The Mini & Maxi Of Fashion: Lingerie, Glamour & Loungewear (Or, Where Is The Delight & Pride?)

This vintage maxi dress from the 1970s has a draped jersey top — but it’s the huge sweeping accordion sheer chiffon pleated skirt that has me most interested…

What separates this piece from lingerie, making it a general fashion garment? How do we know it’s a maxi dress and not a nightgown? It’s not the zipper in the back; many fine vintage lingerie items had zippers. It’s the built in mini skirt or mini slip beneath the voluminous nylon skirt which shows the garment’s intended purpose.

What’s most interesting to me is though is how the mini skirt beneath the sheer maxi skirt most marks the period of the piece; it’s clearly from the 1970s. After the “rebellious” 60’s, a large number of women were craving longer skirts — and the sensual pleasures of them as well.  Even lingerie hemlines became shorter in the 60s, so no wonder women missed the caress of nylon along their legs. This period also marks the stability of casual dressing; only “old folks,” “the establishment” wore fancy clothes, went to cocktail parties where one dressed up and the maxi dress was one way to wear longer skirts, even in the day time, without appearing to be old, out of fashion, behind the cultural times.

Unfortunately, this cultural notion of a change to casual dress is still with us.

Few of us attend events or functions, to to places, where we can dress up in a gown — save for prom.  Heck, many of us don’t even have a classic little black cocktail dress or something suitable to wear to a wedding; we find our closets void of such things and head to the store, investing in a piece we wonder if we’ll ever wear again.

In part, this is due to the widening gap between the economic classes.  This gap is worse than any other time in American history, wiping out a middle class who has always sought to dress and look the part of the upper class.  In all decades past — especially since the advent of moving pictures, American women and men sought to emulate the dress, style and actions of the wealthy.  Fashion and style on the silver screen was how many learned social etiquette, how to entertain at home, so that everyone felt comfortable. But in the 1960s, etiquette was deemed not as a helpful means to make people comfortable, but as something hideous and insidious. The economic troubles of the 1970s and its opposite, the decadent 1980s, began twisting the notion of entertaining at home into something less than desirable. …We stopped dressing up for all but a few occasion, most of them outside the home; and few occasions is all the average person has.

And so the term loungewear has changed not only in terms of what we do while lounging (slumped on the sofa home alone Vs. sitting upright socially engaged with others), but what we wear while doing it (sweats, pjs, oversized nightshirts, etc.).  We no longer resemble who we once were, not even in our homes.  …Perhaps worst of all in our homes.

Homes are now private spaces, caves we dwell in alone.  We don’t dress out of respect for or even delight in those we live with.  If we have people over, we rarely entertain them, and we dress for company even less. But perhaps, saddest of all, we don’t even dress for ourselves.

Who or what will once again make us feel proud to dress up again?

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