Friday, December 28, 2012

EVENING GOWNS, THE NUNS, AND MY MOM


December 28th and the New Year is nigh. This story came to mind in light of the date –
VINTAGE YSL

After one of my piano lessons, eons ago in the early 50’s, I listened to my Mom and my piano teacher, one of the nuns at my school, talk about evening gowns. Even as I listened I thought it fascinating, and when I was older I came to realize that those gals, those nuns, were savvy creatures. They were devout but not ‘holy, holy’, and they were a bunch of women who had to get along together. They were also a bunch of women with wide interests outside of the classroom.  Wearing the same medieval habit every day was equalizing, and it gave them a keen appreciation for fashion. One of their favorite days of the year was New Year’s Eve. In the early to middle part of the last century there was always a “midnight” mass,  the exact timing of which I wish I knew: right on the strike of twelve mass-goers would have missed the kissing and the Auld Lang Syne. On New Year’s Eve, Sister was telling my Mom, the nuns made sure to be at mass to see all the evening gowns – sort of like an Easter Parade, but with gorgeous gowns and furs – and they would be the topic of convent conversation for days to come.


A simple, slinky Ralph Lauren number
I remember a gown my Mom made in my senior year. It was a strapless floor length white satin “underdress”. I could wear it alone, with or without the various colored hooked-in straps and sashes, and the stoles she made in both red and purple velvet. I could wear the gown with the sheer lavender voile overdress, trimmed in purple velvet. That dress was my senior prom dress. Sleeveless with sort of an over top like a bolero – trimmed in the purple. (I just spent about a half an hour looking for the ad from 1959-60 – I think it was from Modess sanitary napkins… “Modess because” – and saw a lot of great, nostalgic ads, but not the dress!) Anyway, the underdress could also be basted up and then she made an overdress of white voile curtain fabric, the edges were embroidered in a flowery, scalloped edge. So I could wear the underdress hemmed – or! she pulled the whole thing up into a gathered rose she basted in, and I could wear it with the velvet sashes and with or without straps she snapped in. My sister wore the underdress that year with the red velvet for her junior prom and to several occasions in her senior year too. I don’t think either of us ever wore it the same way twice. Oooo, and I don’t have even one picture of either of us in the dress in any of its various permutations. I tell you, my mother was on a roll that year. Well, she was on a roll every year – you can read about more of her sewing in my post A Material Thing.
 
Love that gown! And, of course, you know that's a young Ted Danson backed up
against that refrigerator. I've had this ad for eons in my special scrapbook.
And the Aramis was the one worn by a then special "beau" of mine.
Oh, the memories!

After finishing my blog on The Coat of Many Colors, I got to thinking about all the fabulous gowns I’d seen and loved over the years.  I do love evening gowns. I’ve never had much occasion to wear them once I was past my prom years, but I’ve always had an eye for the elegant ones. Over the years I subscribed to Vogue I pulled out several pages of gowns I’d love to have had. I still have several pasted in my own special scrapbook, ready to be scanned in for this posting. I look at them today and to my way of thinking they’re still in style.
 
Another page from my special scrap book -
This black silk brocade number is by Sophie.


If you have oodles of time you can get your fill of gorgeous creations from decades of designing just by googling ‘evening gowns’, or something like ‘red evening gowns’ under Google Images.  Be ready to sit a spell.
 
 

 

 

2 comments:

  1. Loved the post! I never knew Catholics had midnight mass on New Years Eve. We were Catholic and would love going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve because we could then open our Christmas gifts after and stay up until 2am. Loved evening gowns when I was younger and wanted to design them...even had an interview with a company that made them in LA.Glad I didn't get the job because they did a lot of business with Hong Kong and their hours were crazy! Happy New Year Laura Lee!

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  2. Quality blog, keep up the good work.

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