Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

There Are No Attics in New York

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

There Are No Attics in New York

Article excerpt

At last, a theory that explains why fashion designers think you want to dress the way your grandmother did in 1963.

MY FRESHMAN ROOMMATE, Mary Patricia Maguire, showed up at Rosemont College the first day with a lot of matched luggage and an outfit like nothing I'd ever seen before on a live person.

Her sleeveless taupe basket-weave wool dress had an easy fit, a slightly dropped waist, a single inverted center pleat and a slender A skirt with a hemline just above the knee. She wore it with diamond studs, big ones, in her ears and the first pumps with straight, thick heels I'd ever seen. Her hair was dead-straight and shiny, and her eye makeup mimicked Cleopatra's, a look that quickly earned her the nickname "Cleo."

In 1963, that outfit was the last word in sophistication.

But what is it now?

Pat Maguire's dropped-waist A-line dress slouched down one runway after another at the spring shows and - not that surprisingly after 30 years - it didn't look radical anymore. It looked Republican. And, believe me, anything that looks Republican on Shalom and Naomi and Amber is going to look really Republican on a middle-aged Republican.

I don't get it. The Prada coat and dress advertised in all the fashion magazines last month - the shapeless coat printed with busy little slightly off-kilter squares in icky avocado and brown, the dress in a coordinating flower print - looks like something from Peck and Peck that you'd pass over at a thrift shop as hopelessly dated and dowager-y. But here it is in Vogue.

Why? Is it an example of that phrase beloved of fashion writers, a "classic with a twist"? If so, what's the twist?

Or is it cool to be a dowager now? Or, maybe, cool to be a young, thin, hip person dressed like a dowager? Or is it that anybody old enough to remember when actual dowagers dressed this way is too old to count? And what about the madras revival? And all the Lilly Pulitzer knockoffs? Even Anna Sui, better known for see-through granny gowns and clothes for rock stars, sampled the country-clubby suburban '70s for this spring.

My theory is that it all comes down to closet space. …

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