Monday, September 28, 2009

When men wore hats and women wore gloves

When did we stop dressing like grown-ups? With every episode of Mad Men, I find myself longing for men in suits, ties, and those great hats that our daddies used to wear and women in shapely dresses, suits, and gloves.

Adults dressed like grown-ups for the first 12-14 years of my life, then it all went to hell in a hand basket. While leaving behind the classic late 50's/early 60's fashion, we never moved forward enough to coolness of The Jetsons, opting instead for dowdy fashion statements like platform shoes and drab pantsuits. Nehru jackets and lime-green polyester leisure suits sounded the death-knell of smart, chic fashion for men and women, I think.

President Kennedy is credited for single-handedly killing the men's hat industry, because he didn't wear one at his Inauguration. Even I know that's false, since he wore a top-hat for the occasion. OK, so we can't blame JFK for men shunning those lovely grey fedoras of a bygone era. Still, I would love to see them make a come-back. Guys, put away those baseball caps (unless you're actually playing baseball) and grab a real man's hat.

I don't know when women stopped wearing gloves, usually white ones, whenever they went out. I love the idea of gloves year-round. I am at the mercy of public transport and hate putting my bare-naked hands on handles, poles, and stairway railings. Yes, it's true, those white gloves would be mighty dirty by the end of the day, but I would feel so much safer having a bit of fabric between me and whatever's lurking on door-railings. Plus, they look adorable. But not with dowdy pantsuits.

Looking around the subway car this morning, I noticed very few people dressed for business - a few men in suits/ties, a couple of women in nice dresses, but beyond that it was sloppy, dress-for-comfort stuff. We all looked run-down and sad. Let's face it - if the people of New York City aren't wearing classic, neat styles, then nobody is.

I think we could change this sad state of fashion by bringing back men's felt hats and women's white gloves. I do not, however, advocate bringing back stiff girdles, garter belts and stockings - uncomfortable and a pain in the rear.

OK, I hear you all moaning out there, dressed in your sweatpants and running shoes. But I'd give anything to bring the Don Draper-Joan Holloway look back to the workplace.

Think I could pick up some white gloves at Bloomingdale's or Lord & Taylor?

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posted by MaryB @ 12:13 PM 


Blogger jomoore said...

You should do it, Mary! Surely your town is packed full of vintage stores that stock white gloves...? What with you and Mad Men, it's bound to catch (back) on!

6:34 PM  
Blogger PT said...

Mary, you can wear whatever you like, but if you can get Joan Holloway to spend a day at my office, I'll buy you a new A-line dress for every day of the week!

6:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I'll give you the glove thing but a big NO on hats for men. Do you realize how much trouble it would be to keep up with a hat on a day to day basis? (Remember the line from "9 to 5"? "Let's see if we can find a locker for that hat." I know it was Lilly Tomlin to Jane Fonda but try to imagine to be constantly looking for a place to park a hat) Not to mention "hat hair", the whole "hat tipping" nonsense, removing hats in elevators, wind, accidentally sitting on ...etc, etc, etc. Oh yeah, then there is the whole "dorky thing". No Thanks!
Hey, if you don't make me wear a hat I won't make you wear a girdle. Deal?

7:57 AM  
Blogger MaryB said...

Jo - I do have a pair of buff-colored gloves that I picked up at a charity sale on Fifth Avenue. I should dig them out.

PT - I'm a heterosexual female but even I think that Joan Holloway is the best looking woman to come along in a long time. I'll see what I can do about getting her to hang out in your office!

Bro - Nope. Sorry. Must have hat. Finding a place for your hat is no different from a woman having to find a place for her purse. And if your hair is cut right, you won't get hat head. Men, hats, now! :-)

9:29 AM  
Blogger Liz said...

No, I'm not sure about these ideas, mary. You're watching too many old films!

12:02 PM  
Anonymous Carey said...

Mary, if anyone could pull off wearing white gloves in 2009, I think it would be you. But I doubt you could find them at Macy's! They might be able to scrounge up a girdle, tho....

1:59 AM  
Blogger Sydnea said...

The fashion back then was so glamourous. I think it would be a great idea!

11:55 AM  
Blogger Cybele said...

