Writers Guild discusses fashions through the years

POINT PLEASANT — Regarding the question of how musical entertainers have come to wear so little and show so much during their performances, members of the Point Pleasant Writers Guild looked to the world of fashion for some answers.

First of all, let it be noted that entertainers, be they dancers, singers, actors or ice skaters, are a tad more “out there” than the average person. It’s in their nature. It does seem to some, however, that entertainment has taken a turn during the last century from offering people an avenue of escape to shocking their sensibilities. The desired effect now seems to be to shock and awe their audiences. Each performance seeks to get more outrageous than the one before.

Entertainers aside, the subject of how fads, fashions and clothing styles have changed over the years was touched upon by the following guild members:

Carol Newberry’s satirical essay described a committee meeting of the Deciding Women’s Fashions for the Future (DWFFTF). This Committee determines where hemlines lie, whether a garment has ruffles or not, whether gloves and hats are in or out, and whether or not a woman is required to endure ridiculous bustles in the back and cleavage-revealing bodices in the front. Amazingly, most women go along with the styles of the day, but teens often rebel and set their own. The committee’s theme song goes like this: “In olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked upon as something shocking, now Heaven knows … anything goes.”

Sue Underwood learned from experience that fashions come and go. In high school, all the girls were wearing white pleated skirts, and she wanted one. After working lots of hours as a car hop, she finally got her skirt and tennis shoes to match. She went to her brother’s graduation and discovered she was the only woman wearing a hat. Being a clothes-a-holic, Sue followed all the fads and fashions: flowered dresses, hoop skirts, peg and bell-bottom pants, sack dresses, pedal pushers, midi, maxi, and miniskirts. Some suited her, some didn’t.

Marilyn Clarke commented on the outrage felt by Facebook friends following the NFL Super Bowl’s halftime entertainment, particularly the costumes that were worn, but also the suggestive choreography. According to Marilyn, even musicals from the 40’s and 50’s presented the singer/dancers in costumes that hinted of nudity. The difference from then until now is in the performance itself, which has become more vulgar and provocative as the years go by. She thinks that people are becoming more desensitized to what they are seeing as entertainment.

Patrecia Gray shared pictures of women’s fashion styles from 1861 through 1970, mostly concentrating on hemlines, which remained floor-length until the 20th Century. By 1915, however, hemlines had shortened enough to allow a lady’s ankles to be seen. Within a decade, even her knees were showing, which was scandalous to some, no doubt. Somewhat longer skirts returned in the 1930’s, but World War II brought shorter skirts in again. They’ve been up and down ever since. A revolution in women’s apparel took place in 1970 when pantsuits became more than just leisure wear by making its welcomed appearance in the work place and social gatherings.

Kris Moore always liked what the “in crowd” wore even though she was not one of their members. She’s always had an interest in shoes, beginning with the black patent leather ones she wore at Easter time as a little girl. She also enjoyed wearing saddle shoes, moccasins, and white Ked “tennis” shoes. Kris and her nine-year-old daughter once wore matching blue and green-striped bell bottom slacks. Her interest in what’s stylish has dimmed, but she still likes to have a top or two like everyone else seems to be wearing. She has even been guilty of purchasing the same top that she already has, forgetting she had it. And even though she has too many clothes and shoes for one person, she wears the same outfits all the time.

Bob Watterson created a skit using four women from two different time periods to illustrate the change in fashions and attitudes regarding bathing suits. Janie, August 1921, wears her new bathing suit which shows her bare legs. She says to her friend, Gwen, how nice it is not to have to wear pantalettes anymore as they were so heavy and hot, even in the water. Gwen is reluctant to praise the change in styles and thinks the Flapper Look is rushing things. Jumping ahead to July 1997, Jody is wearing a new bikini which almost gives her a full-body tan with very little cloth in between. She likes the attention she’s getting from the men on the beach. Her friend, Robin, agrees and says she might get a new swimsuit, too. With fads changing so fast, maybe swimsuits will be done away with altogether and there will no longer be a need to keep up with the styles.

April Pyles ended the discussion on women’s fashions through the ages by sharing a picture of two women in one-piece bathing suits being arrested for exposing their legs a hundred years ago. Evidently, the beaches were monitored by “beach censors” who charged thousands of women with “public indecency.” She also shared her poem, “This Thing They Call Entertainment” and her essay entitled “Fashions Come and Fashions Go” in which she mentioned polyester fabrics, perma-pressed garments, A-line skirts, and the denim craze that began in the 50’s when men’s Levi jeans, created for rugged work situations, became “blue jeans” worn rolled up by teenage girls. Today, denim-wear is popular around the world and considered to be quite Chic.

Marilyn read her poem, “March,” that month during which crocus bulbs open and flowers begin their upward journey, sometimes peeking through the snow above.

The next writing assignment: Pet Peeves — What irritates you most? The Point Pleasant Writers Guild meets the first and third Wednesday of the month from 1-3 p.m. at the Mason County Library. All writers are invited to attend.

Submitted by April Pyles.