Women should take fashion nod from 1940s films


So, here we are, fresh from yet another grotesque binge-fest, er, holiday, and unfortunately for most of us, good ol’ summer, replete with its requisite revealing attire and bathing gear, is right around the corner. I am exponentially unfortunate, however, because I, as a graduate student, have my comprehensive exams (read: pass or die) lunging toward me like a cavalry at full gallop. What does all this mean? I’m gaining weight.

Not that this is the end of the world, but in this day and age, where people’s moral character seems to be judged by the protrusion of bones and visibility of every distinct muscle, no one likes the idea of gaining weight. But, watching a bunch of old black-and-white noir films from the forties has demonstrated to me that the standard of beauty for women in a bygone era entailed at least a size 10, which we all know is hardly the case now.

I noticed that in these movies, clothing used to be made and tailored to accentuate a womanly figure. In other words, clothes were made to fit bodies, whereas now, it seems bodies are made to fit into completely uncomplimentary clothes. Low-cut, skin-tight jeans and tight shirts really don’t look good on the vast majority of women, unless they are built like either the Little Mermaid, a runway model, or a young boy (but is there really much of a difference anymore?). These types of clothes hug all the wrong body parts, squeezing at areas where there is supposed to be a layer of fat (such as the lower hips, where most pants now seem to hang), which then gives us the feeling that we need to lose the fat and avoid sitting down or bending over. This detracts from the graceful appearance of the figure and also pretty much precludes graceful, comfortable, confident movement.

So instead of being proud of curves and the extra layer of fat that is a natural part of a feminine figure, what do we women do? Often we try to lose enough weight to look good in these types of clothes (which is often simply an impossibility) or we buy the clothes regardless of our shape, and try to get into them and pull them off anyway. Since these types of overly revealing and thus uncomfortable clothes are so ubiquitous, however, do we really have much of a choice? Compared to the eternal style and class of the likes of Bette Davis and Susan Hayward, however, we are all trying to look like a bunch of starved, sex slave, street urchins.

I know some women who really know how to work with what they have, and are able to accentuate their appearance with clothing that is tasteful, attractive and complimentary. I know some women who have not been able to find age-and-weight appropriate clothing, and therefore have pretty much stopped shopping, relying instead on an old wardrobe that has been worn in and is still comfortable. I know some women who are older and thin, who have to spend extra money in order to find appropriate, professional-looking clothing, since all clothes in their size are low-slung, tight numbers.

It’s really a shame that it’s come to this. Look at some of the styles from decades past. Clothing can be feminine, pretty and attractive without being clingy and revealing, I promise.

Bethania Palma can be reached at bethania.palma.45@csun.edu.