When it came to fashion, my mother's interest stopped at lipstick and cologne. A widowed elementary school librarian with two kids to raise, she didn't aspire to be a stylish woman.
When I think back on how I became interested in glamorous women's clothes, I know it came via our black and white Zenith television set. My boyhood idea of high fashion came from three women: Lisa ("The stores!") Douglas (Eva Gabor) on Green Acres, Ginger Grant (Tina Louise) on Gilligan's Island, and first and foremost, Lucy Ricardo (Lucille Ball) on I Love Lucy.
Lucy just adored clothes and some of her most memorable adventures were about acquiring -- or simply modeling -- them, be it a Paris frock, a Don Loper Original, or a mink stole -- generally with hilarious results.
Or she might find herself dancing with Van Johnson and wearing a gorgeous cocktail dress festooned with marabou: real wish fulfillment!
Or she'd do herself up as Marilyn Monroe to impress a talent scout interested in Ricky (up top). And let's not forget the famous twin tulle gowns that get torn to shreds during the "Friendship" number!
It helped that Lucille Ball herself -- a former Hattie Carnegie model -- wore clothes so well and was both funny and beautiful. But what really made it work was the character's desperate longing to be something more than she was: more visible, more alluring, and definitely center stage. Who can't identify with that?
Audiences never knew what crazy get-up they'd see Lucy in next, but even her day-to-day outfits -- the hostess pants ensembles, the housecoats, the shirtwaist dresses, the maternity smocks -- were flattering (and accessible), and today are an inspiration to vintage sewers (just search under "vintage Lucy dress pattern" on Etsy to see how much) and Fifties-style aficionados alike.
In closing, readers, what was your very first taste of real fashion (as opposed
to just clothing)? Was it someone in your family, a
character from a film or TV show, or a fairy tale you were read?
If you love Lucy like I do, are there any other fashion-focused episodes or classic outfits I've missed?
I'm a native New Yorker and sewing fanatic! I started sewing in 2009 and today make all my own clothes using vintage sewing machines and vintage patterns. I also sew for private clients. Welcome to the warm and whimsical world of Male Pattern Boldness, where the conversation is sewing, style, fashion, fabric, and more!