When I was a kid, my Mum made a lot of our clothes. I know that when she was growing up, she sometimes made her own clothes, too. She made her own wedding dress. My grandmother knew her way around a sewing machine too. Her clothes were pretty incredible actually. My point is this: clothes used to be expensive, and people used to make their own sometimes. Now making your own dress is probably more expensive than picking one up at Primark, Target or H&M. (I’m not going to go into environmental or ethical concerns here).
Because clothing is so cheap, now we can pick up something pretty cheaply to wear to each different event or for a date. But when clothes were more expensive, they not only lasted longer, but we repaired things. Which means that the way people planned their wardrobes was quite different to now. The average wardrobe contained a lot less items.
Which brings me to a phenomenon that I really like. Back in the day, some women had a signature colour. This means that not only would they be thinking that whatever they bought would go with whatever was already in their wardrobe, but also that it would be in their colour.
The most famous of these that springs to mind is Jayne Mansfield. She was an actress in the 60’s who was one of the blonde bombshells that graced Hollywood screens in that era. Her roles were a kind of send up of Marilyn Monroe, who was huge at the time, and she loved to get attention through her physicality. An icy bleach blonde, Mansfield is often known more for her death by an awful car accident. But I find her life and work quite fascinating. She played a bimbo and often let her dress fall off in front of the media cameras to show way more than just cleavage, claiming it was an accident. She loved publicity. But in private, she was a loving parent, spoke several languages, played violin like a maestro, and was incredibly intelligent.
Jayne Mansfields signature colour was pink. Her house was known as the Pink Palace (it had a heart shaped pool and a pink heart shaped bathtub), it was entirely pink. She also owned the first pink cadillac. And her wardrobe was built around the colour pink. (Although her leopard print bikini was pretty famous too)
The icy blonde Kim Novak was known as the Lavendar Girl. Novak is sometimes said to be somewhere between Monroe and Grace Kelly in character, at least publicly, in the sense that she was a sexy blonde bombshell, but also had more of Kelly’s class and reserve. Perhaps more of a studio imposed decision, her signature colour was a soft lavender purple. Her blonde tones were touched with gentle purple highlights. Her whole apartment was decorated in purple, and her clothes were shades of lavender and lilac.
While I couldn’t imagine choosing all white everything in my home, like Marilyn Monroe insisted on, I love this idea of having a wardrobe where things all match, and I think that’s why this idea of having a signature colour kind of appeals. Everything would go with everything, which certainly isn’t the case for me right now. Shopping decisions and what to wear all becomes a lot easier. But at the same time, I do love just buying something because I like it, without having to think too hard about if I have things I can wear it with. I usually do, anyway. I think I’m more of a style chameleon though, and I like to wear pastels and soft knits one day, and dark jeans, red lips and smokey eyes the next. I’m not sure if one signature shade would work out for me.
But I do seriously love Mansfield’s Pink Palace. I really want that pink car and a heart shaped bath (seriously, Google her house, it’s really something!). It’s just such a fun idea. But maybe, rein it in a little on the shag pile carpeting…