Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The way they were

"Was it a holiday, Mom?"
"Well, it could have been. But it might have been Saturday night, or Sunday dinner. That was just the way you dressed to go to someone's home."
"What year was it?
"That year was the likely late 60's."

"Always a coat and tie on Granddad?"
"Oh yes, always."
Ca. 1968

That's my pretty Mama and my Grandfather. She is trying to protect his jacket. He is probably trying to shoo her off. He did not care if we made him a mess. But if he was, he was still going to be in a jacket.

These are both of my Grandfather's. Patrick, of Ireland, left. Harold, of Britain, right. I unearthed a stack of pictures of them seated at dinner tables, always next to one another, always in a coat and tie. I think maybe you can see, only gently so in their silvery years, they were both devastatingly handsome men. You know Red (Harold) if you have been around here a while, if not you might go by and get to know him. He always wore a coat and tie, I mean, always. Patrick, if you went around to see him at the house on the hill, you might find him in a wool sweater but nearly always a jacket otherwise.
Ca. 1982

It's the educated opinion of that silly girl front right that this was likely New Years Day dinner. Here you can truly see the next generation taking a casual step: My Father and Uncle are in shirtsleeves where my Grandfather's never took off their coats. I am guessing that my Mother prevailed in my Brother wearing a coat that night, as it seems my Dad would not have put Chris in one if he were not in one himself. Although, that is pure speculation.
Ca. 1983

I am really reaching now, but like most house people I'll more likely remember the year the couch was reupholstered in that gorgeous green velvet (which seems like 1987) than have been the type to remember to ask someone the year then scribble it on the back of the picture. Patrick is gone by the time this was taken but my Grandfather Harold rolled to ninety-three years of age; a coat and tie every step of the way.

(The dog? The family blue tick hound, appropriately named Blue. He was a benevolent creature when he was not wandering busily for miles or lazing away afternoons sleeping on his back in the sunshine at the flagpole in the center of town, to be rounded up in the late afternoons and driven home by the ever-patient local police. Sorely missed.)

Even on vacation, coat and tie; his cap kindly lent to Chris. Seaton Caru, England. Ca. 1983

The other day a friend asked me for a restaurant recommendation for a place in New York. When he asked what he should wear, I answered, a sport coat - at least. "Because it is special occasion restaurant?"

"No. Because it's dinner."


EntertainingMom said...

As a child, in the 70s and 80s, I had to "dress" for dinner as well. We don't at my house and that is most likely because I'm usually the first to peel off my clothes and put on something more comfortable for end of day cooking, dining helping kids with homework.

little augury said...

What a beautiful post Catherine. It was a different time. Dressing up for special occasions was the thing at our home. My grandmother, Naomi-wouldn't ever visit unless she was always impeccably dressed,hair done-etc. and low would she never pop in-a call was made or and invitation issued. They lived only about 3 miles away.Most of the time I opt for comfort(I am sure you guessed that by now), but my niece insists we all dress for Christmas dinner- what will she demand when she marries and has children? gaye

Reggie Darling said...

Love this post -- "No, because it's dinner" is perfect!

I had dinner at "21" recently and was pleased to hear the manager turn away someone wearing jeans. People have lost sight of the fact that dressing is a sign of respect for one's company and surroundings. Somehow that doesn't seem to matter anymore, only that the wearer is as comfortable as possible. Why wear a dress (or jacket and tie) and shoes when sweats and Uggs (or flip flops) are more comfortable?

Stephanie said...

I think it was lovely that people used to take more care with their dress. I remember growing up in the 70s and 80s and my mother always was dressed when she went out - and they have tons of glamorous photos of them all dressed to the nines with their equally glamorous friends. I am all for comfort, but people now dress for a Broadway show as they would to go to the gym. Can't we find some middle ground at least?

LPC said...

Wonderful post. Conversely, my father the professor was just telling us this weekend how he was the first member of the university administration to show up to work without a tie...

for the love of a house said...

Lovely! What a different era it was. I loved how your Grandfathers always sat next to each other!
"...because it's dinner." Perfect!

Lily Lemontree said...

What lovely pictures, thank you for sharing them with us.
Really a shame that people don't dress for life anymore, most would rather traipse around in jeans and sweats constantly.

OldSchool said...

We are surrounded by people who think that polyester pajamas are appropriate garb for almost all occasions.

Main Line Sportsman said...

COuld not agree w/ reggie any more..
Loved this post...reminded me of an Uncle Wilson at every dinner and holiday would disappear before cocktail time and return freshly shaved and in coat and tie. Great pictures!!

Housewife Bliss said...

Growing up in AZ we rarely dressed for anything, but my grandparents being from Boston always 'dressed' and I love that about them. I adore the coat and tie process that the older generation followed and so wish that it was more common today. I am taking M to the west end in April and we are going shopping for outfits next week, I cannot wait to get dolled up and be on the town with her on my arm. Thanks for sharing the pictures, just love your last line.