White House Decor Then & Now

This is a picture of the Yellow Oval Room in the White House during the all-too-brief Kennedy years. Tradition dictates that the walls stay yellow in this room, and that there be some of those white-legged French Provincial chairs and tables. Here’s how Jackie tricked the place out.

yellow-oval-room-kennedy-yrs

I know she had a great eye and all but I’m really not wild about this look. To my eye the yellow in the wall covering is too coercively cheerful somehow.  To me it looks like a house in Palm Beach circa 1960, maybe that very Kennedy house where Teddy, old enough to know better, wandered around half-dressed, before waking up his two nephews to get them to accompany him back to the bars when they were both in their beds and half asleep. And really couldn’t you almost curse just anticipating how you’d catch your foot on those spindly glass-topped occasional tables?

So that was the Yellow Oval Room as the 34th president and Jackie arranged it.

Now here’s that same room the way the 44th president and Michelle have set it up:

Obama White House As Home

Of course we see it from a different angle with the three windows in view and that makes it more appealing right there. But I so much prefer this buttery yellow, and the particular green of the window treatments and the sofas – and of course the deep sherry colors in the carpeting and velvet chairs. It all makes me want to take a bite, just like when I see a freshly scooped bowl of Mocha Almond ice cream – yum!

I’ll admit I had to smile at one thing though: the sight, flanking that center window, of the two candelabra, each teetering atop a slender pedestal. Weren’t Sasha and Malia just little girls when they moved in here in 2008? When my youngest was barely two, he took his little white baby shoes on walkabout, ending up in our living room where an immense Boston fern perched, regal as the Queen Mother, on a mahogany fern stand. The minute he went in there, we heard a whooshing sound followed by a muffled crash. The whole rest of the family tore into the room – where our baby boy, in his uncertain Diaper-bottomed stance, turned toward us eyebrows in the air and lisped out one of the few phrases he had learned. “Just kidding?” he lisped hopefully. That flouncy old dowager of a fern was never the same.

Now let’s go back in time and see what patrician Jackie told the TV audience when she gave that famous White House tour in 1962.  And if you don’t have time for that, check out Vaughn Meader impersonating JFK at a press conference during which his pretend wife Jackie also raises a questions. You might as well laugh as cry in life, and I hope Vaughn Meader felt that way too, even if his career doing send-ups of the Kennedy family came to a crashing halt on that fateful November day in ’63.

 

 

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Richard Nixon in a Wig

My cousin thought that was a picture of my wet bottom on the plane – see here – but that could never be me, and not only because it’s practically impossible to take a picture of your own backside.

It couldn’t be my bottom because I would never wear shorts on a plane.

Why not? Because I’m older than faxing, that’s why.

I may even be older than office photocopying. Wait let me check…. YUP. WAY older than office photocopying!

And when you’re old in this way you wouldn’t dream of wearing shorts when you fly. Instead you sort of dress up, a little, even today.

In the old days when a lady flew, she wore not just a skirt and heels but often a hat – a hat! And little white gloves, natch.

I just came across a few photos of me in my senior year of high school on a trip my family and I took to Our Nation’s Capital, which is what we called it back then.

I’m wearing the get-up I flew down in – well minus the hat because now we were touring around, in our high heels and our skirts and it was like 90 degrees although it was only April.

My mom had on this shawl-collared coat in fake cashmere. My sister Nan looked like Grace Kelly. And I looked like Richard Nixon if he dressed up as a woman.

Also a little like Imogene Coca. Remember her?

The point is we made this big effort and we made it because that was the expectation placed upon women: that we’d smile, and be charming and stoke male egos in all places and at all times. I remember weakling down a street when I was just 17, homesick, far from my family, getting plumper by the minute on the Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding Dinners the college kept serving us, accompanied by buttery homemade rolls and followed by puddings and thick chocolate cakes. I was dawdling along the street minding my business when a guy around 35 passed and said to me in this really nasty voice, “SMILE for God’s sake!”

