The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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Michele Bender

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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Michele Bender
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    Father’s Day afternoon I flopped in my recliner and forced myself to do some bookkeeping. I licked an envelope and gasped. No spit, only blood ... as if Hannibal Lecter just served me lunch.

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    I’m “downsizing.” Sixteen years ago, this house was perfect for me. I gave parties. Friends came and stayed for weekends. Great insulation protected visitors from highway noise.
    Yep, I had the time of my life.
    But I’m 16 years older, and my friends are, too.  They no longer travel like they did. Parties wear us out by 10 p.m.

    June 14, 2014 1 Photo

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    Twice yearly Hollywood marches out a platoon of war movies.

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    “If I make it to Medicare,” I declared, “I’m going to throw a party people will not forget! It’ll be something no one’s ever done!”
    Well, I made it to 65.

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  • Watch the stars come out

    Every spring, I catch drive-in movie fever. We are blessed to have three outdoor theaters in a 30-mile radius. Movies under the stars … heavenly!

    May 3, 2014

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    Animals fascinated my mom. Riding the train between Johnstown and Philly, she saw horses, pigs, sheep, cows … a Mattel See ’n Say of farm critters.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

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    “Your call is very important to us,” growled the crabby lady at the utility company. “Please wait for the next available representative.”

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo

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    March 22, 2014 1 Photo

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    Headaches rarely bother me. I always felt sorry for folks trapped in the Advil/Dristan web.
    I woke up at 4 a.m. Dec 17 with a headache that probably registered on a Richter scale. (People in New Zealand experienced aftershocks.)

    March 8, 2014 1 Photo

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