The thing is back in the early 60s fashion went from grown women (typically in their 20s, 30s, and 40s)out. This means mature women wore fashion to suit them and other age groups, such as older women and teenaged girls modified the look to suit themselves. They didn't ran around in miniskirts with their bellies exposed and a paunchy belly was usually disguised with a girdle. In the 50s, for instance, the tight skirt was a look worn by women, not girls. Girls wore more modest, fuller skirts. The same thing is true of men's clothing. Recently, what has happened is that style comes from teenagers and just goes up. Such styles lack formality and tend to only work with the slim, nubile adolescent figure instead of a more womanly one (it doesn't help that people are getting fatter too). When I see mothers dropping their kids off to school, they look so hopelessly dowdy in their sweats, pastels, jeans, and khakis, with dishevelled hair and no makeup. My dad said my grandmother used to love buying hats and pretty clothes when he was a boy and until my grandmother became ill with Alzheimer's I never saw her less than elegant

3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check out this link:

It shows clips from 1960's Sears catalogs. As you see, in the early 60's, every model is wearing gloves, but slowly over the decade fewer and fewer models are wearing them. By 1969, not a single model is wearing gloves, but by that time polyester pant suits and boots are in style. I think the last model wearing gloves is in the 1968 catalog. This probably correlates pretty well with the realities of the time. If you watch movies from the early 70's, the only women left wearing gloves are old ladies. Definitely a lost are.

7:35 PM  
Blogger Mad Men Girl said...


I've entered a contest to win a walk-on role on that retro-licious TV show, "Mad Men".

If you wouldn't mind taking a couple of seconds to vote for me, go to my blog, or copy and paste the following link which goes right to my picture:

Thanks a bunch!

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with your article and I'm pleased to say that I'm 24 and I own a pair of white lace gloves that I picked up in a vintage shop in Wales. They're beautiful!

12:35 PM  
OpenID said...

I will also encourage you in your habits. I either wear a suit or a dress every day, and have found that dresses not only elevate your appearance (even when casual), but dresses that fit well are more comfortable (and, in this heat, more ventilated) than pants.

Also, girdles don't have to be uncomfortable, but I'll give you that stockings and garters are a pain....but pretty. offers reproduction girdles, stockings, garters, etc. with modern, more comfortable engineering.

3:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this...I would also love a return to dressing up. Images of any times before the 60s show people dressed beautifully and in harmony with their surroundings. Now, people look like barbarians living in the remnants of a civilization built by someone else.

Although I do think that Nehru jacket can look very sharp....(cf Nehru on the Beatles)....

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for this article. I have to agree with you whole heartedly. I feel so feminine and lady like when I wear a hat and gloves. My grandmother and my aunt always wore hats and gloves when going out in public, and my mom did the same when she was young. However, when my mom moved from the city, she never wore hats and gloves so I never knew the significanse of wearing a hat or gloves until I hosted a tea/dinner party for the ladies in my family. I required them to wear suits, hats, and gloves and we had a wonderful time with everyone acting like ladies. My aunt was so thrilled she began to tell me the history of wearing hats and gloves, and was planning to share this info with family at the next party which we were planning. Unfortunately my mother died in January 2011, and my aunt died in July 2011, so the party never happened. I wore a simple hat and gloves to my aunt's funeral and it seemed to shock family members, but I felt wonderful. I now find myself looking for ocassions to wear hats and gloves because to me it adds a perfect touch of femininity. Thank you once again for your article. I'm glad I'm not the only one who appreciates this type of attire.

5:37 PM  
Blogger MaryB said...

Glad this post resonated with you. I love that you wore a hat and gloves to your aunt's funeral - a nice tribute.

10:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know that this was posted a long time ago, but I just saw it. I have to say that I do agree with what you say in the post. However, my memory of that period includes women often wearing silk headscarves to protect their salon hairdos from sun, wind and rain and in general from the cold. My momma wore a headscarf almost everyday when she went out and we both did on Sundays when we went to church. I wore headscarves in various ways myself from time-to-time into the 70's, until the fashion finally changed.

I mention this because there is a bit of revisionist history at play because of the Muslim connection with headscarves, but old newsreels, TV and movies don't lie. Western women wore scarves as often or more so than hats during that period. My momma thought hats were a pain and a scarf could be tucked into a woman's purse or thrown over her shoulders when not protecting her hair. And yes, my momma did wear gloves, but not all the time.

12:35 PM  
Blogger MaryB said...

You're absolutely right about the head-scarf. It's the perfect hair-do protector, and as you mentioned, can be tucked easily into a purse or pocket.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Autumn Winter said...

