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  • Elizabeth Little

What They Wore: Carla

For the second installment of What They Wore, I talked to my mom who grew up near San Francisco in the 1970s and later worked at the California state capital in in ‘80s. These are a few of her favourite looks from that time.

"[My mom] bought this suit for me at a department store in downtown Vallejo [California] when I was a junior in high school (1978-79) for special occasions. It came with a straight skirt and also matching pants. My Mom liked the skirt better, but I thought the velvet pants were very sophisticated. I wish I had a photo from the first time I wore it to a school dance. I wore it with the pants and heels, and I talked Grandma into doing my hair in a style copied straight from the pages of Seventeen magazine.

(This might be a timely choice, because I've seen lots of celebrities wearing colorful velvet suits in the last few weeks, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jared Leto, Taylor Swift, and Tyra Banks.)"

"White eyelet sundress. 1980 - tiered romantic skirts were having a moment, and I loved eyelet. My mom made this for me (one of several dresses she made me for high school graduation events). The first time I wore it I dropped a piece of pizza face down on the skirt and thought I had ruined it. Thank goodness for bleach!"

"For Grad Night at Disneyland (1980), there was a strict dress code. Girls could only wear pants if they also wore a jacket/blazer with them. I thought this belted jacket seemed very grown-up (although the stuffed Pooh bear probably takes away from that). This suit came with a plaid pleated skirt (I sense a theme of mix and match outfits). I remember wearing it with the skirt to an awards ceremony at school, and one of my teachers asked if I was going to a job interview after. I took this suit with me to college."

"I bought this purple dress the year I graduated from college (1984) to wear to weddings (I had several friends get married that year.) The photo is in [my brother] Greg's bedroom and was an early attempt at a "selfie." I really liked my new dress and how my hair turned out, so I set up a camera with a self-timer to take this picture. This was the day that I met "the lawyer" at the wedding reception who I dated for a few months. It also became one of my first work dresses. The other photo is from a work event when Robert Guillaume (an actor in a TV series about a Lt. Governor) visited the Lt. Governor's office."

"I wore this to a formal holiday dance in San Francisco in December 1984. Since I didn't go to prom in high school, I always thought of this as my "prom moment." Plus, it was the classic dress style for formals and weddings in the 1980s (taffeta or satin, tea length, big sleeves, bright color). I wore a really similar one in royal blue to my roommate Paula's wedding in 1986 when I was a bridesmaid."


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