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The American Dream
....where the streets are paved with gold
Americans, naturally, seem have all things starry in their very blood. Ever since the promiscuous elegance of Tinseltown was born, with its unique breed of all star glamour (think Harlow, Bacall, Monroe) and a marked weakness for sparkle and sinuous dresses, few are the numbers who don’t automatically think ‘Hollywood’ when they think hard-core glamour.
Loved for the dazzling power of its ability to make the screen sirens seem that little bit more like bonafide angels, white and pale hues have remained the perfect choice for goddesses. Though - naturally - these ladies were more likely to be out raging on the town and not taking too kindly to propriety, smoking like they were born to do it, and falling (literally) derriere over heels for all the baddest boys, thus undoing much of the studio’s efforts. Such effortlessly screen-eating outfits are tricky to track down in good nick, but a brace of diamonds and a bias cut dress always works by night. Off duty, they could be found in lean jeans or Capri pants paired with seersucker tops, undone hair and white heels.
Of all the cache of American looks however, it is probably the indigenous LA knockouts who transcend eras to be the legendary figures of lust (for both male and the gentler sexes). The timeless ‘pancakes for breakfast and plaid shirt thieves from the fella’ styling’s combine just the right touch of earthbound star, and thoughtless sexiness. Possessed by an inner vamp; 40s halter-necked romper suits, loose luxe dresses in lace (and preferably slashed to the navel), Halston, cherry-pop red and salt-washed denim with silly-high heels; the LA ladies have always mixed a youthful laissez faire attitude with innate Pin Up girl cheek - that perhaps hid the heartbreak of a life lived in pursuit of the dream.
But onto happier matters. And this is a country with ‘happiness’ written into its very constitution. It is rare to find a woman sans some form of denim in her closet, and the perpetual adoration of jeans shows no signs of waning. Born, not in the USA, but in deepest France – Nimes, to be exact, near Genoa, hence Jeans – such rough and ready threads were originally exclusive to militia fatigues, then fields, finally finding their way to hicktowns across the states. Whilst saddle sore Cowboys and girls cottoned onto the salient benefits of a good bit of denim in protecting their assets, they also wore them ’til the point of threadbare, thus inadvertently inspiring generations to adopt the loveworn look, and Bowie to pen a ditty. In black for the rockers, white for the rockers’ wives/groupies, sun bleached for the West Coast, and with the prospect of living a lifestyle wilder than the winds - deepest indigo for the Prairie or Canyon folk.
Jeans embody the heart of the American spirit. Humble and warm, whether tight natty late Fifties or early Sixties drainpipes or beautifully cut 70s flares, they are wholesome yet knowing, ever resonant of a common touch of the extraordinary - and herein lies their charm. Not just for being such inadvertently sultry attire, but the actual fact that they were fit to chase said dreams up the Rockies, on horseback, Mustang or upon the nearest ascendant star, and every girl likes something that is both pretty and practical.
Though most American sweethearts have displayed a debilitating fondness for their patriotic stars/spangle and a penchant for trussing up like a veritable Las Vegas Casino (see Monroe again – in particular the teasing elbow-length gloves, tart pink dress, diamonds and peroxide – or the slightly more edgy trash-couture of a tushy-grazing cocktail frock matched by big hair, pout and dirty Martini), they are also unafraid to get down and dirty with it (ye-haw!). Or, at the very least, knock back the Bourbon and wail the blues. Quite an easy look to imitate. An old favourite of mine, in fact.
The prettiest, innocuous Prairie girl poplin skirts were hitched up to reveal kick-ass boots (and more than a scandalous patch of, erm...ankle) and such Saloon-meets-showgirl feathery festoons make a credent showcase for the belligerent, gutsy American broad’s being so seemingly carefree, yet heart-breakingly delicate at the centre. It also made many a contrived attire seem bloodless beside it. Fringing; be it in downy soft leather, puckish suede or that particular breed of adorable softest cotton the stateside plantations seem to produce; is gorgeous in its movement and restless freedom.
The fronds found tailing the edge of rodeo girl shawls to Woodstock waistcoats – with nought underneath, natch – also nod to the indigenous wild cool of the Native American beauties. With such mother courage and tender hope woven into the every thread, bead, rhinestone, boot and button, oh say, yes we can see.