1980s. We're becoming a world of fat pigs.

We can link informal dress with clothes production moving offshore and the rise of cheap synthetics. Clothes were costly before the 1960s; I had one pair each of trousers for school, church, and yardwork. In my salad days, I could afford recycled Goodwill clothes. Now it's Ross and even WalMart for new stuff, cheaper. Old clothes are trash.

When I see men in suits on the street now, I assume they're door-to-door missionaries.
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Old 11-23-2019, 02:22 AM
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The Kennedy years loosened up a bit (he didn't wear a hat to his inauguration)...
Yes, he did.
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Old 11-23-2019, 04:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Marcus Flavius View Post
Street scenes from NYC in 1911

https://youtu.be/aohXOpKtns0

Notice how well-dressed everyone is. No yoga pants, no leggings, no pajamas, no basketball shorts.... everyone is dressed in a manner that we would consider 'formal.' All the men are dressed in suits, all the women are dressed in long dresses down to their ankles. People today dress extremely... uh... "casually" in comparison.

So exactly why did everyone back then dress so well?
Several of the things you mention hadn't even been invented. Neither had polyester, rayon or lycra. And a woman showing her ankles was considered a slut, or at the very least careless.
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Old 11-23-2019, 06:01 AM
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And once I started wearing t-shirts and jeans, my mom would always remind the entire dinner table that "Denim is what convicts wear."
Approximately the same era, my mom wouldn't let me wear jeans because "that's what farmers wear, and you don't want to look like a country hick."
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Old 11-23-2019, 06:08 AM
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Street scenes from NYC in 1911

https://youtu.be/aohXOpKtns0
...when women's hats were four times the size of their heads. They must have been bolted on.
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Old 11-23-2019, 08:09 AM
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What surprised me were all the women walking around unescorted. I thought women didn't do that in busy downtown areas at that time. I guess women back then were more liberated than I thought.

Wow. At 6:18 in the video, a couple of guys walk past holding hands and laughing coyly at the camera. Camping it up? Interesting.

Everytime I see one of these kind of videos, I think to myself, 'All these people are dead now.' I don't do that when I see silent movies or early classic films. I wonder why.
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Old 11-23-2019, 08:21 AM
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Personally, the sooner mens neckwear (any and all kinds) dies a horrible screaming death the better, don't give me the bovine excrement excuse that "your collar isn't fitted right", I simply find neckwear *uncomfortable*, just as I find turtlenecks uncomfortable (even if they're tactical, and slightly darker black...

neckwear serves no *functional* purpose and is nothing more than useless cosmetic frippery and/or a sign of mindless conformity

If I ever gain possession of the Infinity Gauntlet, or get the powers of the "Q" Continuum, I will "Snap" 100% of the neckwear in the multiverse and all parallel dimensions out of existence.

the move towards casual clothing is a *good* thing.
Maybe 18 years ago I bagged up all my ties in a lawn/leaf bag (I had tons of ties) and took them to Goodwill. Later I took my suits. When I told my gf what I was doing, she thought I was exaggerating and was merely updating my wardrobe.

The next wedding we attended she saw I was wearing khakis and a Hawaiian shirt and she thought I was kidding. She actually searched my closets and was shocked that I had zero "dress" clothes. We almost didn't go to the wedding, she was that flustered, but when we arrived she saw I was one of six "non-traditionally dressed" guys in attendance.
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Old 11-23-2019, 08:56 AM
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...when women's hats were four times the size of their heads. They must have been bolted on.
Hat pins ! The 13" long hat pin was really popular for the huge hats, especially because they could double as a self defense weapon. Not coincidentally, bans on hat pins longer than 7-9" sprung up all over (and you bet your bippy suffragettes were checked for illegal length hatpins).

Edited to add link here if the top one doesn't work : https://thepragmaticcostumer.wordpre...fwcg/hat-pins/

Last edited by zweisamkeit; 11-23-2019 at 08:59 AM.
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Old 11-23-2019, 10:39 AM
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Everytime I see one of these kind of videos, I think to myself, 'All these people are dead now.' I don't do that when I see silent movies or early classic films. I wonder why.
Because celluloid heroes never really die.
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Old 11-23-2019, 11:11 AM
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I have pictures of my grandfather and my great-grandfather wearing suit coats over bib overalls in the the 20s-30s. It appeared to be casual wear.
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Old 11-23-2019, 12:35 PM
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piles of horse hockey in the streets.
and they didn't even try to avoid stepping in it.

Check out the children at 2:43 and the gentlemen crossing the street at 7:45.
Eww!
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Old 11-23-2019, 12:46 PM
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I have pictures of my grandfather and my great-grandfather wearing suit coats over bib overalls in the the 20s-30s. It appeared to be casual wear.
Err, these days men wear suit coats over T shirts and jeans.
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Old 11-23-2019, 01:36 PM
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Otto Bettmann's classic The Good Old Days - They Were Terrible! shows what USA 1850-1910 was about. Spoiler: horseshit was everywhere.
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Old 11-23-2019, 01:45 PM
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What always astonishes me about old photos and films, up to about the early 60s, is the virtual absence of overweight people. It's like we've become a different species.
I just watched it through again; and I think there are a number of people in that video who would meet modern definitions of "overweight". The clothes are cut to hide details of body shape rather than to show them off, and most of the women are corseted, producing the appearance of a relatively narrow waist, so it doesn't show up as much.

