Monday, June 16, 2008

Think Pink!

You may not be startled to know that I have a weirdly associative mind. It's a fine line between that and aphasia, I know, but so far I've managed to keep it in check. Nonetheless, the sight of a battered, dirty, pink-flowered hat seen in the window of a Cairo junk shop this morning immediately called up one phrase: it was, underneath the dust and ravages of time, Mamie Pink, that strident yet creamy shade that so dominated 50s fashion and design. And thus, inevitably, Mamie Eisenhower.

She had the most vulgar first name for a first lady since the surprisingly butch "Lou" Hoover (and not really fair to say, since there were only Eleanor and Bess, such prissy names, in between). There's something distinctly downmarket about "Mamie," as opposed to the more flamboyant Mame; the former calls to mind Mamie Van Doren, and the latter, of course, Mame Dennis.

It's no accident that Claude and Doris Upson, the odious stand-ins for all things babbitty and dreadful, insist on calling Mame Dennis "Mamie" - it sets them apart, immediately, as the middle-class drones they are.

Still, she had a little more style than legend has it:

Even if her trademark bangs weren't uniformly successful:

She had a kind of grandmotherly appeal that you don't see often anymore (and when you do, it's usually cloaking a horrendous, all-devouring Mommie type like Barbara Bush):

She was a supremely practical lady, concerned with the contents of her larder:

(I think one source of my fascination is that this is exactly but exactly how my maternal grandmother used to dress.)

And she kept rather good company:

Is it possible that the two gentleman who have chosen to accompany the ladies over to the Smithsonian are J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson? What a party that must have made...

I suppose it should have been a hint to my poor beleaguered parents that when we went to Washington when I nine, the only thing I wanted to see in the whole city was the Smithsonian's exhibition of First Ladies Gowns. Mamie's is there, of course; and of course, it's pink - Mamie Pink.


  1. Did we have the same grandmother? I remember that dress, those beads, I'm pretty sure I even know the scent Mamie was wearing.

  2. Is that the white house fallout shelter?

    She was quite the trend setter wasn't she? Pink and green, I believe, wasn't it?

  3. The scent? I would assume it was a subtle yet heady combination of Jean Naté bath salts and "Evening in Paris."

  4. I think in that last shot, they're all with the Queen Mother or perhaps at the time, she was Queen. So, 3 Queen and Mamie, GIN!