On Monday last week, my husband and I attended a fashion show here in Fairbanks. No, it was not Alaska fashion week showing next year’s It items. On the contrary, it was about women fashion thru the decades and how life of women has changed over time. The show was arranged by the Fairbanks branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW). This grass root organization has been been empowering women as individuals and as a community since 1881.
In this post, I want to give you a peek at the highlights of the show and a short travel back in time fashion-wise. All clothes presented and/or worn by the models are items from Alaska closets. It’s amazing what great clothes you can find in Fairbanks’ closets.
When only Marlene Dietrich was allowed to wear pants
During WWII women took jobs that were left open by the men who were at war. Universities had many female students as the young men were at war. In Alaska, some of the women were doing field work wearing men’s gear. Many American women flew aircraft to Alaska from the Lower 48s wearing Arctic pilots’ gear. There the planes were fueled and flown to Russia. Yes, you can see Russia from Alaska on a clear day. Big Diomede belongs to Russia, while Little Diomede belongs to Alaska. Both are in the Bering Strait that is only 55 miles (~88 km) wide.
The fashion of the 40s was presented in an outfit that the model’s mother and her aunt wore back then when in college. The pants were the riding pants of their brother, i.e. a hand-me down. The plaid wool shirt in its bold colors looks still modern today as does the red wool hat.
Nothing is new, velvet and statement sleeves in the 50s and today
This cold season velvet is a big trend as are statement sleeves. Margret, an over 80 model, modeled the 50s. Her long velvet coat is a great cover up for her black full length evening gown with statement black and white lace sleeves look stunning. She could wear these items with a square patent leather clutch and strappy heels to a formal event today and would be full in trend. Fashion elements repeat themselves over time, but are styled differently.
Ethnic prints: It for 60s days and nights
In the 60s, the hem lines went up or North. Remember the rule that the hems should be at least 2 inch (5 cm) longer than your finger tips with arms down? Miss Twiggy was my style icon and I wanted to look like her. Flat with barely there breasts, great legs, lean, long hair. The only thing I didn’t like about her was the blond hair. The only thing I didn’t like about her style were the flat shoes. I loved the block heels and the plateau sandals of the late 60s.
At the fashion show the 60s were presented by two Millennia, one doning an ethnic print dress for day and one doing an ethnic print dress for night. The slit of the long dress went so high that shorts in the same prints were worn underneath. When you are interested in more information on the flower power fashion of the late 60s, early 70s click the link.
Vinyl skirts and neckerchiefs
Yes, the neckerchiefs of the 70s are back. Again the styling differs. Today it’s the classic white Tee with dark denim with statement sneakers, sandals, mules or classic pumps. Yesterday, it was a mini skirt even made of shiny vinyl A-line mini skirts, white button shirt with long statement collars and tan, black or red knee high boots. Back then I loved my red boots with my sleeveless tan vinyl dress and blue turtle neck sweater underneath. Do you remember how we sweat like pigs in these vinyl pieces? The model complained the entire time. Her pantyhose and under wear were wet from sweat when she changed after the show.
Dynasty and Denver Clan – Golden Girls style of the 80s
Remember Linda Evans with her big hair? The teasing of the hair including the damage and the money we spent on hair spray in the 80s? It took me forever to figure out that the trick to big hair was dirty hair.
Remember the big It color combination of pink and black, the wide belts, the hem lines going south, i.e. midi? The bold costume jewelry with earrings of the size of key chain hangers and necklaces with pearls the size of small Christmas tree glitter balls? The silk camisoles under wide v-neck dresses (see photo of the four models above) and instead of a top or blouse under blazers? The 80s were represented by these key elements with a bright pink black floral print sleek dress with wide belt, camisole, dress shoes, bold gold colored necklace and a big loob. I would have worn that look and dress back then. Today I would shorten the dress to above the knee and would go for delicate jewlry. Midi was never my length.
All black 90s
It wouldn’t be AAUW if the 90s outfit wouldn’t celebrate that women were finally allowed to do Arctic and Antarctic fieldwork. When I studies in the 80s, I wasn’t allowed to do an experimental thesis. “Equipment is too heavy for women”, “It’s dangerous in the field”, “Women can’t pee in the wild, but men can”. Remember that in Europe, men can pee outside as long as they go away from the trail and hide behind a wall, tree, bush, you get the idea. Only when a guy is a VIP, he may get into trouble when a paparazzi catches them in the doing.
Kate modeled how she did Arctic field work in remote villages back then. Still today the back packs for field work in Alaska can’t have a comfortable rucksack with metal frame. All flights to remote villages use small aircraft that store baggage in the small wings. Air stripes are often far away from the villages and she had to schlep food for 2 weeks even when she intended to stay only for a week, all equipment, sleeping bags, clothes thru the snow to the school hose. Note that there are no hotels in the villages and visiting scientists sleep on the floor in the gym of the school house, if there is a gym, in the classroom otherwise. Why the extra food? Often in winter, the weather doesn’t permit flights and there is no supply in the villages for extra people. You can learn more about the Bush grocery shopping in the post at the link.
The fashion of the Millennium
The 00s were modeled by the mother-daughter team (see photo with the four models). The little girl felt so hot in the spot light that she threw off her denim jacket and hat to her dad before even entering the stage.
My husband and I modeled 2010s formal wear. I wore a cover-up over a knee-length formal dress. My husband presented a tail suit with white vest and bow tie, patent leather shoes, and a tuxedo shirt. While these outfits would well fit what is the Fairbanks Formal dress code, it is the upper range of what is still acceptable. 😉
Guess what the audience of the time travel fashion show wore? Fairbanks Formal.
Focus Alaska is a weekly series here on High Latitude Style featuring Alaska curiosa, lifestyle, wildlife, street style, weather, and insider travel tips.
Photos of me: G. Kramm
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