Fashion Lessons

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.


Filed under Viewpoint

24 responses to “Fashion Lessons

  1. Okay, I’ll start. I remember t-shirt rings, too much hairspray (especially in my bangs), and folding the hem of my jeans tight and then rolling them up a couple times. The cuffed jeans looked incredibly stupid, but all the teens I knew wore them that way and thought they looked cool. Ahh, the cringe-worthy 80s.

    Oh and fluorescent colors – which I loved then and am still rather fond of now that they are back. It’s just tricky not to look too juvenile when in comes to bright colors.

    Your mom was beautiful – love the photos! =)


  2. Teresa

    This is wonderful Lizzie! Thanks so much for sharing.

    I always think teenagers (like your beautiful mother) are so much more fashionable then the teens of today but I’m probably just biaised. 😉


    • I think teens today are too concerned with looking “sexy.” And I also think the fact that clothing is so cheap and so easily gotten today leads to confusion. Too many choices, and a lack of direction.


  3. Happy birthday to your mama, Lizzie – those photos of her are real treasures. I am in love with her “bobby-soxer” outfit!
    My mother too gave me a love and appreciation of fashion, and my favorite memories are from her 70s wardrobe: bold-striped “new wave” dresses, suspenders with jeans tucked into knee-high boots. One thing I miss is this tortoise-bunny fur coat that she wore in the winter. With her wild, wavy strawberry-blond hair and large, owl-like glasses, I thought she was so glamorous.


  4. Before I start with MY memories…Dear Lizzie, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to your MOM…she is very very pretty. The wholesome “girl next door” type. It looks like she is wearing Weegin Penny Loafers. You know when you tucked a penny into the top of the shoe.
    We wore bobby sox also…but ours were sweater sleeves cut off from a long sleeve sweater…until we learned to learn to knit and then we knit our bobby sox. I remember wearing our cardigan sweaters backwards with pearls. Our jeans rolled up ( one leg rolled a bit higher than the other, maybe this was just Milwaukee). We wore Army jackets and Army Parka Jackets bottom (got them from the surplus store if you did not know a soldier) We wore no make up other than lipstick and a little powder base like Max Factor. We wore Tangee lipstick from the dime store…and Evening in Paris perfume, in the little blue bottle, also from the 5 and dime store. Your memories of your mom has brought SO many memories….Thanks. I did not know


  5. Andrea

    What a lovely post, thanks for sharing


  6. Happy birthday to your mum Lizzie. She looks so pretty and I love her bobby-sox outfit!

    I’ve had quite a few different ‘looks’ over the years. I must say that I was never without a pair of Dr Martens (complete with steel toe caps!) throughout the mid to late 1980s. Anything else wouldn’t have been appropriate with my flat-top, rockabilly hairstyle!! Ah, those were the days! And if you can’t dress like that at 19, when can you? 😉 xx


  7. My mother was a few years older than yours, but she was a bobby-soxer too. This was the era before the word ‘teenager’ was coined, of course, and for our mothers’ generation that was the equivalent. Great pictures. Thanks for sharing.


  8. I love both of these photos of your mother, Lizzie. And her bobbie soxer jeans look like the perfect pair of pants–so chic!

    I’ve always been more into fashion and clothing than my mom. We fought a bit of about my clothing when I was a teenager. I was a rebellious punk rocker, and wanted to bleach my jeans, shave my head, and wear old sweaters from the thrift store. However, I’ve always thought my mom wore some really cool clothes as a young woman. And I was so excited to recently find a photo of her high school class trip to Washington D.C. in 1962, in which she is wearing a leopard print blouse. I love that blouse. It’s ladylike and tucked in, but there’s something rebellious about it, too.


    • Oh, those pesky mothers, always in the way of our dreams of fashion perfection!

      My grandmother made all my clothes until I started making them myself, and I was always allowed a lot of input as to the pattern and fabric. Of course with my grandmother doing all the sewing, it was going to be “appropriate”, and it all had to fit in with a school dress code as well.

      Your mother is about the same age as my cousin Nancy, who was a big influence on the way I dressed, Those early 60s teens were really cool.


  9. great post! thank you 🙂 xxx


  10. What a lovely post. I adore the two photos you shared and would love to see more of your mother!



  11. I was lucky to be a teenager whose mom saved a lot of her teen clothes. I loved her Chemin De Fur (sp?) corderoy bellbottoms, lacy dresses (Jessica McClintock, I think) and embroidered tube tops. I think this initial “collection” is what inspired me to comb local thrift stores and garage sales of mature ladies for their treasures. I had a great time. I would pair floral and lace maxi dresses with my Doc Martens and I’m sure I looked interesting with my shaved head!


  12. First off, thank you for your kind words on my blog.
    Your mother looks adorable in her rolled up jeans and bobby sox. I think you are so right about teens’ clothes today being all about being sexy and not about putting together a thought out style. And what fun reading about the fashion memories of others.
    As a kid, my clothes were hand-me-downs from my older brother or sewn by my mother. I developed a sense of what I wanted to wear early on and commissioned a short purple velvet cape when I was 8, maroon corduroy knickers and vest when I was 10 and a granny style dress when I was 12. As I got older I raided my brother’s closet for vests and ties (the Annie Hall look) and wore clothes that my mother (and father) had saved from the 50s. I also wore a 1930s blouse that belonged to my grandmother (I still have it).


  13. Lizzie, another wonderful post. I’d love to see more photos of your mum. Clearly, she knew how to source a fantastic pair of trousers, though it’s her smile that draws you in most.

    I was another child of the ’80s. There was certainly some good that came from that decade’s fashion – I’ve even come to recycle some of it in recent years. Truthfully, though? My fondest fashion memories are the ones I’m making now. The 30s-60s are where my heart truly lies. Wearing some pieces from those decades today gives me a greater thrill than even the greatest scrunchies could throughout my youth.



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