March 5, 2014 | Comments Off on Roommate Dresses | Betsy Woodman
Lee and I aren’t twins, but my mom often dressed us in matching outfits, sometimes even cut from the same cloth as her own dress.
Left to right: Ruth, Betsy with dog, Everett, Jane, Lee. Chennai, 1953.
Here, still in Chennai, we’re flanking Jane, who has graduated from rompers to a pinafore. “How’d I get here?” she seems to be saying, “between these two bodyguards?”
At this point in our lives, our mother chose our clothes, but Lee and I did not object. There is something fun about matching duds, no matter how old you are.
During my sophomore year at Woodstock School, roommate dresses suddenly became the rage. The fad started with the eleventh and twelfth graders and worked its way down, and soon Faiz Mohammed, the darzi, had his hands full with orders. Every Saturday morning, he came to the dormitory, where a line of girls would be waiting for him with the cloth they’d bought the week before in the bazaar.
Consulting with Faiz, we picked out styles from old Sears Roebuck catalogs, requested modifications (rounded collar instead of pointed, extra trim, or whatever), and submitted to having hips, waist, and “shelf” measured.
Though Madras cotton plaids were the fabric of choice, my roommate, Jan, and I picked out a loosely woven brown check that was inexpensive even by the standards of the day—about eight annas a yard, roughly $.10 in American currency.
Fashion dictated that our dresses be worn over flouncy net crinolines; when the wind picked up a skirt, the world got a glimpse of white ruffles, like a bunch of carnations.
That year, our roommate dresses made quite a fashion statement–and a sense of celebration–at the annual Woodstock School sale.
Back, left to right: Mary S., Bunny W., Barbara G., Nancy C., me, Jan
Front: Sally Beth F, Mary Lou B., Carol M.