When I saw all the beautiful calico prints strutting down the Ralph Lauren Spring/Summer 2010 show, I was instantly reminded of the simple dressing of America’s hardworking past. Ralph Lauren told a story of an early America paving a road toward its industrial revolution. His collection of fruitful calicos, rugged denim, and masculine blazers looked fit for America’s first pioneers, farmers, miners, and factory workers. The outfits brought to mind images out of my American History books showcasing women in the factories while their men were away at war. These women weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, yet they always looked impeccably distinguished and feminine in their faded calico prints and comfy cotton overalls that were pretty, yet practical for a long day of work.
The key to channeling America’s early transformation from the rural farm to the urban industrialized city is to focus on classic and serious shapes like resilient work jackets over button-front shirts with crisp collars. Sensible vests add a finishing masculine touch. Menswear has never looked so good. For a more feminine take, bring out your charming floral frocks this spring, and pair them with ankle socks and brown leather brogues for a day look that is both historic and modern. To keep from looking too much like an early American school girl, accessorize with modern bags and jewelry. Throwing on a studded rocker bag at the last second keeps you in the year 2010.
Take America’s age-old prints and infuse them with some youth and vitality by wearing them as fashion-forward shapes, in interesting color combinations, paired with edgy accessories. Mix in a masculine element by throwing oversized denim over rows of faded flowers. Or step into the shoes of the old time factory or business man by wearing something crisp and sharp with a rugged newsboy cap and distressed leather belt. All of these individual pieces that remind you of work and function can be worn together for a truly American look. Rosie the Riveter, and generations of independence-driven women, would be proud to know that their original pretty-meets-industrious look is still going strong.
Images courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.