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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Chicago Fashions, Newspaper Dresses and Scarves

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bib overalls are making a comeback, or they should be. Bibs are comfortable, durable and cost less than a scarf or bikini. Heather is concerned that I might wear my bibs, the one with the battery acid holes, to town someday, but I wouldn't do that. I'd probably change into my dress bibs -- chick magnets, doancha you know?

Once thought to be low-status clothing, celebrities are occasionally seen wearing bibs, as did Rosie the Riveter during World War II. Low class indeed!


Walking on the beaches of Lake Michigan on our annual trip to Wrigley Field last week we didn't see any bibs, but milkhouse boots are still in style.

Scarves are popular everywhere, including with women and a few guys in the Windy City, but not at Wrigley Field where the ends get beer soaked. Here in Iowa the risk of one getting caught in the table saw or other machinery is of concern. The image of a scarf encounter with the spinning flywheel of a John Deere Model "A" gives me a headache.

Men wear scarves to keep their neck warm, or to look like a woman, but I'm not sure why women wear them. French women especially like them, claiming it transforms them into something a notch or two up the seduction ladder, and in some cultures women must wear them to cover their face. Tying one intimidates the most confident woman, for it takes real talent to achieve the elegant, yet casual look. Most fail, the result being a wasted $30. A scarf does redirect attention from other body parts, though.

Heather and I shopped for scarves and found one that was only $20, apparently cheap, for many cost $30, $50 or more. How can that be? Bibs are only $30 and think of all of the design, sewing, and attention to detail (especially the design), bib overalls have! Bibs should cost $100 instead of $30.

What do bibs have that scarves don't? Triple stitch seams, double reinforced rear pockets, eleven pockets for pencils, notepads, pliers, and the ever essential hammer loop. And a zipper. Yet scarves cost more. Of course there is no reason a tiny bikini should cost as much as jeans, or a shirt, either. It is probably a French conspiracy.


"A scarf makes you look beautiful," an ad says. Really? Then why doesn't Rosie O'Donnell wear several?


A group of foreign tourists was staying at our hotel and at breakfast I decided to try out my minimal German. "Spreken zie Deutsch?" I asked the table next to ours. Stone cold silence. They looked German but I obviously was wrong -- The Cubs were playing (and beating) the Milwaukee Brewers. Maybe they're from Wisconsin?

Finally one woman said, haughtily, "France," and after I welcomed them to the country that saved their derrieres in two world wars (no, I didn't include that) our conversation was over. Their dress is somewhat different from ours, capri pants, culottes, scarves, and sweaters thrown over the shoulder like a scarf. And that was the men.

The next morning a gnomish Frenchman with stringy long hair asked (or, he might have said, "You have beautiful eyes.") if he could share my table. I said yes, and made a couple of nice comments. Conversation over as he put his head down and proceeded to soak his bagel, then his toast, then his napkin (OK, I made the last one up) in first his milk, then his coffee. We are not all alike. And that's a good thing.


I saw some skimpy outfits in Chicago that resembled feed sack dresses. They fit like a sack, had multi-colored flowery little patterns, and were a lot shorter than granny used to make and wear. "Feed your chicks Nutrena, the best feed that money can buy," the radio ads sang out in the 1940's. Farm women dictated what brand feed the farmer should buy based on the dress they were about to fashion.


Thinking of unusual dresses, in 1966 the Scott Paper Company created a paper dress (Twiggy modeled) as a marketing campaign. Our Building Center was a Pittsburgh Paint dealer and PPG participated in a promotion, buy paint, get a newspaper dress. About that same time Westmar and Le Mars school kids were getting into painters white bib overalls, and we sold a lot of them, too.


"I was not staring at your chest, I was just trying to read that ad for a 1957 Chevy Bel Air."

Remembering Barbara Doering who worked at the Building Center. Don Paulin 7557 30th AV, Norwalk, IA 50211. 2carpenterdon@gmail.com. 515-201-7236


By Don Paulin
Been There, Done That

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