Today would have been my mother’s 82nd birthday, and so I’ve had her on my mind. The photo above, taken when she was about 23, is a favorite of mine. She was a young mother, and she’s sitting on the fringe of a conversation with other women in the family. I think she looks especially charming.
It was Mama who first got me interested in fashion history. It wasn’t because she was an exceptionally fashionable woman. It was because she loved to share stories of her youth, and my favorites were those where she talked about how American teenagers in the 1940s dressed.
The teenager was a product of the 1930s and 1940s. Across the country small local schools were combining to form the modern departmentalized high school. For the first time in many places, there were large numbers of 13 through 18 year olds attending school and socializing together. This naturally gave rise to a teen culture, and the name “teenager” was given to this new idea of teens as being not children, but not quite adults. Films like the Andy Hardy series, and books like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys added to the idea, and the first fashion magazine for teen girls, Seventeen, began publication in 1944.
Mama often talked about being a “bobby-soxer”. The girls would roll their jeans up to about mid shin, and pair them with folded down bobby socks and either loafers or saddle oxfords. That’s her in her bobby-soxer garb, in 1945 at age fourteen.
She also talked about how the girls at her school liked to wear their cardigans buttoned up the back. They thought it made them more mature looking and attractive, especially when worn with a little string of pearls and a straight skirt.
In her honor, I’m declaring this week to be “Share your Fashion Memories” week. Feel free to share your memories in the comments, or find a kid who loves to hear about the past and inspire a budding fashion historian.