Some Liked It Hot
December 14, 2009

There’s a funny article in The New Yorker this week about what the audiences – mostly women – have been wearing to see the off-Broadway play Love, Loss, and What I Wore, by Nora and Delia Ephron, adapted from the memoir by Ilene Beckerman. Though the audience members mostly favor “sober chic” ensembles of cashmere  sweaters and dark wool pants, some of them take a walk down fashion-memory lane. My favorite, Jill Leider (identified as a classmate of Nora Ephron’s at Beverly Hills High), laments over the way people dress these days, including her own wool pants in the bargain: ” ‘From Banana Republic,’ she said with disdain. ‘I should have today the clothes I had then.’ ”

From what she told the writer Rebecca Mead, her closet must have been something: “The hot pants! I remember going to La Grenouille in our shorts and boots. At one point I had thirty Courrèges,and as many Puccis. We all did. I wouldn’t have gone to the supermarket then in what I wear to a restaurant now.”

The hot pants! That made me really laugh out loud. For those too young, or pretending to be too young, to remember, these couture shorts were all the rage circa 1971. Not only for the young, but as Ms. Leider accurately remembers, for society ladies who definitely lunched in them as well as danced the night away in evening versions (often with some kind of front-slit overskirt). It was a brief (no pun intended, really) but worldwide phenomenon, from New York (a Kennedy sister or two), to London (Twiggy, duh) to Paris (the sublime Jane Birkin, seen above).

I was a kid in school then and remember a girl in my class – the daughter of the local junior fashion shop owner – who wore a different hot pants get-up every day for the entire spring term – in Omaha! Of course, Americans were quick to see the commercial possibilities of the leggy trend and several airlines in those “Fly Me!” days adopted them as stewardess uniforms, including Southwest. Ready for takeoff!


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