Well, peeps, we made it. It's Friday! I'm here for a half a day and then it's out into the wild and wooly weekend! It's flea market, too, this Friday-Saturday-Sunday (yeeeeeeeaaaaAAAAhhhh!)! And could we be having better weather for it? We could not. Today I was doing my usual trawl through Flickriver for pictures of other people's family members, when I came across a concentration of photos from a simpler time of kids' extracurricular activity.
Folks, how about some little girls' dance recital costumes for a Friday? I think yes.
This was really the first photo that struck me as post-worthy, and you can see why! Lots of maribou trim, pert little matching cap, immaculately white dance shoes-- I mean, this is a knock out of a dance ensemble. The user dates this photo of their mother to the mid 1930's. I thought about, while I was finding other photos, how many old Hollywood movie stars got their start in juvenile and later adult dancing roles. Louise Brooks studied with the Denishawn Dancers under Ruth St. Denis before transitioning to silents. Myrna Loy started her professional career as a dancer at Graumann's Egyptian Theater. Joan, of course, came to Hollywood on the strength of her Charleston abilities. Think of how many actresses probably got their first taste of show business success as a hoofer rather than a thespian-- after all, it seems to me it would be much easier to learn how to dance gracefully and look good in an attractive dance costume than to act in Shaw or Ibsen...that could come later! As show business seems to have been a much smaller, much more organic trade at the time, imagine how many mothers in the first half of the twentieth century saw a silver screen future for their artistically minded daughters through the medium of dance.
The 1930's were probably a particularly hard time for little girls not to get signed up for dance classes. With ringlet-haired Shirley Temple lighting up 20th Century Fox with her big screen bankability, I'm sure the stick-straight hair of tots across the country were being tortured into rag-curls and dance studios with children's classes were overbrimming with both talented and woefully untalented grade school age movie hopefuls. This little baby, I can't lie, looks perfectly precious in her tulle tutu, dance shows, and indeed, perfectly curled hair topped with a little matching bow. Isn't it weird sometimes looking at children's skirts of the 30's and 40's? I know in this case it's a dance costume, and needs be short, but some casual playwear of the vernacular photos I've seen from this time period are like "PUT. SOME CLOTHES. ON YOUR KID!" A tween would be hard pressed to show up in public in a skirts this short without their parent's lack of supervision of the child's wardrobe being called into question.
Aaah, much more modest fashion prevailing in the case of this little dancer...she's wearing full-on pantalets! The outfit is coconuts but if you're not going on stage to be noticed, don't bother! The daughter's caption on this ensemble: "Some zany dance recital getup. Mom remembers that the buttons on her jacket were actually poker chips covered with fabric." I wonder, in the cases of each of these kids, if they were excited or put out to be wearing such precious duds. Me, I would be excited (also, given the super power of baby-giraffe thighs, I would be wearing 80% of these outfits on a daily basis). But you never know when a kid was less pleased with the clothes than the parents at how adorable said child looked in them. Seeing my mom in her Easter best, circa 1964, I commented on how amazingly cute her frilly organza dress, gloves, and sausage curls looked on tiny, child sized she. My mom, looking at the picture, could only remember how horribly itchy the crinoline was, how tight the poofy sleeves' elastics were on her child arms, how much she worried with her gloves, and how she hadn't slept the night before because her scalp was pulled too tightly into the requisite rag curls for her to sleep comfortably. I love that I'm like "No pain, no gain! Beauty don't come cheap!" to her retroactive protests...this is why I will be a bad mother. With extremely presentable children.
I love this girl's pose, tiara, and winning grin. Do you wonder what dance teachers must have been like in this time period? I'm picturing an older woman with a ruler beating time on a barre or on the polished wood floor of her dance studio, something along the lines of Jane Darwell (she played Southern society matron Mrs. Merriweather in Gone with the Wind, along with a number of character roles for the next few decades in the studio system). About a year ago, when we were in Project Runway withdrawal after watching a season's worth in a self-imposed online marathon, Matthew and I were trying to find something dumb to watch on "watch full episodes" internet content (we don't have cable, don't judge). After trying to get through a few episodes of The Rachel Zoe Project (so boring, except for Brad, and then he left, but his new show wasn't on streaming yet), we gave Dance Moms a shot. I was honestly giddily impressed with Abby Lee Miller (kind of like if Shannon Doherty and Jane Darwell had a baby, and that baby was Satan) when she called the cops, to her own studio, on a mother she was having beef with...you have to impressed with people who are willing to take an altercation all the way to jail! Simultaneously, impressed and afeared of crossing. But I finally had to quit watching because I was just too bummed at watching a bunch of preteens being buffeted with verbal abuse, first from their instructor and then from their mothers. I know it's probably 90% fake, like I like all my reality tv, but the thrill of seeing the moms and Abby lock horns (or moms and kids, or moms and moms) just couldn't compensate for how sad I was that these kids were going to remember "dance" as "that horrible class my mom used to make me go to". I hope old dance studios were more civilized than the pageant stuff we see today, but again, I don't know!
Last but not least:
This group shots includes the user's mother, who is the little blonde heartbreaker at front, left. Who wouldn't put that kid in the front row, she's a doll! My favorite person in this spread, however, is probably the little girl in the cats' eye glasses and Mary Pickford curls, third from the right. How cute is she?! That would be my kid, where I'm like "Yes, you have to wear glasses, but by Godfrey, you are going to look like a million bucks while doing so!" Also note the other blonde member of the troupe has broken the uniformity of the girls' shoe choice by wearing ballet slippers that lace up the ankles. As her mother intended, I'm sure, they DO make her stand out!
What do you think? Were you ever a "dance kid"? I vaguely remember taking ballet when I was like, four or five, but only for a brief time, and none of it stuck. T he singular memory I have of this experience was how super excited I felt about getting the shoes for class and how sad when I outgrew them. Which of these costumes do you feel like "ooh" and "aaah" ing over? Do slash will you put your children into training as the next Isadora Duncan? Let's talk!
That's all for this week, but have a great weekend! Maybe I'll see you at the flea market, fellow Nashvillians! Be good, find great stuff, and we'll talk Monday. Til then!