Monday, March 02, 2009

The Good Old Days




When I think of the olden days, I think of that episode of Designing Women in which someone said "Remember the good old days. They were old. They were good. They were days."

Seriously, certain activities seemed far more stylish back then than today. Like shopping. Going to the movies. Even going out for a cocktail or a meal. None of this tattered jeans and flip-flop business- people actually dressed up and made an effort when they went out. What happened?

I found some old images of movie theaters, restaurants, and department stores, and after seeing how glamorous these venues were, I can understand why people dressed up. You and I would if we had the chance to visit a movie theater designed by Samuel Marx. It's a far cry from our local AMC theaters with the stadium seating and surround sound. And wouldn't you want to primp, powder, puff and buff yourself before going to a shoe department decorated by architect Paul Williams?

(And I do want you to know that I try to do my part to keep up the good grooming habits of the old days. I once lived in a high-rise building where fire alarms were a common occurrence. And every time that alarm went off I always applied my lipstick and spritzed on some perfume before I made my way out of the building. Why risk my life to look good in a possible fire? I have no earthly idea, but I blame it on my mother who told me to always wear lipstick when I left the house. That's a throwback to the good old days, but it's one that I wholeheartedly adhere to-even at risk to life and limb!)



Samuel Marx designed the soigne Pump Room in the Ambassador Hotel, Chicago in 1938. The walls were cobalt blue, the banquettes white leather, and the light fixtures crystal. And if you dined at the Pump Room, you could expect this:


You'd wear a hat too if your waiter served you flaming game bird skewers with such flair!



Marx also designed the Lamar Theater in Oak Park, IL. I'd be tempted to give up my Netflix subscription and start going to the theater again if my AMC looked like this.


If the cosmetic counters at the department stores looked like Helena Rubenstein's Fifth Avenue salon c. 1948, then I would be willing to get this treatment:



Or even this one:



If only the Waffle House looked like this! (The Vienna Coffee House at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, San Francisco; designed by Dorothy Draper)


I might actually forget about the recession and buy some new shoes if shoe departments were like this one at Saks in Beverly Hills, c. 1938 (designed by Paul Williams).

Image at top: Remember when people used to dress for the theater? The last time I attended the theater, people brought in Cokes and Goobers!

25 comments:

  1. Lovely post and I completely agree. My husband agrees as well, sometimes to my embarrassment. When out to dinner, if a man is wearing jeans or anything my husband deems inappropriate, he will mutter under his breath (which can be quite loud), "thanks for dressing".

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  2. Hilarious and sad all at once, Jennifer!
    And I do relate to your getting dolled up when the fire alarm went off.

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  3. Jennifer- I love this post and what wonderful old photographs. I had to be "dressed" to go on the airplane when I was younger and wish everyone would now. Just what I wanted to read on a snowy Monday morning. Thanks!

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  4. Jill, I'm guilty of doing the same thing! It's not difficult to make a bit of effort!

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  5. Toby- I think it's sad that I primp for a fire alarm!!!

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  6. Laura- I still dress for the plane- you get much better customer service too!

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  7. Coke and Goobers *snicker* I don't mind people eating in the cinema - but in the theatre?! sacrilege!

    for more incredibly retail/dining establishments, be sure to check out 1939's film The Women ... gorgeous shop and club interiors filled with people who look so chic and smart that you forget we didn't have deodorant yet!

    I have a rule - if I'm flying coach and alone (i.e. I'm going to be wedged next to a Neanderthal from the Ozarks) I wear jeans and dress comfortably. If I'm being luxurious and traveling first class or business, I wear pants and a jacket. If I don't, I can hear my mother correcting me in my mind's ear!

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  8. I still dress up. even if it is to go to the grocery store. It just makes life better. I love the old photographs. So much thought and beauty was invested in life - definitely a better time.

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  9. Tristan- Mother really does know best!

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  10. Decor Style- Me too! I know that if I ran into you at the produce section, I would think how nice it is to find someone else who dresses up for the grocery store!

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  11. What an excellent post! One of the reasons I love living in Europe is that European women still "dress".

    I'll never forget the time I was lounging at home in Holland wearing leggings and a university t-shirt when a Belgian friend dropped by unexpectedly. She took one look at me when I answered the door and politely excused herself... "I'll return in 5 minutes so you'll be properly dressed!”

    I felt completely "put in my place" and then a little mad that my friend HAD STOPPED by unannounced and then expected me to be "dressed for receiving visitors" - but I obligingly put on a little make up, brushed my hair, pulled a cardigan out of the closet and met her in a more presentable fashion when she called again minutes later!!

