When my sisters and I were teenagers, the mini skirt and hot pants were all the rage…much to my mother’s dismay. She always felt like they were a little bit too risqué. Of course, we completely disagreed with her, and in fact, thought she was just being very old fashioned, and really a bit ridiculous. Everyone was wearing these new styles, and we didn’t want to be thought of as the nerds of the school…not to mention the fact that they were cute styles, and we wanted to look as cute as the other girls did. It was about this time in my life, that I began to see the value of skirts, over dresses. You simply couldn’t roll a dress up to turn it into a mini dress, but you could do that with a skirt. So to appease Mom, the skirt was knee length at home, but soon became a serious mini skirt…and before I went into school too. The old saying, “I wouldn’t be caught dead in that” definitely applied when it came to knee length or longer skirts…until the maxi skirt came out that is. The problem is that once a child leaves the house, parents just don’t have total control anymore, and most teenagers will go a long way toward avoiding conflict, if it’s possible. I wasn’t the only girl rolling my skirt either. Every girl whose mother said no, was doing it. Of course, shorts were a little easier to get away with, but Mom still thought they should be a little longer. Her problem was that longer shorts were harder to find…thankfully!!!
We weren’t the first generation to wear the mini skirt, short shorts, and other risqué clothing choices, but to hear my mother talk, we were. In fact, Mom went through a period of time in her own life when she wanted to wear the things the other girls were wearing. Her friends were wearing two piece bathing suits, which were considered very risqué at the time…little did they know that the string bikini was on it’s way and it would make their two piece bathing suit, that covered most of the midriff, look very conservative indeed. Nevertheless, my mom was in a little bit different position than we were, because it is hard to hide the way a bathing suit looks, and it isn’t an item you wear to school, so changing its looks was much harder. Still, she told me that the other girls were wearing a two piece, and she sure wanted to, but was not allowed. The two piece bathing suit was just too risqué…according to my grandmother. Poor Mom…there seemed no way out of her dilemma, and there’s no way to roll a one piece bathing suit to make it a two piece suit.
Bathing suits for women used to be almost like swimming in a dress, and even when they were allowed to be a little shorter, there was always someone who wanted to push the envelope a little…bringing on the need for a different kind of beach patrol. Their job was to measure the distance from the suit to the knee. It is was their job to enforce the dress code for women…even at the beach. Boy, talk about restriction!! You pretty much had no chance of pulling off such a big feat of deception, so there she was in her old fashioned one piece bathing suit while her friends wore the, so much more fashionable, two piece bathing suit.
When the maxi skirt came out, I’m sure many a parent breathed a deep sigh of relief, as had their parents before them, and secretly hope that horrible mini skirt craze would never come back again, and if it did, I’m sure they hoped that it would wait until they had their daughters grown up and married off. Then it would be their children’s problem. Of course, there really is nothing new under the sun, and they had somehow forgotten just how risqué their own parents thought their styles were…or maybe they hadn’t, and they just hoped their children would never know just how risqué they were, because somehow that was different, or maybe it was just that these were their kids, and they suddenly knew just how their parents had felt all those years ago, and they weren’t sure they liked it either.
Back in the day, girls pretty much wore dresses all the time. In fact, girls wearing pants were considered…risque, loose, or maybe backward. By the mid 1900’s things had changed to a degree, and pants were ok for certain activities. Nevertheless, many girls just didn’t own pants, so they continued to wear dresses for activities we would consider it to be inappropriate to wear dresses for today.
One of those activities was horseback riding. Early on when the women started riding horses, it was considered taboo for them to straddle a horse. People really thought of them as having very low moral standards. That was when the side saddle came about. The big problem with that was that the horse had to be very well trained, because the woman had a lot less control over the horse when it was side saddle. To me, side saddle seems like it would be an extremely awkward way to ride. I think it would feel like you were hanging on a wall…much like a painting.
Then, when people moved out west, they began to leave those civilized ideas of the east behind them. It was a necessity, because many of the horses were wild and then tamed, and people lived on homesteads the were a long way from their homes. And then, of course, was the fact that sometimes you had to outrun the dangers of the region, like Indians, wild animals, and outlaws. Running from danger was no time to be a lady in a side saddle…if you wanted to live, that is. Watching the old westerns, I remember thinking how funny it looked to have those long dresses draped over the back end of a horse.
Now, of course, many women rarely wear a dress at all, much less to ride a horse. Women have found that it is far more comfortable to live most of their lives in jeans, so dresses are reserved for special occasions. Nevertheless, there was a time, a very different time, when women wouldn’t have ever considered things like wearing men’s pants or straddling a horse.