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"Shorts, Outtakes and Rants"

Most weeks I write a column for my paper; occasionally my daughter writes one. Usually they're focused at local issues, but every now and then I come up with one that I think Spearfish Lake Tales readers would find interesting, so I post them on the Spearfish Lake Tales Message Board. Since I've been neglecting "Shorts, Outtakes and Rants" recently, I decided to repost a few of them here, like this one. I hope you enjoy it! -- Wes

Dress in '65

August 26, 2015

With the combination of the fact that school starts next week, the fact that I had my fiftieth class reunion a couple of months ago, and the current novel I'm working on having significant sections set in the spring through fall of 1965 featuring a girl leaving high school and starting college, it's no trick to figure out where my thinking for this column came from.

When writing a period piece (which, though I'm loathe to admit it, a novel set in 1965 has to be) it's important to get the details right, if for no more reason than to help the reader with willing suspension of disbelief (and this book, if it works out, is going to require a little more willing suspension of disbelief than is normal for my writing.) So, I've been thinking about how we dressed in 1965, and especially, how we dressed for school. School clothes back in that day were generally a touch more formal than they are today. Boys usually wore jeans in high school, and usually a print shirt. Outside of school the print shirt was usually replaced with a white T-shirt -- and not one with a logo or a quasi-obscene statement printed on it, either. When the weather got cooler, sweat shirts and flannel shirts started to make their appearance.

It was different for girls -- it usually is, after all. I can't recall if girls were actually required to wear dresses or skirts in high school, but that's mostly what I remember them wearing. Oh, when the weather was cold and blowing snow they might wear jeans under their dress when they came to school but they'd take the jeans off when they got there. (I later called up an old classmate, and she told me that yes, they were required.)

Again going mostly from memory, hemlines were largely knee length or below, although this was changing rapidly in the spring of '65 as the miniskirt was on the way in and rapidly gaining acceptance. Not easily -- I remember one girl who spent hours one evening raising the hemlines of all her school skirts, only to be told the next day they were too short. She was not happy, to say the least.

We all know that fashion changes rapidly, but looking back I don't recall any period in my own past where it lurched back and forth so quickly and solidly. Girls wearing pants became more common quickly, although not universally. Slacks became acceptable office and school wear -- I seem to recall they were when I went to college in the fall of '65, which seems surprising in retrospect since the college was pretty conservative. Guys were expected, but not required to wear ties, and I never did. In fact, I still don't.

The miniskirt pretty much came and left in less than a decade. I recall being in a doughnut shop in, oh, it must have been '76 or '77 when a couple of high school cheerleaders came in with cheerleader-short skirts. "Wow," I said to the next guy in line. "I sure miss the miniskirt." He agreed that it had been a while.

Skirts and dresses, at least on younger women, pretty much went away after that. They were still appropriate when more formal and businesslike attire was required, but not universal. I know that for years, when I had to get photos like fair queen candidates or homecoming court, I made it known that I wanted girls to wear dresses or skirts, if for no more reason than it kept them from showing up wearing ragged, worn cutoffs and a T-shirt with a beer logo on them. (I still expect it, although I haven't had to get on anyone's case about it for a while.)

But you know what? I looked up here a while ago, and realized that without any fanfare, skirts and dresses seem to be on the way back. It has been literally decades since I regularly saw girls of single-digit ages riding their bikes around town or playing in their yards wearing dresses. It's not universal, but I'm seeing it more. What's more, their mothers are wearing them too, just as casual wear. Even a few years you wouldn't have seen that outside of an office or a church. To top it off, one day last week Amanda came to work wearing a skirt. Now, this is a woman of whom I would have bet good money that she hadn't owned a skirt for a couple of decades, at least until the last year or two.

I don't know what this has to do with 1965, but I guess what goes around comes around.

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