Friday, August 24, 2012

Greater Lengths

My mother, 1954

When I was a small child in the 60's grown-up women's dress length was below the knee and little girls' dress length was just above the knee. At least that's the way it was in my mother's world. I thought the longer skirts were beautiful and wanted dresses like that for myself. Usually my mother would give in to my trivial whims but on the matter of hemlines she would not budge an inch.

Before I was considered old enough to wear longer dresses styles changed. Mini-skirts came along in the 60's and by the early '70's, when I entered junior high school, they were firmly established and it was possible for girls to wear them to school without getting sent home. At that time it didn't occur to me that this was an area in which I could rebel. Skirt lengths were what they were. And besides, at the time I didn't care all that much anymore. I was soon to be a teenager and had other concerns. Perhaps even more significant, around that same time girls were finally allowed to wear pants to school so most girls, myself included, wore pants more often than dresses.

One day, I forget the year but 74 seems about right, I was in the high school library with several other girls. We were looking at the latest issue of Seventeen magazine. In it, to our surprise, we came to a picture of models our age wearing skirts with hems below the knee, with the prediction that this was what everyone would be wearing next season. There was shock and outrage. All the girls declared that they would never wear anything like that. But I secretly liked them, but based on the reactions of my classmates, I was not very hopeful that this fashion prediction would come true. Of course, within the year all the girls, even those who swore they would never wear them, had to have the new length skirts. We still all wore pants most of the time though.

I have no idea what happened to hemlines among the fashionable women after I graduated from high school. I stopped paying attention. I continued to wear pants almost all the time. I think there were entire years when I never put on a dress. The few dresses I wore were mostly the same length as the ones I wore during my last two years of high school.

In just the last two or three years I have rediscovered the joy of dresses. They are actually more comfortable. The waistband on pants always bothers me. And dresses are prettier. I'm a girl! I like pretty.

My dresses now are mid-calf length or longer. There are practical reasons for that. My legs look like the bellies of two dead fish. Aside from the self-consciousness about ugly legs issue, the length just feels right. It's convenient too because most of the patterns I buy are already the length I want and only need a narrow, half-inch, more or less, hem so there's no need for a lot of tedious measuring. But even if it were not for these very real reasons I would still wear my dresses this length. Because I am still that little girl who always wanted to wear longer dresses.