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Late January Saturday Style. . .

Yours truly all decked out for a morning and early afternoon of errands around town. . .  on foot since the day is so temperate.  We had quite a bit of snow on the ground and much colder temperatures this time last January (2014).

It's a strange and somewhat amusing experience to find labels attached to to certain kinds of attire that, in one form or another, have always been a part of one's life and don't seem like anything special or unusual.  Take the combination of clothes above, which I put on after a mug of coffee and toast with thick cut, bitter orange marmalade mid-morning today. 

The blue oxford cloth button-down?  My maternal grandfather and father wore shirts like it 5-6 days a week, and sometimes in white, pink, or blue university stripe.  I always had and wore at least a few throughout my formative years and began purchasing them myself in my late teens and early 20s once I left home to live on my own.  No big deal.  Just part of the landscape.  

The tan corduroy jeans?  Again, an item I've always worn since my mother bought school clothes for me each August, although the long out-of-production Levi's corduroy jeans of the late 1970s and early 80s had a trimmer, straight-leg cut.  My father, in particular, was a fan of heavy corduroy pants and always wore them from late fall through early spring, usually with a Pendleton wool shirt on the weekends, and with a sports jacket over a black or navy turtleneck when he and my mother were invited to dinner and drinks, which used to be a lot more common for couples than seems to be the case now. 

Oh, and the 20-year old+ navy and cream L.L. Bean 'Made in Norway,' 80%wool-20% Rayon sweater?  Just something I thought was cool, given my interest in the Norwegian language, and purchased back during the early 90s.  The Bean duck shoes and red hooded shell?  My maternal grandmother and father wore stuff like this during weekends and/or snowy days.  But enough with the clothing label name dropping. 

Fine.  So, what's the point?  Well, stuff like this has simply been a part of my life for. . .  well, forever.    It never seemed unusual or exceptional to me.  No one ever discussed it other than to pay a compliment if an item was worn for the first time or two.  These kinds of clothes and footwear were simply what we put on at home during evenings and weekends though my sister and I (and some of our friends) dressed similarly for school.  This attire was never labeled as anything, just decent, suitable clothing for more casual settings during the colder parts of the year in SE Pennsylvania.   It seemed decidedly odd, during the preppy revival of the early 1980s, then,  when people began talking about, even gushing over, attire like this.  It was all old hat to me.

Fast-forward to 2015, and it's even stranger, and maybe also a bit unsettling, to visit various websites and blogs that label clothing like this as "preppy," "trad," "ivy league," or what have you.  More peculiar is that there are apparently lots of people out there obsessed with whether a particular item is suitable for these (to some degree 'imagined') communities.  It's great, of course, that there seem to be some, at least, who want to present themselves more nicely than has become the sad, sloppy, and pathetic average across so much of society.  Bravo!  I'm right there with you.  One's clothing can and does speak volumes whether we realize it or not, so I applaud anyone who takes the great pains necessary to wash his or her face, brush his or her teeth and hair, and put on something other than a ratty t-shirt, sweatpants, and nylon windbreaker before heading out in public.  

At the same time, however, I am reaching the conclusion that perhaps many of us have too much time on our hands and think too much about our clothes.  Should our 'stuff' really occupy that much of our thought during the hours of consciousness?  If that is the case, then our clothes are wearing us, which isn't how things should be.  Put 'em on in the morning, I say, and forget about 'em until you get ready for bed that evening.  Hopefully, at the end of your day, your outer clothes will be folded and hung again in the dresser or closet, as you remove them, with what needs to be washed tossed into the hamper.  As long as your clothes are clean, neat, quality items that will last more than a year or two if you have reached adulthood, who really cares otherwise?  Only a very small percentage of us I fear.  Some food for thought on this unseasonably bright and warm January Saturday in the American Midwest.

-- Heinz-Ulrich


  1. I've noticed that high school & college girls who call themselves "preppy" usually look like a very, very pretty caricature of a traditional-prep way of dressing, For instance they wear what they call "statement necklaces", which are over-sized necklaces, very often of multitudes of large faux pearls--this is antithetical to dressing traditionally conservative in well-made clothing with the occasional small string of good-quality akoyas. They also engage in very serious and long conversations about "what is prep" and "what is not prep" to wear. I've concluded that it is a clothing-fashion-club or clique of sorts that seeks to exclude and also to assuage feelings of insecurity by sticking with and gaining approval of others in the club or clique. In my experience, this is also antithetical to people who have always dressed in a so-called "traditional-prep" way that you described in your post: the people I've known in my life who dress this way are confident people who try to make everyone around them feel at ease no matter who they are, what they do, or what they wear. Yes, they often are seen with other people who dress as they do, but they don't try to exclude those who don't dress as they do if those who don't are intelligent, kind, pleasant to be around, and have something to offer in the way of intelligent conversation.

    Dinner & drinks used to be common, yes, as did other ways of entertaining others in one's house, and I actually know families (of my students) who have told me they have never had people in for any type of entertaining at all! When I was growing up we always had a big open-house party at Christmas-time, and often had a couple of other smaller parties as well as families over for dinner during the year. For every event, every child in our family had an assignment for the evening, mine was usually to take the guests' coats and put them in the entry closet, but we would rotate duties on occasion so that every child knew how to do all the things necessary to have an easy and pleasant evening of entertaining guests. It seemed like everyone we knew when I was growing up entertained in this or some manner, but I don't know as many families these days who still do this.

  2. Agreed on all points, Glenda! And how sad that actual sit-down dinners (with a few drinks) have gone by the wayside. Now it seems to be pot-luck dinners at best, loud, horribly informal Super Bowl parties (or the like), and microwave nachos with a case of beer or a keg. I can't help but feel like we've lost something and lost our way as a society in a remarkably short time. Sigh. I need to fix a scotch and soda and go lie down for a spell.

    -- Hein-Ulrich

    1. Ahhh, yesss, [nodding & chuckling], and I should do same on my sofa with a julep...[back of hand on forehead]...

  3. Sit-down dinners have definitely not gone by the way side here! I love them and have great pleasure setting up the table properly with some of my mother's old linen table cloths, huge amounts of cutlery and different wine and water glasses and lots and lots of candles. A roaring fire also helps.

    In the last 2 weekends we have hosted one for 17 which included the 4 new Australian gap students at Lindsay's school and most of the sports department. This weekend we had one for 8 which included Lindsay's old school head and his wife who were back from their house in France and various other friends who taught with them.

    The one with the Aussies is an annual event. They have just arrived to be met by the cold and miserable English winter from the summer sunshine in Sydney. We always think it is very important that they visit someone home and mix with their new colleagues. Over the years some great friendships have grown up and they are hugely grateful. I just hope that if any time in the future my girls were travelling anywhere in the world someone else would extend some home hospitality to them.



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All opinions are welcome here. Even those that differ from mine. But let's keep it clean and civil, please.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

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