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Pleats and Fleets

Last week, I took a break from treasure-hunting at thrift stores, and allowed myself to splurge at the incredible White Elephant vintage dress sale. It was a beautiful collection of dresses from four different vintage boutiques. Racks were packed with tafetta, sparkles, and all the trimmings of old-school evening wear. Since I won’t be getting remarried or going to a ball any time soon, I opted for something simpler, but every bit as fun. I bought this uh-mazing 1960’s a-line shift. It’s so pink! And so mod! I want to wear it EVERY SINGLE DAY.

A good vintage dress almost begs for some kind of Mad Men tribute, but I’ve sort of done that already. While I love Joan, this isn’t her style, and I don’t have the, erm, assets to pay tribute to her (hint: assets = tatas). This dress doesn’t call out any of the fictional Mad Women, but rather one real-life Mad Woman by the name of Mary Wells Laurence. Who is Mary Wells? A badass, that’s who. Basically, she’s the real-life Peggy Olson and Donald Draper, without all the bitterness and infidelity.

I thought of Mary while watching one of my favourite flicks, Art & Copy, last week. Art & Copy is a fantastic documentary that examines advertising’s creative revolution in the 1960s, and goes on to explore some of the more memorable American ad campaigns of the last five decades. It’s fascinating stuff. It features Mary briefly, and honours the work she created in 60s and 70s. She dominated the male-driven ad industry as female copywriter, dreaming up some of the most iconic ad campaigns of our time (like “I Love New York”). She eventually founded her own successful agency. This dress is a tribute to Mary, and specifically is the work she did for Braniff Airlines in the 60s.

Mary came up with the “The End of the Plain Plane” campaign for Braniff. Elements of the campaign included painting all Baniff’s airplanes pink, orange, yellow, blue, and every other colour under the sun. Stewardesses were outfitted brightly-hued Emilio Pucci uniforms, Alexander Girard designed furniture and textiles for every plane, modern art adorned all the walls. Mary brought fun back to flying. These days, we get all excited about brightly-coloured iPhone cases, but this chick got them the paint a whole fleet of planes rainbow colours. Like I said: badass.

When I wear this dress, I feel like I’m embodying some of the fun and whimsy of Mary’s vision. Heck, I even feel a bit like a Braniff stewardess myself. While being a stewardess in the 60s was likely a life of harassment and objectification, they sure had the aesthetics done right. I’m grateful for trailblazers like Mary who recognize the power of adding some colour and sass once and a while. She brought it to a fleet of planes, I’m bringing it to my pleats of pink. Cheers to you, Mad Mary, and the end of the plain pleats!


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