The Days of Double-Knit Dad

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‘A wrinkle-free wrinkle in time’

It’s tennis time, as in the Australian Open. But no, I’m not going to write about the Novak Djokovic Affair. There’s been entirely too much chatter about that already.

Nope. I’m going to write about knits.

See, when I’m watching tennis I knit. It keeps me (relatively) calm, and also from eating junk and drinking. (Well, I guess it doesn’t really keep me from drinking.)

Yes, I can knit and drink and watch tennis — sort of all at the same time

I can look at a sweater — any sweater — and tell you which tournament it goes with.

Wimbledon 2021

But this piece isn’t about that kind of knits. This is about double knits. Which was a fabric-fueled craze back in the late sixties and early seventies. Back then (and maybe even now, for all I know) double knits were made of polyester and were used to make groovy garments like jumpsuits. These were really fashion-forward — if your idea of fashion was to look like someone on an album cover — but I remember that polyester was pretty sweltering to wear. Double knits don’t exactly breathe.

There you’d be at a dance at the American Legion, say, trying to look cool while doing the Swim and meanwhile sweating like you’re dressed in a plastic garbage bag.

Almost everyone at my first wedding was sporting double knits: Me, my Dad, my Grampa Henry (well, maybe not Grampa), Uncle Mark and Mom. First Hub too. It was a jillion degrees that day. Think about it. Then read “My Polio-Shot Marriage”

Pretty much everyone in my family back then had a double knit item or two, but my Dad was the all-around Prince of Polyester. At one point he owned double-knit suits — with top-stitching, like on the jacket in the photo at the top of this post. Also double-knit slacks and double-knit ties. “They don’t wrinkle!” he would exclaim when asked why he had so many polyester items.

I think he really just liked to be trendy and hip. Why, he even owned a pair of double-knit sneakers.

I had a favorite double-knit item in high school. It was a dress I made myself out of a polyester fabric: a graphic print in brown on a mauve ground. I loved that dress so much I wore it to Homecoming the year I was not a Queen Candidate. (A sad, brave time you can read about in “The Daydream Believer and the Homecoming Queen.”)

Family photo featuring me in the Favorite Dress. That’s Adorable Younger Sister perched on the arm of the couch. She’s wearing a dress Mom made (not in double knit, tho)

Turns out that this wasn’t only my favorite dress; it was my Favorite Sister Laura’s favorite too. No, not to wear — she was (and is) almost ten years younger than me so we definitely did not share clothes. She just, I guess, admired it.

How do I know? Because a couple of years ago she gave me a wonderful gift: a drawing she made in (I think) second grade to illustrate a story about me, her Big Sister. In the drawing, she portrays me wearing that dress. Here it is, and you can read the story, too.

Well, I’m kvelling now. Which means that just about wraps things up, polyester-wise.

Time to get back to tennis and knitting. And maybe even some drinking. Nope, make that definitely some drinking.

The Aussie Open project. Just add bourbon

Amagansett, New York. January 2022

 

Skirting the issue

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‘Celebrating Seventy in style. A very old style.’

“I’ve got belts older than you,” one of my bosses once said, reprimanding a young whippersnapper of an assistant account executive (the lowest rung on the Suit Ladder) for having the nerve to change my copy.

Well, I’m here today — the day after my Big Old Birthday (and I do mean “old”) — to tell you that I’ve got a skirt older than you.

Yup. That’s the same skirt as the one seen at the top of this post

Yup, that apricot confection you see here in multiple fashiony iterations could very well be older than you. The Skirt was purchased back in the early nineties and played a shimmering role at many a “do” right up into the aughts. Any time we were invited to a Fancy Shindig, out it came. Because I could mix it up with various tops, it was less likely to prompt a comment like, “I remember you. I recognize that dress.

The Dress that got worn — and recognized — on numerous occasions

The Skirt got coupled with a black sweater, a gray sweater, a black velvet top, a shimmery paillette-strewn tank, a crisp white shirt, some lime brocade thingie, and even a little sweater I knit myself out of ribbon.

The Skirt makes a date with a gray sweater

Same Skirt, different top. Same party, different year

I bought The Skirt to wear to a ball. Yes, a real ‘ball” in an actual “ballroom.” After that, knowing that my social life was a tad short on balls, The Skirt made a starring appearance at every Tree Trim Party from 1997 on up. Till, one Christmas season when The Child was in high school, The Dude spied me donning The Skirt yet again and said, “Don’t wear that. That’s what old ladies wear.

Party like it’s 1999! The Skirt sees me into an elevator and into a new century

Horrified by being taken for an old lady, I shifted to satiny slacks (once) and then I alternated between sleek little white and red sheaths.

The Skirt, poor thing, got relegated to the back of the closet where it languished until we sold the apartment we called home for nigh on to 27 years. (That’s a lot of Tree Trims. You can read more about this former Tom Sawyerish tradition in “(N)o Tannenbaum.”)

I must admit that I almost “downsized” The Skirt straight to The Housing Works Thrift Shop. But something stayed my hand. Maybe it was all those fond memories of slipping it on, then shopping my closet to transform it. Or maybe it’s just because I associate it with drinking champagne.

Let’s just say I was glad I still had it, since, when The Child and I were discussing what to wear to mark my Seventieth, she said, “Mom! You should wear that taffeta skirt. I always loved that skirt. In fact, I want that taffeta skirt when you get tired of wearing it.”

So I dug it out and introduced it to a sparkly top. But when I pulled it on last night, I made a rather disturbing discovery. Oh, it fit all right — though it was a bit tighter around the waist than I remembered.

I’m not just getting older — I’m getting shorter

No. What happened was that either The Skirt got longer — or, what is more likely — I got shorter. I had to roll the waistband — twice — in order to keep from stepping on the hem. Which kind of took me back, since that’s what we used to do with our skirts in high school to transform them from dress-code-appropriate knee length to much-more-trendy miniskirts.

(The Child, bless her heart, is the one who kindly suggested that, instead of me having shortened, The Skirt might have lengthened. You know, from hanging all those years. One of the zillions of reasons I adore the heck out of her.)

Anyway. The Skirt was a big hit. As was the whole champagne-fueled evening.

Best of all — maybe because I’ve now aged into it? — The Dude didn’t say a word about The Skirt being “what old ladies wear.”

New York City. November 2021

 

Jeans are no longer tops

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‘Thoughts on my pandemic “Quardrobe”‘

The absolutely most glamorous person I have ever clapped eyes on is a fabulous FOC (Friend of Child) I will call Glam Girl.

Yes, Glam Girl is a young person — younger than thirty, even — but with a sense of style in all things — food, friends, and yes, of course, fashion — that ordinarily would take decades of sophisticated living to acquire. (See reference to peacock-blue-lizard-Maud-Frizon-wearing boss in “Take a Letter, Miss Henry.”

Why, even when GG was in high school, which is where I first got to know her — I drove her and The Child to Stuyvesant every day during a transit strike — she had a certain je ne sais quois.

Not sure if GG (right) and Child (left) were in high school, but they sure were looking glammer than their years

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