It was the “click” moment for me all right, when the personal became the political, just like our Gloria described 40 years ago.

God bless Gloria! God Bless the Women’s Movement I say! And, sisters, if someone asks if you’re a feminist you just tell them, “You can bet the farm on it BABE! ”

Get the Good Bra

We’re talkin’ the old days here, or we were yesterday. Back then I was built along the lines of Madmen’s Joan Harris, but it didn’t last long. Life has since sanded off a lot of that padding, which is fine with me.

I mean I’m not thin like the girl modeling the baby doll top from yesterday: the fattest thing about her is her belt buckle.  My situation is that even though I have been going to Weight Watchers for five years now I have yet to reach my lifetime goal even though we inched that goal up ten pounds to accommodate My Changing Body. (There’s a catalog with a name like that and it sets my teeth on edge. It’s for us older gals.)

If I’m skinny-looking at all I’m the keep-the lights-low-while-in-a-bathing-suit kind; the Skinny-With Cellulite kind and hey, why can’t that be a look?

But I’m not here to talk about my personal architecture.

I’m here to talk about bras.

And the best advice you can get about a bra is: SPEND THE MONEY. GET A GOOD ONE.

One of my daughters talked me into going to the Really Good Bra store once and then there was no turning back.

What they tell you at such a store is:

·         You may have all kinds of upholstery around your torso but what they measure is the size of your rib cage. They take that measuring tape and they s-q-u-e-e-ze until they can feel your bones, sunk under there like Lost Atlantis. They write that number down, take a glance at what you’ve got up front and come back with a bunch of bras that make you want to laugh out loud. They said I was a 32 bandwise, me, a person who has to head for the XL’s when it comes to tops.

·         The front of the bra has to touch your sternum. If it gaps out there, you need a bigger cup.

·         You have to clasp it low on your back for maximum lift in the front.

·         You have to bend forward way as you ease the thing on.

·         You can’t ever to put these babies in the washing machine and finally…

·         You have to come back to the Fancy Bra Store and keep buying bras there because costly as they might be, they certainly do do the job.

Save your pennies therefore. A picture is worth a thousand words, isn’t that what they say?

Get the bra that fits.

Always get the good bra:

Kill the Babydolls

See this look? I am now officially done with this look.

They ushered it in a few years ago but come on: We’re going to go back to wearing baby clothes? I mean this chick is skinny but most of us look like we’re in total baby clothes when we wear tops like this.

Or wait are they actually maternity tops?

Some of us remember the days when maternity clothes looked like baby clothes, smocking and all.

I look at pregnant women today with their form fitting t-shirts and think Good for you, kid! Let it show!”

Some of us are old enough to remember baby doll pajamas which looked like this.

And how about baby doll dresses? Peggy Olson appears in such a dress on Mad Men’s Season 5 Episode 7. She wears it to the dinner her boyfriend asks her to when she imagines he’s going to pop the question. (He pops the question all right only it turns out to be, as Joan later puts it, “Want to shack up?”)

It galled me to see her in that dress. Here she is getting so tough this season, drinking at work with the fellas and not batting an eye when that moron who does the art makes yet another reference to his private parts and now she shows up dressed like a child?

What was that in the 60s?

I’ll tell you what it was: it was an effort to infantilize us, make us into little sex kittens (minus the claws, minus the fangs) at a time when we were slowly but inexorably gaining power.

Nice try fellas. It worked, but only for a while. True, in the 70s we dressed like extras from Little House on the Prairie but then came power suits in the 80s. I’m not sure where we’ve gone since then; we can look at that another day. For now though let’s just regard these images and ask ourselves What on EARTH were we thinking? When I got married women 60 came to the wedding dressed like this! I was 21 and I knew enough to stay away from the look.

I was built more along the lines of Madman’s curvy Joan, so I stayed away from this look back in good old 20th century….

…So what on earth made me fall for it in the 21st?