I wear black, and I wear black, and I wear black– end of story of my fashionable colour wheel.
I think it began as a parental revolt issue. When my mother came home from her hospital stays she would make me a lot of red clothes. Bernice Ethylene Crittenden Knight made dresses out of red plaid, red prints, red cotton, and yes, red velvet at Christmas.
According to Bernice aka Bunny, I couldn’t argue with Audrey Hepburn. The movie star said in the Ladies Home Journal that there was a shade of red for every woman. Really Audrey? Really? As Karl Lagerfeld once said, ”trendy is the last stage before tacky”.
When my Grandmother looked after me I wore brown. It was a colour according to Mary Louise Deller Knight that screamed stability, solid, reliability, and especially dependability.
Never underestimate the power of a Grandmother with a sewing machine. She worked that hand crank Singer like a Formula 1 driver until she died. Offers of a fancy new one from the Eaton’s catalogue went unheeded, and she just kept on sewing like she thought it was a power tool with thread.
One Friday night she went down the street to HASHIMS on South Street and bought 10 yards of sturdy brown corduroy that was on sale. I was shuddering knowing full well who was going to be the benefactor of that purchase.
How lovely that brown corduroy jumper looked on me with the oversize corduroy bow stuck at the centre of the empire waist. Oh Mary, could you not hear my gasps??? “Gathering” on corduroy that ended up looking like an earthquake fault? Really?
I swear my fashion memories of the first 40 years of my childhood are the absolute worst. Now wearing black gives me great comfort as life feels better in black, and in reality, I’m already dressed for my own funeral. By the way I’m also going to swallow a bag of popcorn kernels on my very last day to go along with my black attire. My cremation is going to be epic!
February 15, 2008
In Grade 8 we had monthly school dances at Cowansville High School. We had girls in our High School that would look fantastic with a potatoe sack on them. Me? I was the potatoe sack. The IT girls would run down to the bathroom the night of the dance on a mission giggling their heads off. Immediately, they would throw off something their mother made them wear and underneath would be some tight sheath or skirt they would never be allowed to wear.
How do you compete with that?
Beauty, smarts, and potatoe sack friendly bodies.
I think I became some sort of fashion legend or joke, as every month I would design an unusual outfit and wear it to the dance. When I think back, some of my designs were downright horrendous, and that’s being polite. I mean, they were so awful they would fail the GLAMOUR MAGAZINE DO’S AND DONT’S. I fondly remember a black and white dress made out of cotton broadcloth with a 6 inch white crocodile teeth hem trim. Do you know how long it took me to sew each triangle on that hem? Basically, I created a catalogue of disasters to entertain the rural sprawl.
Granny dresses came into style in Grade 8 and the style guaranteed to button up and cover everything but my head and hands and maybe turn a few heads. It was a style first embraced by the flower-children for its romantic illusions and simple form and it alluded to a distant past, before Little House on the Prairie. There was no way a floor length cotton number was going to tolerated in Cowansville, Quebec, population 4500.
I told a few of my friends I was going to make a Granny Dress for the next dance.They were nothing but horrified, and Judy Clough bet me 10 cents (big money in those times ladies and gentlemen) that I would never do it.
Of course I made one! The dress had a floral empire bodice and matching plain blue floor duster skirt. Friends don’t let friends leave the house with bad accessories, and what I was wearing under this dress still makes me laugh. It cost me $8.00 to make the dress, therefore there was no money left over for decent footwear so I had to wear my Zellers plastic go go boots. I spent the night trying to hide those boots that Melissa Gilbert would have definitely not worn with her settler dress.
There isn’t a week that I don’t remember that outfit, or the other ones I made. But, no use dwelling upon it because– spending your adulthood trying to fix your childhood is like taking a shoe that you wore as a toddler and trying to force it on your foot.
Lin Longtin— You know, I remember some of your outfits and thought they were terrific and original. I envied your cool taste and sewing skills. Took me a whole school year to make an apron.
Feb. 25th, 2008 at 4:49 PM
I was not a student, nor was I destined to be one during my life. I didn’t care for school, and school didn’t care for me. I knew what I wanted to be, and my career of choice was to be a fashion designer and ulitmately my Anne Jeffries paper dolls agreed with me.
Not content to have Anne just wear her standard issued clothes I created that “paper woman” one heck of a wardrobe. Bunny, seeing her daughter had some minor talent entered me in my Cowansville Brownies group’s Doll Dressing Contest. I had to make a unique dress for my doll and I thought she should have a pale blue sheath dress with tons of white lace ruffles at the shoulders. Of course it should all be trimmed in sequins. I quickly sketched it for my Anne Jeffries paper doll and my mother and I nodded in agreement.
One week went by, two weeks went by, and there had been no action at the sewing machine. Mrs. Wilson, our neighbour, kept telling my mother that I was never going to finish it, and I knew she was darn right. So Bernice Ethylene Crittenden Knight got fed up with her daughter and made the whole thing.
Never saying a word to anyone, I displayed my doll with the fabulous outfit amongst a slew of dolls and thought I was a shoe in.
Did I win? I think not.
