Right Place, Wrong Time?
A curious urge to step back in time — and dress the part
I think I may have been born in the wrong era, about 180 years too late. But then again, maybe not. I love the clothes from way back when, and the
elaborate pomp and circumstance, though I acknowledge that little else was convenient.
Of course, I would never be able to tolerate a life pre-microwave, pre-Spanx or even pre-Lyft. I could not bear a moment of an existence before Google could provide the answer to any dispute over who did what, when throughout history. That ingenious search engine is the single greatest tool for salvation in every relationship. You can be right immediately. Or wrong. One click and it’s over. Ta-daa.
A generation before the turn of the 20th century, the clothes were indisputably magnificent. That is, if you were part of the upper, upper crust or just plain blue-blood royalty. I know this because every week when I watch Victoria on PBS-TV, I swoon.
The colors, the sumptuous swaying of the gowns and the trim on the coats — all supremely elaborate, delicate reminders of the painstaking effort spent on creating them. This was all on display in mid-19th century elite England, when letters were calligraphed and dinner required dozens of servants, just for the desserts.
I dream of what could have been if I had been there in Buckingham Palace alongside Queen Victoria and her dreamy Prince Albert. Not as her servant, of course. Maybe as her sister or cousin, with some small country to place under my wing or in my gold-encrusted handbag.
Every inch of the hand-crafted lace, every yard of carefully spun silk, makes me long for a different time. The hats, the shawls, the tiaras! Oh, the silk draperies and the bed linens, the carpets and furniture in jewel tones of rubies and sapphires, turquoise and emeralds — all of it so luxurious and unattainable.
I am not myopic about history. I do know that most of England went hungry and lived in poor health and squalor, all while palace inhabitants went about their galas. Mine is just an empty wish, of course, so it is without real consequence.
For the record, I would not mind living just 100 years ago if only I could wear the wardrobe of Miss Phryne Fisher, an Australian detective in another PBS show I cannot resist, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. She wears handmade coats embellished with embroidery and jeweled stitching over lean trousers and silk dresses, all while solving crimes.
My desire to live in a better dressed era is derived from my belief that the clothes of today are simply recycled fragments of wardrobes I owned in the 70s, 80s or 90s. And I do not want to go back.
I recently spotted my niece in a Facebook post wearing jeans I believe I wore in 1973. High waisted and flared, they could well have been the ones I wore in a photo in my high school yearbook. I wonder if I have saved a pair somewhere. Oh, right, they would be the wrong size.
A fashion magazine I perused in a doctor’s office reveals that shoulder pads are back in style. And it was only a decade ago that I removed all the pads from my suit jackets and coats. Back then, they were part of the armor we wore in the workplace, believing 42-inch shoulders would make everything go well.
I don’t even want to talk about the jumpsuits rearing their ugly zippers and snaps. It seems that everything on sale now boasts a look I already donned when I was much younger, and frankly, way better looking.
Perhaps the reason I want to go so far back in time is that I’ve never worn clothes like that — ever. Yes, I am just fine with pretending I am English royalty or even an Australian sleuth, because both are absurd fantasies. Women’s outfits of those eras were never practical or accessible and we have nothing comparable available today that even matches that excess. That is why they are so appealing.
I can waste a few moments a week appreciating wardrobe dreams that will never be realized. Then I can grab an item from my closet that looks eerily similar to something I wore a long time ago. I just have to remind myself that I am different today, more evolved, with new sensibilities — in just the right place for now.Edit Module