Out of Fashion, and In Again

By Jeffery Cohen

Like Mark Twain said, “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence in society.”

I guess my earliest encounter with fashion and style was at the age of seven. My folks felt that it was time for me to own my first suit so we rode over to “The American Shops,” a local clothing store. Its Deco architecture welcomed us in to a lush interior. Amid rack after rack of trendy clothes, tropical plants were arranged, wicker baskets of fruit laid out, and a parrot on a perch, if I remember correctly, squawked out things like, “How about a nice gray flannel?”

That day I marched back and forth to the fitting room, trying on everything my mother handed me until we finally came to a charcoal gray wool suit. Everything in the store paled in comparison as far as my parents were concerned.

“So handsome,” my mother beamed. “You look like a little banker.”

“Very distinguished.” My father nodded.

“It itches!” I cried.

“You’ll get used to it,” they said in one voice. I never did. In fact, the only comfortable way I could ever wear that suit was with my pajamas on underneath. Somehow powder blue flannel with bunny rabbit print sticking out of the pant legs never did that suit justice.

At eleven years old, my mother took me to Brown’s department store for a new back-to-school wardrobe. It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes for old man Brown to convince us that the hottest new fashion was Dr. Kildaire tunics with three quarter length sleeves that buckled at the cuff. The shirts came in Popsicle orange, grape purple, and lime green with matching socks. We believed him, and so we bought. I wore those shirts for six months waiting for that trend to take off. In the end, the only one wearing those candy-colored shirts besides me was probably a handful of clowns from Barnum and Bailey Circus who’d also been conned by old man Brown.

By the time I reached high school, fashion split in two directions. There was the greaser look – high-roll-collar white shirts, black slacks, black shoes and black leather jackets or the collegiate look – an Ivy League style that included things like Levis, penny loafers, navy blue blazers with a crest on the pocket and authentic Madras shirts, guaranteed to bleed.

Since I was planning on going to college, I decided I’d get a head start and dress for the part. I spent two days searching every store in town before I turned up a real Madras shirt. The label read, “Made in India, guaranteed to bleed.” After wearing the shirt one time, my mother washed it. When the color ran, she thought it was ruined and threw it in the garbage. I did save all of my collegiate clothes for college. My freshmen year, I arrived at school proudly wearing my blazer and two suitcases filled with turtlenecks, corduroys and desert boots at my side, only to find everyone wearing jeans, sneakers and sweatshirts.

Over the years I’ve seen fashion change more times than I can count. Wide ties, thin ties, flowered shirts, platform shoes, bell bottoms, mini this, maxi that. And every time I just about catch up to the latest trend, it changes. But I have learned one thing about the world of fashion. What goes around comes around. All of those things that you think are out of style wind up coming back in fashion. As it turns out, I have a closet filled with clothes that are retro. The only thing I still need is a nice charcoal gray wool suit. If I can just find a pair of blue flannel pajamas with bunny rabbit print.

About this writer

  • Jeffery Cohen

    Jeffery Cohen

    Freelance writer and newspaper columnist, Jeffery Cohen, has written for Sasee, Lifetime and Read, Learn, Write. He’s won awards in Women-On-Writing Contest, Vocabula’s Well Written Contest, National League of American Pen Women’s’ Keats Competition, Southern California Genealogy Competition, and Writer’s Weekly writing contest.

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One Response to “Out of Fashion, and In Again”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your stories are delightful. You know girls had the same issues, even though our hems yo-yoed.

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