As they were examining each doll one by one I heard Mrs. Wilson as they stopped in front of mine say in a loud booming voice,
“Linda didn’t make that her mother did!”
The truth tripped me up that day and I thought I was going to sink into the ground. From that day on, I was always truthful— as if it doesn’t come from your lips, it will sure will come from someone else’s–especially your neighbours.
At age 17 my dream came true and I became a fashion designer and continued on for another 35 years or so. I became the “Spandex Queen of Ottawa” and created the “one size clothing fits all.” Like my doll clothing designing days, my “one size fits all days” has also made me see the repercussions of my actions. Lies….
Just because it says one size, does not mean your over-sized body can wear it!
November 18, 2017
Remembering Nash the Slash
(this wasn’t meant to be but after Lost Ottawa’s post it has become part of it).
There were lots of musicians that signed the Wall of Shame in my store Flash Cadilac, and I think I have a story about each one of them. But the person I remember most and miss was the eccentric but incredibly talented musician Nash the Slash.
In 1978 my friends Bernie and Marion brought me to the now late legendary Black Swan on Rideau Street in Ottawa. I had no idea what I was about to see, but I was promised a real treat. I remember I had on a huge Victorian ruffle style coat with a Snow White collar made out of white PVC. Bernie remarked that I had chosen the right outfit for the concert and I had no clue what he meant until the curtain went up. The whole stage was decorated in white shiny PVC vinyl like my coat and I was on the edge of my seat in anticipation.
All of a sudden a man looking much like The Invisible Man in a white tuxedo and top hat graced the stage. As soon as the first notes of his electric mandolin pierced the air I was hooked and in love with his originality. His name was Nash the Slash and he began as a solo artist in 1975 and then founded the band FM. He plays an electric mandolin and violin but also plays keyboards and the glockenspiel. His music moved me so much I had goosebumps up and down my arms for the whole show.
I wrote him a letter after the concert and asked him if he would visit my store the next time he was in town to sign autographs. Sure enough he had someone contact me that he would indeed grace my store and would like to cut up a side of beef with a chainsaw in my store window. Linda being Linda thought this would be the performance art gig of the century.
Thanks Lost Ottawa for remembering James Jeffrey “Jeff” Plewman (March 26, 1948 – May 10, 2014), better known by his stage name Nash the Slash.
March 3, 2008 1:56 AM
I still have my original crimping iron from the first day of the “Regretful Hair Styles 80s” era. It is the colour of pink candy floss and works better than anything new on the market. When it comes to crazy hair and makeup, no decade trumps the 1980s– but throwing this crimping iron out is out of the question at this point in my life.
I also used to also have a vintage Marcel iron in my hair styling repertoire that I found in my Grandparent’s barn on South Street in Cowansville, Quebec. Vintage curling irons were heated on the fire or the stove for the most part, so I used my grandmother’s wood stove to warm it up. I was warned never curl your hair with a vintage curling iron as they are dangerous and you can burn your hair off, and might even singe your scalp. Each time I used it my grandmother would get hysterical and tell me to be careful.
Mary Louise Deller Knight got her first perm when she immigrated to Canada and it really didn’t go very well. My Grandmother kept telling the hairdresser her hair hurt under one of those over-sized dryers and no one listened. It was a sad day after that my friends. Mary loved to control everything in her life, and sad to say you can’t. That’s why hair was put on your head to remind you of that very thing. So after they lifted the lid, a lot of Mary’s hair fell out and eventually grew back very thinly.
Mary tried every potion and lotion known to man and finally she gave up, and that’s when Eva Gabor came into her life. They always say that beauty comes from inside– inside a hair salon actually– and we would make quarterly trips to Montreal to buy her wigs and I never ever discussed it. When she asked me questions about certain styles I chose my words very wisely—until her golden years. That’s when she plopped those wigs on her head sideways, backwards, and any other position known to man, and someone had to tell her. She made me promise if she died to make sure her wig was on straight which I did. Dead or alive– you need to look like you are not having a bad hair day, as after all no one is looking at your shoes.
Mar. 14th, 2008 at 12:13 PM
When I was a young lass I found it a challenge to compete fashion-wise with drifting snow. Fashionistas will know that “dashing through the snow” was completely out of the question with street couture.
For as long as I can remember I have loved huge billowing “dragging on the ground and get them all muddy skirts”. Not being able to really get that fullness making them from scratch, I would resort to buying old wedding and evening dresses from the thrift stores and cut off the bodice. In all honesty I probably couldn’t fit into the top part, but you can really make that skirt “your size” by whacking off a few inches.
My favourite was a 50’s wedding dress that I bought at Neighbourhood Services for about $9.99. The skirt was the width and depth of a small condominium and I wore it with a black blazer that I sewed strands and strands of white decorating pearls all over it. I completed the look with a men’s black top hat that I had added about 5 yards of matching bridal illusion to the back of it and of course a stuffed white dove on the side of the hat. It was not only a great fashion statement, but I also wore it plowing on occasions.
After I drove the kids to school I would plow some of the neighbours yards after a big snowfall. I loved sitting tall in the huge pickup and feeling the force of the plow going up and down. It was a real adrenaline rush.