ETA: note the pedestrians routinely all over the middle of the streets. Car traffic hadn't yet driven foot traffic into restricted areas.

Last edited by thorny locust; 11-23-2019 at 01:46 PM.
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Old 11-23-2019, 05:11 PM
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I was in Catholic high school 1967 - 1971. We wore uniforms. The girls wore the school jumper with a blue cardigan. The boys wore grey flannel slacks, a solid colored shirt with a necktie and the blue cardigan.
Once a month or so, one could pay fifty cents to the mission fund and get a pass for "Casual Day." One casual day, I wore a tie dyed tee shirt, cut off jeans and sandals. Sister Mary Corona sent me home saying that the idea behind casual day was to wear your nicest clothes.
I told her that our definitions of "casual" were different. I ended up in more trouble when I came back wearing the uniform and stopped at her office to ask for my fifty cents back.....
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Old 11-23-2019, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by GreenWyvern View Post
Clothes were expensive, and most people had very few changes of clothing.

So you could tell how wealthy a person was by the way they dressed.

You could tell if a person was a manual worker or an office worker. You could sometimes tell their profession. You could judge the quality of fabric, and if they went to a fancy tailor or dressmaker.

This meant that everyone wanted to look as good as possible. Dressing down would have been like saying, "I'm poor, I can't afford anything better."
I came here to say what GreenWyvern said.
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Old 11-23-2019, 05:38 PM
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That must be the ferry to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. "Gimme five bees for a quarter," you'd say. Now where were we...
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Old 11-23-2019, 05:39 PM
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Maybe 18 years ago I bagged up all my ties in a lawn/leaf bag (I had tons of ties) and took them to Goodwill. Later I took my suits. When I told my gf what I was doing, she thought I was exaggerating and was merely updating my wardrobe.

The next wedding we attended she saw I was wearing khakis and a Hawaiian shirt and she thought I was kidding. She actually searched my closets and was shocked that I had zero "dress" clothes. We almost didn't go to the wedding, she was that flustered, but when we arrived she saw I was one of six "non-traditionally dressed" guys in attendance.
I went to a college prep high school that had a dress code for the guys of blazer, dress shirt and tie, no "uniform" per se, you could wear any B/DS/T, but you *WERE* FORCED to wear that crap, and punished with detention if you broke "dress code"

coincidentally, that's where my deep-seated loathing of "dress clothes/businesswear" came from

once I graduated from high school, I also took all my hangmans nooses, err, ties, and bagged them up, went down to the outdoor fireplace with a can of lighter fluid and a lighter, saturated the accursed nooses, and set them ablaze!

DIE, you horrible strangulation devices, DIE!!!
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F!> I know, DUMB!
  #46  
Old 11-23-2019, 11:14 PM
Marcus Flavius is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thorny locust View Post
I just watched it through again; and I think there are a number of people in that video who would meet modern definitions of "overweight". The clothes are cut to hide details of body shape rather than to show them off, and most of the women are corseted, producing the appearance of a relatively narrow waist, so it doesn't show up as much.

ETA: note the pedestrians routinely all over the middle of the streets. Car traffic hadn't yet driven foot traffic into restricted areas.
The streets should be for people, not cars.
  #47  
Old 11-24-2019, 03:08 AM
actualliberalnotoneofthose is offline
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I'm thankful for the yoga pants, daily showers, and indoor plumbing.
  #48  
Old 11-24-2019, 03:45 AM
Smapti is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burpo the wonder mutt View Post
That must be the ferry to Morganville, which is what they called Shelbyville in those days. Now, to take the ferry cost a nickel, and in those days, nickels had pictures of bumblebees on 'em. "Gimme five bees for a quarter," you'd say. Now where were we...
I believe the important thing was that you were wearing an onion on your belt, as was the style at the time.
  #49  
Old 11-24-2019, 04:57 AM
jz78817 is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Smapti View Post
I believe the important thing was that you were wearing an onion on your belt, as was the style at the time.
Can you get white onions yet?
  #50  
Old 11-24-2019, 05:05 AM
Spoons is offline
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Times change. I remember as a child, taking a train trip across Canada with my parents. This would have been the early 1960s.

In our compartment, anything went; but if we were venturing outside it, to the dining car, for example, then my Dad was in a suit and tie, Mom was in a suitable dress (or top-and-skirt combo), and I was in a blazer, tie, and short pants with kneesocks and Oxford shoes. Why? Because every other man, woman, and child on the train was dressed the same. That was normal for 1964.

A few years later, in 1967, our family went from Toronto to Montreal on the train. For me, it was again a sport coat, tie, long pants this time, and Oxford shoes. Dad was in a suit and tie, Mom wore a pretty dress and heels. That was normal for 1967.

But like I said, times change. I took another cross-Canada train trip in 2003. I did not bring along any jackets, ties, or dress pants or shoes. Neither did anybody else. We still got great food and service in the dining car and in the bar car. Like I said, times changed, and they changed a lot, dress-wise, in forty years.
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