Written by Bebe Faas Rice
Lately, there’s been some more talk here at Falcons Landing about the dress code, centering on men’s ties and whether or not our male residents should be required to wear them. The main complaint, as I understand it, is that a tie is a nuisance and a bother. I mean, first you have to put it around your neck and knot it. And then – then! – you actually have to wear it throughout dinner. Gentlemen, I feel your pain.
However, if we’re talking about real sartorial suffering, let me point out what we women have had to endure down through the echoing corridors of time: corsets, hoop skirts, bustles, hobble skirts, waist cinchers, stiletto heels and pointy-toed shoes, to name just a few. Let’s
start with the underlying evil that has cursed womankind seemingly forever. Corsets. It’s said the cor- set first came on the scene 5,000 years ago in Minoan Crete. I believe that. Any culture that could pro- duce a Minotaur could easily invent a women’s corset.
The corset had many incarnations over the centuries. By the time it got to Victorian England it was in full flower. Reinforced by whalebone and steel, its purpose was to produce a tiny waist of 16–18 inches in circumference, thereby squeezing the innards together so tightly that the wearer was breathing only with the top part of her lungs. No wonder the Victorian ladies did a lot of gasping, fluttering and faint- ing!
By the late 1860s, the silhouette changed. The hoopskirt was out and the bustle was in. Women no longer walked around trying to manage those great, walloping hoops. However, not only were their waists still cinched, but now they also had to strap on a stiff cage of steel and boning that loomed out over their backsides and held up the heavy drapery of their skirts. Imagine trying to sit down with something like that hooked to you.
Then, just before WWI, along came the Hobble Skirt. My Aunt Gertrude wore one of those things. I remember her saying, “It was like having your knees tied together. You could walk only by moving the lower part of your legs.”
Fortunately the rise in auto sales after WWI scuttled that fashion fad because, as Aunt Gertrude said, you couldn’t crawl into a roadster with your knees tied together. Then came WWII with the short skirts. At last women were getting a break. Maybe. Hats and gloves were required for just about every event, though. Do you remember those luncheons and teas we attended as young military brides, and the little white gloves and frou-frou hats with veils? Fortunately Jackie Kennedy didn’t like hats, so women stopped wearing them, and the accompanying white gloves soon quietly vanished.
The stiff crinolines and waist cinchers that were popular in the 1950s didn’t last long. They were only a blip on the radar screen of fashion, but I clearly remember how the crinoline that hung in my closet hogged a lot of space.
So are we finally out of the woods, ladies? I thought so. But ... look at the shoes they are wearing now! Six-inch stilettos with the one-inch platforms! Have women gone crazy? Is it all starting up again? Anyway, gentlemen, if you are still reading this, I have a question: Do you still feel that wearing a tie to dinner is a terrible imposition?
I rest my case.