Sometimes my outfits would get in the way, but NEVER EVER sacrifice fashion to the weather was my motto.The kids and their friends thought I was such a hoot doing this that they wrote the words MRS. PLOW on the side of the truck. That was my badge of honour.
One day I was plowing near where the kid were playing and I went out to check the area for safety’s sake first. A gust of wind knocked my top hat off and I quickly scooped it up and slapped it back on my head. As I raised the plow slowly I noticed that perched right on the top of the plow was that darn life size dove that had fallen off from from my hat.
The kids were in hysterics. One kid said to my son,
“You know my mum thinks your mum is a little strange but I think she is kinda cool”
Then they all chimed in with a rousing chant of:
“MRS. PLOW, MRS. PLOW”
With a tip of the hat, adjusting the billowing net skirt, and foot on the gas, Mrs. Plow drove off to her next ‘job’ thinking there is never a perfect outfit, but there are always perfect intentions.
Jun. 10th, 2008 at 12:00 AM
Everything is just in your head they always say– stop worrying. But, in all honesty I am, and will always be, petrified of water.
My sister and I would ride paddle boats in the middle of Brome Pond as teenagers and I would scream my head off. She would rock that boat back and forth knowing full well that I was worried some Eastern Townships Loch Ness monster was hiding under all that seaweed in the middle of the lake.
I hid my fear for years until one fateful evening at the local drive in. Yes girls and boys, JAWS was playing in all its glory up on the big screen. Zar, my German Shepherd, was sitting in the back seat and not feeling too well. He and my stepmother’s Yorkshire Terrier Trudy had conspired that day and eaten the Easter ham. The only one that had probably been baking on Miltimore Road that day.
Trudy weighing all but 8 pounds had been the mastermind behind THE HAM INCIDENT. She looked at him, he looked at her, and they knew that he was the only one tall enough to grab the honey baked ham cooling on the counter. We all came home from church and there they say sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor looking guilty as sin and a ham bone in between them.
So with ten pounds of fermenting ham inside Zar he belched all the way back from Bromont to Ottawa to the Carling Ave. Drive-in. Immediately I knew it had been a mistake to view JAWS, no doubt about it. The dog’s belches continued and I was grabbing my seat knowing full well nothing good was going to come to those people frolicking in the water. Couldn’t they hear the music?
The music suddenly got louder and Zar’s belches seemed to get more intense. Just when that darn shark chomped someone’s leg off Zar threw up all over the back seat. He seemed to smile after that, while the rest of us had looks of horror on our faces.
The fear seemed to come back ten fold the very next day at Lac Philippe. I could not go farther than my ankles as I was petrified because Roy Scheider was not there to save me. Never mind trying to find a bigger boat as Roy kept saying, I had no boat.
Water horror movies came and went after that, and I always went to see them. I guess I wanted to know to the full extent of what was going to happen to me if I went to an underwater aquarium, or possibly win a cruise on the Poseidon. I still don’t like water, but I tolerate it, and just let everyone float their own boat– as long as it doesn’t sink mine.
Jun. 22th, 2008 at 1:00 AM
One of my favourite times of the summer was when my friend Cindy came down from Montreal once a month to visit my godmother. We used to go swimming at the Cowansville public swimming pool every afternoon and stay there until 4.
There wasn’t a whole lot of serious swimming going on with us. It was more jumping in and out of the pool and trying to avoid the teenage boys who used to cannonball everyone. Sometimes we would sit by the side of the pool and eat pop rocks and drink soda pop defying the urban legend that Little Mikey of LIFE cereal fame died from the explosive effects of mixing Pop Rocks candy with soda pop.
One day my godmother Joan and my mother were standing at the edge of the pool wringing their hands looking like someone had died. Cindy was wrenched out of the pool, whisked away in a towel, and I was left there all by myself and felt that I was invisible.
I asked every day what happened to her and no one would tell me. It was like Russian spy’s had whisked her off the face of the earth and I never saw her again. Years later I found out that she had gotten her first period, and of course in those days it was considered the curse. No swimming, no moving, no smiling, period–and no one spoke about it.
I knew for a fact that strange pieces of white elastic and HUGE blue boxes with the word Kotex were hidden in the back of our linen closet. I also remember my grandmother stopped baking bread and making jam when it was her time of the month. Bread apparently would not rise, nor would jam thicken according to the “higher up” females. I went through PMS and eternal menopause and I still couldn’t make jam– so I have debunked that theory.
I don’t know where all these old wives tales came from and I refuse to spread the “pearls of wisdom” shed by my family. I had so much heartburn during my pregnancies that I was advised that I was going to have a hairy baby that would rival Chewbaca from Star Wars. I didn’t–so here’s my deal on all this bunk.
Life is not a fairy tale, nor is it run by old wives tales. If you lose your shoe at midnight it does not mean your Prince Charming is coming, or anything else your mother or grandmother told you. The only logistics for this one is: it just means you were drunk! But remember if you pull out one grey hair- ten will start greying in its place. That one I can verify! Carry on!
Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read. Also check out The Tales of Carleton Place.
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in The Townships Sun andScreamin’ Mamas (USA)