My mother always wore muumuus to bed. On Saturdays and holidays she might wear them all day.
Although quite unfashionable, they looked comfy as hell. Some were bright like the bird of paradise which blooms in the late summer in my tropical backyard patio. Some were more subdued—perhaps a pale blue with lace around the collar. They were varying lengths but Mom preferred the gowns that graced her firm, meaty calves. In my beloved early 80’s childhood sitcom, Three’s Company, Miss Roper would wear those beacons of comfortable gaudiness like she was Lana Turner, pairing each of them with a classy, plastic bead necklace. She was no Hollywood siren, but she definitely had something right.
Flash forward to the late 90’s. I’m working at a mall photo store with this witch Dani who had it out for me ever since she learned I was ten years younger than her. As I bend over to dust some shelves she starts cackling and pointing at me. “Your panty line is showing and it looks ridiculous!” Appalled I scamper to the restroom and look at my backside in the mirror. The edges of my size 12 panties are visible underneath my geometric-style polyester dress. It does kind of look ridiculous and enhances my already ample rump.
The next day I buy some of those new-fangled thongs everyone’s talking about. Those crotch-scrapers definitely cut down on the panty line factor, but after a month or so I didn’t know which was worse—being embarrassed or in constant pain. So I decided to, as they described it in my beloved college sitcom, Seinfeld, go el Commando.
See the thing about going commando (sans underwear) is that unless you happen to be wearing a dress and walk over an underground fan, it’s really your little secret. That is, unless you start spilling it to your friends because you can’t believe how freeing it is and why the heck didn’t you do this sooner. Why, on Golden Girls, my favorite sitcom of all time, Blanche is well known by her mates that she prefers that liberating feeling.
So this all goes back to the fact that I grew up with a mother who enjoyed being informally relaxed, at least apparel-wise. Thank goodness slips and pantyhose are not a part of our daily modern wardrobe now. Underwear is enough to deal with.
Period pieces, movies set in the 1700’s—I love them. The décor, the thick, wood furniture, the renaissance paintings, the wigs, hats, ornate shoes and dresses—they are a feast to the eyes. But underneath the ever-mysterious centuries-ago garments are the corsets. My wedding dress was a floor-grazing long, cream-colored silk skirt and a corset with about a thousand laces in the back. It was beautiful but after wearing the top half all day (my hairstylist had me wear it in the morning while having my hair done), by the time I walked to the end of the aisle that evening I thought I might pass out. At the end of the festivities when my husband and I were back at the hotel for our first night of bridled passion, the very act of him trying to untie me out of that thing left us both exhausted and describing the awesome sex we would have once we got to the Bahamas and into our island clothes.
In fact, one of the main reasons I vied to move to Florida after less than a year of marriage was so I could wear flip flops every day of the year. Once again, comfort. And in our Florida department store Bealls, there was until a year or so ago, an actual muumuu section. The first time I saw it I laughed and took a photo with my phone. I texted my brother a caption underneath the photo that read, “My form of dress in 20 years”.
Some women wear stilettos, some don corsets. Some prefer skin-tight jeans; others prance around in string-bikinis. I’m not at the muumuu phase yet, but I do have a worn-in polka-dotted cotton dress that I call my “muumuu for my forties”. And unless a gust of wind blows heavy at my hemline, I have a not-so-secret secret that keeps me in total comfort abandonment—all above a pair of luxurious $3 flip flops.