In a charming blog the other day, Cathy, of Still Waters, mentioned that since caftans were coming back into style she went into her closet and extracted a few well loved ones from the cobwebs in the back.....caftans coming back into style????
Holy crap.....are you telling me that they ever went out of style? Not that I care.......they are what I live in 12 months of the year. For the summer I have a bunch of lovely flowing cool cotton jobs and for the california winter I made a bunch out of sweat shirt fleece, and, for parties, from velour (cotton/polyester velour, that is, so that I can wash them in case I dribble bbq sauce down the front at the latest neighborhood soiree). I keep saying I don't understand things the older I get.....well......it continues to get worse.....I cannot understand why comfort has to be a sin in the fashion world. I keep hearing decent, sensible people vilified and ostracized for wearing comfy pants with waist elastic and vain and foolish others sanctified because they wear uncomfortable pants with zippers, in which you are OK as long as you don't want to eat, breathe, sit down or, godforbid, sneeze. The world is mad, I tell you. Save those caftans or, when you get to be 80 you will regret it.. Talking about uncomfortable clothing reminded me of the ultimate torture garment that I wore daily for a year or so back in the 50's.............this is to demonstrate that I too suffered from vanity and foolishness in my younger life.............have any of you ever heard of the Playtex Rubber Girdle?
To demonstrate that women have always been obsessed to insanity about their shapes and willing to almost give up life itself to make some body part smaller, let me describe this product of some sadistic mind......male I am sure. As I recall this item was made our of a pink or beige rubber, lined (or flocked, they used to call it) with a soft, thin fleece like cotton. This was so that a person would be able to don the damned thing....that is, schlepp it up over calves and thighs and hips up to waist height without tearing all the skin off the lower part of one's body, or worse, getting it stuck halfway up and being paralyzed, since it was tough stuff and would bind one's legs together making them incapable of moving.........imagine having to call 911 under such circumstances.
Once on, it molded all the bulges into a smooth line from waist to thighs. If you were lucky, the place where the girdle ended on your thighs was not particularly fleshy, thereupon leaving just the smallest dent and not creating a horrific bulge where the girdle ended. At the waist, however, no such luck. Anyone needing to wear such a garment always had a roll of fat along ribs and waist which simply created what they now call "muffin top" I believe. Unless you happened to be long waisted......or was it short waisted?....... in which case one could pull it up onto one's ribs and avoid the dreaded overflow. This sadly created a condition which pulled at the skin on your ribs making one tend to lean slightly forward.....aha.......I just figured out why that wonderful Carole Burnett character, Mrs. Wiggins, the secretary to Tim Conway, had that strange forward lean to her posture.....she must have been wearing a Playtex, Rubber Girdle.
By the way, getting out of the PRG was easier than getting into it.....one simply rolled it down to one's ankles and stepped out of the roll of wet rubber........ Oh, I am so ashamed......
All of this, however, is only the beginning of the horror story. The Playtex folks promised that this girdle would make you lose weight by making you perspire (sweat) the moisture out of the fat on your fat hips and belly, thereby rendering you (yes, exactly....) thinner, if used faithfully. Unfortunately, one did sweat profusely inside this hot rubber wrapping.......the cotton lining was supposed to absorb the moisture but it didn't make a dent. Consequently, you were enveloped in a very peculiar, not terribly offensive but definitely puzzling odor of hot, wet rubber with just a touch of something else, also not very attractive except to animals who seemed to find it magnetic........embarrassing, to say the least.
If you are wondering why any person in their right mind would subject themselves to such torture, don't be silly. Women have always done terrible things to themselves in the quest for beauty........witness a 13 year old girl with incredibly curly hair going to bed nightly wearing curlers ....the old kind were exactly like boar bristle hairbrushes (no foam rubber in those days) and hurt your scalp and skull like hell, plus layers of scotch tape pasted across bangs to straighten them and a shoe lace tied around the neck and around the lower portion of the hairdo just above the lower row of bristly curlers which were rolled up facing the neck ...........even more painful than the upper ones.....to create a Page Boy Bob exactly like Ginger Rogers wore in her movies with Fred Astaire.
Did it work? Was it worth it? Don't be ridiculous......I can still hear the "boing" of my hair snapping back into all over curls as soon as the instruments of torture were removed in the morning.......including the bangs. Why did I persist? I have no answer to that question.......it is the perfect description of insanity....one continues to do the same thing over and over to achieve a certain outcome and fails miserably every time, yet, one persists endlessly........sheer madness.
Sob. It is the story of our lives.
The New Yorker covers: February 10, 1968
6 hours ago