History by design. Fashions long forgotten yet big in their day. Looking back and in awe of what I do not remember, I find a past opens up with memories I cannot capture. Being in theatre, I learned what it was to look at history by design.
I love watching Call of the Midwife on PBS. Indeed, it is a wonderful series that takes place during the years I have been alive. It begins post WWII. The costuming is right on. I observe what my mother would have worn in those early days and learn a bit about life in those times. It takes place in England but not so different that what was happening in the United States. I often see a young Ruth pushing a pram. Her hair curled and her figure thin. She isn’t wearing glasses back then, and, to this daughter, she is quite beautiful. House dresses buttoned up the front were made from sackcloth. Shoes were designed for long wear. Dresses were practical. Clothing was worn for several days and bathing was not a daily activity. In these women I see my past life. I learn what it was like to live when the milkman delivered milk in a glass bottle and people rode bikes or walked. A day of no television when radio was the main source of learning about the world outside of Neff Road.
In later episodes of Call of the Midwife, time progresses to where a modern world steps in removing the old and adding bright colors to the new. Appliances take on new colors and so do the clothes. This series is now into the ’60 s that I remember. Through this show, I travel through time.
And, yes, I love Perry Mason. I love the look of the homes, hair, cars and clothing. Perry goes from slim to not so slim. Della ages from young woman to middle aged. Paul, of course, is still a womanizer. I chuckle at the differences the years make and love every minute of the mysteries. Indeed we learn about our pasts by learning from that magic picture box.
I am in wonder at the speed at which time travels. We cannot go back. And, who wants to? Contrary to the past, we can design our own looks. I know this because I still watch TV. Heck, I can get a tattoo, wear white pants in December, ride on a Harley in leather and shave my head. All of the finger-pointing that took place long ago and the rules of protocol are tossed aside, so we can be who we want to be without criticism. I rather wish I were a teenager now. Not just because of the smooth skin and thin figure but because I would be able to have my own voice and use it. I could be a girl of my own design.
We don’t wear bustles any more. And cinched-corset designs gave way when, I would assume, some women said, “no more.” For me the demise of the garters, girdles and pantyhose was the end of useless torture. We no longer dress for men. We dress for ourselves. Men can toss out the three-piece suit, tie tacks and pegged pants. They can be more casual and yet look good. They can design their own look.
History does indeed show us how far we have come. I will continue to watch Perry and try to remember if I have seen the episode four or five times. I will continue to embrace new shows that show me more options for my current look and those that remind me of my mother and sisters. Indeed the past was history by design. Perhaps the future is individuality by design.
Pamela Loxley Drake is a former resident of Darke County and is the author of Neff Road and A Grandparent Voice blog. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.