Gentle Readers and Friends of Flesh,
We have been tied up in many projects of late and the Fall peformance by the Lit Undressed group of Omaha, NE, looms large in our headlights. The Omaha Lit Fest, a wonderful event and one of the many cultural offerings to be found in the ‘NoDo’ (Northern Downtown) area of Omaha, is partly funded by the Nebraska Council for the Arts, as well as many other community-minded organizations. Omaha seems like a great place to live. The more we hear about it, the more we find to like.
The event takes place October 13-15 and rehearsals started this week. Here is a brief summary of the event, this go-round:
The focus of this year’s (downtown) Omaha lit fest is Silk & Sawdust, the heart and mechanics and literature. Authors will participate in panels, readings and discussions to lift the corner of the curtain on their methods and processes, and look at the literal tools of production—including book-making and design, and our curious nostalgia for the typewriter.
Included in this theme are fashions of famous literary characters—from the Tin Woodman’s heart of silk and sawdust in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, to Jay Gatsby’s pink rag of a suit in The Great Gatsby, to Jane Eyre’s grey and black gowns and Virginia Woolf’s explanation of fashion in Orlando, fashion plays a major role in many characters’ roles and sometimes the storyline.
When presented with ‘fashion’ as a subject, we immediately blogged about old shoes…a more recent blog which can be found by searching on this page. This time, we decided to write about…well, you can read the title….
My Favorite Bellbottoms
Getting my money’s worth out of the Nehru shirt I purchased was no easy feat. It could not be worn to catholic school because it would not work with a tie. Too nice to wear while out playing in the fields, there was no way my parents would let it see the inside of a church. If the flag of rebellious dress was to be foisted, the bellbottom jeans became the banner to wear.
There were many styles to choose from. Colored denim, red with black patch pockets, for example, were becoming passe’ as the low-riding, button fly, hip-hugger style with the slit pockets and wide flare took top wrung on the fashion ladder. I stuck with the zipping fly, being more practical than trendy. ‘Landlubbers’ was the brand of choice for the hip. Headshops and other counterculture stores sold them, while you could buy Wrangler, Lee and other popular brands, not near as cool, at Sears and other ‘straight’ stores.
Landlubber Jeans also advertised in Rolling Stone, so they had to be good. Dylan, Robert Plant, the Allman Brothers, the Rolling Stones…they all wore Landlubbers.
Eventually, the company expanded from jeans to corduroy offerings.
Worn correctly, they had to be long enough…preferrably, slightly too long. The ideal pair had the heels worn away at the back bottom seam from being tread under bare feet, platform shoes or a pair of Dingo boots with a metal ring on the side, as advertised in Rolling Stone!
Being well over six feet tall, I preferred Dingos and often enjoyed the sight of a friend caught in mud in the middle of a cornfield, trapped by thick sole and heels which had settled into plowed Earth as we stood in a circle and puffed. Enough said about The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys!
At first, bells were available in denim only, which presented a quandry in that denim jeans were ‘play clothes’. For school wear, we had the loud plaid pants with the wide cuffs which fell across the top of our platform shoes. Play clothes stuck around until replaced when worn out. School clothes needed to be new each year. This led many to cut straight-legged jeans up the inseam to the knee and insert a triangle of fabric to make the leg ‘flare’ into a ‘bell’. My mom was not going in for this. It was by skipping lunch and saving bus money by hitch-hiking to school that cash to get a store-bought pair became available.
At the headshop, stacked in neat piles between the vintage WWII gear, which was also en vogue, the slacks beaconed. The wide-wale corduroy, low-rise, slit-pocket with the little flowers, known as ‘Keith Richards pants’ due to a popular photo of him wearing them, proved the perfect ticket to trendiness. Not denim, the nuns could not say a word about them being jeans, just like they could not argue that the black ‘tails’ I kept hanging in my locker for daily wear was not a ‘jacket’. In retrospect, certainly I looked like an ass. This was done purposely to rile the ‘squares’ and the nuns, especially. They had dominated what we wore for all of grammar school and now, in high school, we could fight back. Brandishing the only tattoo on a student – a homemade starfish on my left hand – I had already trumped authority at 16 years of age. With hair to my shoulders, they didn’t even notice the earring. This was 1973.
The Nehru sold at a garage sale but those cords wore down to a frazzle. They attracted attention. Every non-polite epithet for ‘homosexual’ was hurled at me while hitch-hiking in such style…but when you are young, you like the attention! Now, everybody has tattoos and earrings. The starfish was surgically removed around 1990 and the earring came out long before. Both became too popular among the same group they used to annoy. Too old to wear three pairs of boxer shorts, and the tops of my jeans at mid-thigh to reveal them, soon I begin my 55th year…that may sound old to some but I would not be young again, if given the chance…I would miss growing up in the 1960s… things were much more fun.