Monday, April 16, 2012
A and P Supermarkets/Grocery Store Rant (1940s)
Good afternoon, everybody! I got a story for you...a story of groceries and missed sartorial opportunities...gather round the old vintage campfire and I'll tell it to you straightaway.
Yesterday, I pulled together what I, in my own conceited opinion, consider to be a knockout outfit for the occasion of Matthew's friend Ernest's birthday barbecue. Resisting an urge to wear white wrist-length gloves, I went out of the house in red lipstick, a double strand of pearls, a fifties' blouse I found at the Gallatin Goodwill, my go-to black skirt and dress belt, and a McHenry's ladies' hat from an estate sale a long time ago to cover my still-wet hair pinned underneath said hat. It looked like this:
Lovely, right? If I do say so myself. You fellow decades-dressers know how it is when you somehow pull off the alchemy of putting together this skirt and that blouse and come up with something that makes you look exactly like the image in your head of how you wanted to look. Rare are those occasions! Yet, in spite of my costume success, I felt a little like a Sasquatch walking into the Greenfield Kroger's when we had to run in and grab a card and some kind of snack to bring to Ernest's party.
In a storeful of people in sweatpants and tank tops, in cargo shorts and polos, in jeans and t-shirts, a gal in the above ensemble sticks out like a red lipped sore thumb! And of course, granted, dressing in head to toe vintage will often make you look like you've escaped a period-set dinner theater production...but man did I notice how slip-sloppily people dress to go to the grocery store! On the one hand, you may just need Cheerios and felt like running over to the store in your pajama bottoms wasn't a major fashion faux pas. On the other hand...you're in public! What if you run into your fifth grade teacher/best friend's mom/that dude you're crushing on from a local band/me? All of which are possible in a neighborhood grocery the size of this sucker.
Whatever happened to dressing up, period...but specifically, whatever happened to dressing up to go shopping?
These pictures from A &P advertisements of the mid forties' have assuaged my troubled mind on the count of how-you-should-dress-in-your-supermarket. While I know these are advertisements, I can't help but feel that people in the forties' at least put on a bit of mascara to hit the meat counter. The lady below is wearing a fur stole, forgoodnesssake. I must share with you that the caption of the picture below is "Favorite Meating Place for Particular People". Oh, forties' Mad Men. You crack me up. How handsome do the meat counter men look in their white coats and bow-ties? The shapeless blue polo shirts with "Kroger" stitched on the front of them, plus an apron, just doesn't have the sparkle of these old uniforms. Even the employees are dressed up, see!!
Below, gloves? Check. Hat? Check. Smart little bowtie? Check. Ready to select superior produce? Check check.
Look at the mile long feather on the hat at stage right. Plus more furs on that woman and the one to the left. That Russian sable looking coat is something I'd like to own.
Did you get a load of the blue turbaned thing at right, below? It would probably make me look more like a Dr. Seuss character and less like a Rosalind Russell type that I'd like, but I would still like to take a gamble on it if we ever met up in a darkened estate sale closet.
A & P made its name as being one of the first grocery store chains, period; then continued to trailblaze with some of the first self-service grocery stores in America. I still like to daydream about a time in which you could hand a list over to a grocery clerk and he would dutifully pull and ring up all your items while you wait. Do you have any idea how much easier that would make my life? I feel like I spend an inordinate amount of time in front of the canned tomatoes trying to figure out which, of a thousand varieties, best suits my needs, when in the 1800's, someone would do that for me. Le sigh.
Check out this Rosie the Riveter in her just-off work swagger. I excuse her from being dressed to the nines as she's obviously pitching in with the war effort. Plus she looks cute as a button. Do you see the beanie on the woman in green, or how handsome the man in the suit is? I do.
What're your thoughts? Are you an unselfconscious vintage wearer or do you skulk around a little in your 50's/60's best, wary of the unwelcome stares? Would you go to the grocery store dressed in houseclothes or do you make an effort when you're seen in public to be spotlessly presentable? It's an important question!
I think we're on to more Your Power as a Woman tomorrow, be sure to tune in!
Til next time.