The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

October 13, 2013

MICHELE M. BENDER | What lurks in your closet?

JOHNSTOWN — Ladies wrote this summer reminding me that the struggle for brand-name dominance in fashion began in the ’60s and ’70s. Everyone knew that Audrey wore Givenchy. Brooke posed provocatively in magazines wearing “only her Calvins.”

This trend seems to be waning, unless your name is Kardashian.

Mom preferred “classics”; Talbot dresses and Alfred Dunner separates. London Fog raincoats protected her on stormy days.

She purchased Van Heusen shirts for my dad at Dutch’s Men’s Store.

I worked at “Town and Country,” a ladies shop that sold MAYBE 20 items yearly.

As long as I was there, we never received ANY NEW merchandise!

Baby clothes weren’t part of my world. I never heard of a “One-Zie” until I was a “Fif-Zie.”

We all wanted Levis. Cool guys topped theirs with IZOD knit shirts. (Dockers, invented in 1959 by Wally Cleaver, made quite a splash.)

Guys prepping for dates doused themselves with Brut, Old Spice, or (gag) Jade East.

Ladies carried John Romaine handbags. Constructed of totally inflexible leather, they featured numerous separated compartments. You could drop an item in and not see it again for two years.

One day we emptied Aunt Ethel’s bag and weighed it on the scale at the doctor’s office:

9 pounds – EMPTY!!  Forget pepper spray. Sling that and you could disable King Kong.

Disco divas revived the ’50s beatnik spirit when Ric Astley assaulted the airwaves. Gals danced in shiny, polyester Danskin “One-Zies” and equally glossy, full, swirly wrap-around skirts. Many ladies couldn’t wear platform shoes. They completed their costumes with Capezios, narrow canoe-shaped flats with pointy toes (Think Wicked Witch of the West).

Scientists at the National Institute of Bunion Research blame Capezios for 68 percent of foot disorders.

Celebrities promoting fashion had closets full of Chanel and Dior. But I experienced Levis, Talbots, some Danskin disco wear, a London Fog “trenchcoat” (copying Audrey from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,”) and … yes, Capezios.  (You should see my feet!  No, maybe not …)

In the late ’60s, Doris Day sparkled in a movie party scene. She was breathtaking in a mint-green voile and floral trim gown, a Lanz.

DeRoy’s sold Lanz!      

My senior year I was invited to somebody else’s prom. I called DeRoy’s, ordered the gown in my size, and nearly burst an artery awaiting its arrival.

I felt gloriously elegant, even though my date wore a purple velveteen dinner jacket (borrowed from his uncle who worked at some restaurant in Pittsburgh).

This spring I cleaned a closet and rediscovered the Lanz.

My goddaughter, Jill, laughed. “You could bury Mary Poppins in this!”

I just smiled. I donated it to the YWCA prom gown drive.

When I wore it, I had a magical night. Doris had an enchanted evening, too.

I’m betting that Lanz still has some spellbinding charm to spare.

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