David Bruce: Anecdotes About Clothing

For a while, Allen Pinkerton and his wife, Joan, lived in Montreal, Canada, but soon Mr. Pinkerton had earned enough money to buy them passage on a ship sailing through the Great Lakes to Chicago, Illinois. He wanted to leave that very day, but Joan told him that she had put a down payment on a hat and she wanted to wait for a few days so she could buy the hat and take it to Chicago. Mr. Pinkerton ranted for a while, and then he gave in and agreed to stay in Montreal for a few more days. It’s a good thing the Pinkertons stayed. The ship they would have sailed on sank with total loss of life after a boiler exploded. Thereafter, Mr. Pinkerton agreed that his wife could do as she liked about bonnets.

Early in the career of photographer Margaret Bourke-White, she had little money to spend on clothing. Her professional clothing consisted of one grey suit, with red accessories and blue accessories. She alternated the use of the red accessories and the blue accessories, and she kept notes of what she was wearing when she met with customers. If she had worn the red accessories the last time she met a particular customer, she made sure to wear the blue accessories the next time she met that particular customer.

Julie-Anna Asriyan, an Armenian, used to live in Azerbaijan at a time when there was great hostility between the Armenians and the Azeris. She and her family used to go to bed at night with all their clothes on, so if there was an emergency — such as a firebombing or a gang of thugs breaking and entering into their home — they could leave quickly and still have clothes to wear. Fortunately, Julie-Anna and her family emigrated to New York City, where they now feel safe.

Exploding boots are a hazard for Antarctic scientists. Before going to Antarctica, scientists are outfitted with big, warm boots known as bunny boots. These boots have air bladders on their side — the air provides an important layer of insulation against the cold. If the valves of the air bladders are closed as one flies to Antarctica, and if the air pressure inside the airplane changes rapidly, the boots can explode.

In early 1954, Marilyn Monroe, while on her honeymoon with Joe DiMaggio, went to Korea to entertain the troops. Although snow was falling during part of her performance, she chose to be glamorous rather than warm and wore an evening gown instead of a coat. She was well received, and later she said, “I felt as warm as if I were standing in a bright sun. I felt for the first time in my life no fear of anything.”

On November 22, 1963, Jackie Kennedy wore a pink suit and matching pink pillbox hat in Dallas. President John F. Kennedy looked at her and joked, “Why is it no one cares what Lyndon [Baines Johnson, the Vice President] and I wear?” Later that day, Mrs. Kennedy stood beside Mr. Johnson as he was sworn in as President of the United States. She was still wearing the pink suit — which was now bloodstained.

The Japanese ninjas were masters of camouflage, which they learned as the art of invisibility. While working at night, they wore black clothing. While working among rocks, they wore grey clothing. While working in snow, they wore white clothing. While working in a forest, they wore green clothing. Often, the clothing they wore was reversible, so they could switch to another color if needed.

For a while in her career as a jockey, Julie Krone was racing for several hours a day. Waking up at dawn, she worked horses in the morning, raced at Monmouth Park in New York in the afternoon, and then raced at Atlantic City in New Jersey in the evening. At night, when she went to bed, she tucked her socks and pant legs into her boots, so she could dress more quickly and save time.

Marie Curie, two-time winner of the Nobel Prize, was very practical. When she got married to her husband, Pierre, she did not buy a white wedding dress that could be worn only once. Instead, she wore a navy gray suit — she deliberately chose a color that would not show dirt — that she could wear in the laboratory later.

In the early 1930s, Mahatma Gandhi had tea with King George V of England. Gandhi wore his regular skimpy clothing made from handwoven cotton, shocking a reporter who asked if he had been wearing enough clothing. Smiling, Gandhi replied, “The King was wearing enough for both of us.”

When Robert Louis Stevenson, author of “Treasure Island,” sailed the South Pacific, he visited Apemama, where he met King Tembinok’, who ruled three islands. The King’s dress was notable — he wore such things as red drawers, green velvet coats, flowered neckties, and evening dresses.

Players in the All American Girls Professional Baseball League were true originals. Visiting teams in Minneapolis to play the Millerettes sometimes washed their underwear, and then hung it up to dry in the windows of the Sheraton Hotel, only to be scolded by the Sheraton management.

While serving time in prison for his role in protesting apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela and the other black prisoners were forced to wear shorts, even in very cold weather, although white prisoners could wear long pants.

Native American beadwork can be very complex. Contemporary Native American Dale Tex, a member of the Western Mono tribe, once made a belt for his wife, Julie — the belt was made of 18,000 beads!

On the “Hollywood Squares,” quizmaster Peter Marshall asked gay comedian Paul Lynde, “Why are motorcyclists always wearing leather?” Mr. Lynde replied, “Because chiffon wrinkles so easily.”

Early in her career, Totie Fields met Sophie Tucker, who advised her to spend every penny on her stage wardrobe. The next time Ms. Tucker saw Ms. Fields, she said, “Perfect!”

Rhythm and blues superstar Aretha Franklin wears what she likes. Sometimes, she goes to work in a limousine, wearing a mink coat — over top of her T-shirt and jeans.

 © 2015, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved

Free PDF book: Honey Badger Goes to Hell — and Heaven by David Bruce


Free PDF book: William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure: A Retelling in Prose by David Bruce


Romance Books by Brenda Kennedy (Some Free)


“Closets are for Clothes.” — Gay T-shirt Slogan.

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