I am a young woman, and I am sickened to see the number of dowdy albeit trashy individuals in public. Who goes to the grocery wearing their pajamas and sweatpants with flip-flops? Many people do this nowadays. Why has this become the social norm? Because of mass production and over-industrialization. Try to get a new, fully tailored wool suit for less than $100 or even $50 dollars, and chances are that you will only find it at GoodWill. I personally choose to wear clothes that I have sewn myself from my own patterns cut from old curtains because I cannot afford to buy a high quality dress or blouse. I choose to wear hats and gloves that I craft myself, either knitted, crocheted, or sewn. I pin-curl my hair and wear victory rolls and waves every day. I spend time on the way I look because I care. I hope to brighten the day for others who are less fortunate and less educated in proper dress. This is not to say that I am better than anyone else. In truth, I am poor. However, I choose to look pulled-together. I do get the strange looks in public from store employees and passerby because my hair, makeup, accessories, and clothes seem too dressy for everyday. However, I go on smiling and carry myself with pride. I go to swing dances and communicate with other young individuals who share this philosophy. I also wear stockings, girdle, and garter belt every day. Think about how much that compression helps with cellulite! I have dressed this way since high school and I hope that other young people can help change the modern scene from trashy, rebellious, and skanky to modest, appropriate, and poised. One does not need a high degree of prudence to dress well. In this era of disorder, the "vintage look" is not one of rebellion or counter-culture. It is a craving for the simpler, more refined lifestyle which has since been abandoned worldwide.

10:39 PM  
Blogger MaryB said...

Thank you for making the world a lovelier place, Autumn!

2:56 AM  
Blogger McKenzie Crawford said...

I love these comments. I often long for the days of my childhood when at church and school,etc. Women were dressed up and it seemed respect came partly from it. I was in McDonalds a few days ago and a boy around 10 was dressed in his think cotton boxers with his bed head hair. Sad. I have seen people in the hospital who are visitors dressed in their Hello Kitty PJS, etc. I love dressing even in a casual cotton dress for everyday. Thanks for the comments. I am not alone in this PJ party of a life!!

11:53 PM  
Blogger McKenzie Crawford said...

I love these comments. I often long for the days of my childhood when at church and school,etc. Women were dressed up and it seemed respect came partly from it. I was in McDonalds a few days ago and a boy around 10 was dressed in his think cotton boxers with his bed head hair. Sad. I have seen people in the hospital who are visitors dressed in their Hello Kitty PJS, etc. I love dressing even in a casual cotton dress for everyday. Thanks for the comments. I am not alone in this PJ party of a life!!

11:57 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

As a man I love to see women dressed more elegant from 1930's styles to early 60's look.
I have been dressing the last past 2 years a lot more formal and had gotten rid of my long Rocker hair(I am a musician) for a great short hair cut.I also own a few Fedora hats as well and tons of ties and wing tip shoes.
I am also involved in bands now that perform classic jazz and standards in which I prefer then the loud repititious rock and pop music of today. It's a shame that both women and men today dress so sloppy . It does not take much to dress nice and feel good.Love this blog Thanks! Barry

3:15 PM  
Blogger MaryB said...

Thanks, Barry!

3:41 PM  
Blogger Durinda Cavin said...

I remember women of all ages and girls wore gloves to church & I thought it was classy.

But i wonder when it started and why, was it a health thing when people rode buses and trains a lot?

12:09 AM  
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1:35 AM  
Blogger Prince Louis Richard II said...

I know I'm five years behind on this blog post, but I fully agree with you: the late 1950s- early 1960s fashions were beautiful: it was the time of Yves St. Laurent, Givenchy, Balenciaga, Chanel, Oscar de la Renta - all the names that made woman beautiful. I still remember the older ladies in my family always wearing hats and gloves, even in the height of summer, and I so miss that imagery. I would pass on the men in hats, though - elegant, but I look dreadful in hats :(

3:33 AM  
Blogger Nazish Reads said...

I admit that women did dress better back then, but what you might not realize is that not everyone dresses to look good and not everyone cares about what they look like either, some people, like me, just wear what we feel like wearing because it's comfortable and practical. Gloves are not practical.

You can wear whatever you want, just don't expect that everyone agrees with it, I don't even wear gloves much in the winter, unless it's really cold, since I can't use my phone or do much with them on. Gloves just seem like too much to me.

The thing I really hate about the fashion these days is people wearing really revealing clothes like tiny skirts and dresses that show too much, but other than that, I think people should be dress the way they want to, as long as their not too revealing, I do not want to see other people's boobs. Especially these days, since we're always so busy that we barely have time to get ready.

I hate dressing up on casual days, but when going to weddings and stuff, then I love getting ready, like when I got married. My family was so surprised that I didn't complain about getting my make up done. I'm mot talking about white weddings, I'm talking about Pakistani weddings, since my parents are from Pakistan, that's the type of wedding we had and we go all out in the make up and looking good department. I just feel like there's a time and place for everything.

If the fashion industry remained the same as it was 70+ years ago, I probably wouldn't go outside at all, except for school, which would be a shame since I love shopping at Indigo and HMV, and going to beaches.

Sorry for the long comment, I just had a lot to say.

-Nazish @

2:25 PM  

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