|Mary Baldwin College, 1988. Image from Flickr.|
I was rather tickled by the vintage photo above when an alert reader pointed me to the Flickr album I found it in a few months ago. Besides being adorable in its own right, it was also validating. It reminded me of the practical simplicity of an age-old classic I wear all the time, but seldom give much thought to: the Lands' End "Squall" jacket.
|Egad, do I really look like this? Needless to say, I don't rock the article nearly as well.|
Sadly, this appreciation comes as the realization dawns that my intrepid 1996 model, virtually identical to the one our heroine above is wearing, is probably on its last legs.
Squall is still available, sort of. But somehow, it just doesn't seem quite the same. Maybe I'm being too picky, or maybe it's the way it's presented on LE's website, but today's version, like so many things, looks very different. Moreover, it's not available in that all-important shade of teal.
|Kelly green. Close, but not quite close enough.|
Of the many traditional preppy brands which have sold out to one degree or another, none have wandered quite so far off the reservation as Lands' End. It's particularly sad when I recall my teenage memories of the LE catalogs we started getting around 1984. Many of the wares were nearly identical to L.L. Bean's, but the layout was, for want of a better word, a lot less stuffy. One image that stands out in retrospect was of a great-looking but easily related-to female model very much like the MBC student above, in a red-striped oxford shirt, set against a sunny background of trees, with the product's inherent versatility set forth in simple, elegant prose: "Dresses up with a blazer, or down with a pair of jeans." As late as 1990, the LE books were chock-full of traditional wool blazers, awning-stripe rugbies in every color imaginable (but always with white collars), and intelligent-looking models with their collars up doing fun things like playing touch football and throwing frisbees amid stands of birch trees. What I wouldn't give to have some of those catalogs back today!
|A 1983 LE ad from Life magazine. Take special note of the copy, the irony of which will become apparent in a moment.|
Unfortunately, about ten years ago a new vocabulary began to creep into the Lands' End lexicon that was unnervingly like that which one might hear in one of Oprah's "makeover" segments. Over time, they have taken it upon themselves to single-handedly "update the classics," or to put it more bluntly, rewrite the Handbook--particularly for women. Today, an average visit to their website looks something like this.
|Is this layer actually supposed to protect you from something, other than the cardinal sin of wearing a belt?|
|The word "tunic" should never, ever appear in a Lands' End or L.L. Bean circular...or preferably, anywhere.|
|So much for the 1980s aversion to tufts and ruffles. This is a great look for the grown woman who wants to look like she's 7.|
But I digress. In truth, the ship is not totally lost. This waterproof, fleece-lined jacket from L.L. Bean looks like a viable alternative to Squall. My pal Anne has one in about this shade of blue and it's most fetching...even if it isn't "Cut To Flatter A Woman's Curves."TM I might have to lay one of these in for next winter. Still no teal...but beggars can't be choosers.
Using my female friends for style muses? In the truly preppy universe, that's how it's supposed to be.