    Within the last 10 years living in Paris, Amsterdam and now Berlin never once have I ran into a friend by surprise at the market to find them looking like they were hoping they wouldn't see anyone they know! Sadly, it seems I always was the one apologizing for my appearance! I'm convinced Europeans wake with their hair brushed and dressed in clothes for the public appreciation!

    Thanks for a smile!

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  12. I miss the good old days too - even if I never lived them! But I too never (okay, very rarely) go out without being done up. I joke that I have two speeds, pajamas for home, and fully dressed and made up otherwise. I was at my post office recently and an acquaintance made a comment that I'm always put together - with my scarf just so. I simply feel more comfortable. As for really dress occasions, I went to the Met for "Madama Butterfly" last fall , a Saturday evening performance, and there were still people in jeans! And not students. Weird.

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  13. Just a lovely post!
    I've been grumbling of late about the total loss of two words from the English language: Grace & Elegance.
    These concepts seem to be antiquated and reserved for people "of a certain age." Also -- Love the above notes from Antiques Diva regarding the different attitudes in Europe.
    ... Judith

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  14. Thank you for reminding us all of what a little more effort can achieve. I grew up in Dallas in the early 60s and 70s. Saturday was the day we "went into town". My late mother would always make my sister and I dress up and be ready to leave the house by 10AM. Once a month we would venture to the Zodiac Room at the Downtown Neiman-Marcus. NM was still under the magic spell of the late Stanley Marcus. The effort to get dressed and spend one Saturday a month dining in a legendary store, those memories are still with me. I never leave the house now without making sure I have a jacket in the car, just in case I will need it for an unexpected dinner with friends. Many of my friends still comment on why am I always so dressed up. I think it goes back to good old fashioned home training. Training, society is sadly lacking in in this age of cell phones, casual clothing, and instant gratification. Effort starts at home. Others notice. Keep up the front.
    J

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  15. Well, I'm very encouraged to see that a lot of you feel the same as I do! Didn't Estee Lauder say something like "In order to be successful you have to look successful"? (Or something along those lines.) I think we should start a revolution!

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  16. Wonderful post! Other great movies to check out include "The Thin Man" series -- always the best for settings and clothes! I'm afraid I've downgraded my look just to be able to fit in a bit better because people were always reamrking: "WHY are you SO dressed up?? Now I feel bad ....." And I would be the one to feel guilty! It is so hard to know what to wear -- even to a weekday dinner at the neighbor's home tonight!


    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

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  17. Don't forget flying! I mean really....having to sit beside a stranger in their pajama pants is MUCH too familiar for me...
    This past NYE I dressed up in a festive shirt & tie -you would have thought all of my friends thought I was an alien!

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  18. Thank you for this thoughtful post with such beautiful photos. I long to visit places like this; I love to dress up for dinner, but there are precious few places in my area where you would look terribly out of place if you did. It seems that few women even wear the elegant jewelry (real or costume) that they once did, for a meal or a shopping trip. I keep hoping that elegance will come back in style.

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  19. I enjoyed all of these comments and especially Architect Design's, since we are both in D.C. He will enjoy my story. Last week I was at The Prime Rib in D.C. for dinner which is very dressy-men must wear jackets and ties even at lunch. I was wearing a gorgeous black sheath and a very dramatic vintage Chanel black tulle hat. Everyone definitely thought I was an alien. I told this story to a friend and he told me to be fearless because the right people get it.

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  20. My grandmother would never leave the house without lipstick or perfume. She died in 1974. Even now, it is impossible for me to leave the house without perfume. It is those little habits that were taught so long ago that become part of our psychological makeup. Beautiful post. If only our world would still be as beautiful.

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  21. Yoli- I can't leave my house without perfume either- even during a fire alarm!

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  22. what about airplanes - remember how dressed up everyone used to get to fly? now they wear shorts and flip flops, awful! haha!!! loved this post!

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  23. i must be old before my time!im 22 and these pictures are so so so cool.....

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  24. Anonymous4:35 PM

    Your blog is outstanding!

    Here is the url of the blog from the Archives of the Sandusky Library if you would like to take a look:

    http://sanduskyhistory.blogspot.com

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  25. Great post Jennifer! I have 3 sisters and my mother would take us to Freckles and Frills (a clothing store for children) and buy us all new outfits for the airplane each summer!

    I still insist my son dress well when we travel. It is possible to look smart and be comfortable, but it seems many people think comfort = sloppy!!!

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