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Silver Threads: Fest fashions

In addition to scores of great music, Jazz Fest is sure to boast eccentric fashions.

In addition to scores of great music, Jazz Fest is sure to boast eccentric fashions.

One of the reasons I enjoyed going to Jazz Fest when it was but a fledgling fete more than 40, 30 and 25 years ago was for the entertainment of people watching.

I’ve told you before that I’ve always been a fairgrounds “wanderer,” lingering at, say, the salsa stage for 15 or 20 minutes; then popping over to a crafts tent for a look at what‘s for sale; and on to a food booth where a sign offering boudin, crawfish in little rice-paper sacks, barbecued shrimp, or strawberry lemonade tempted me. But my ongoing preoccupation was admiring the costumes that some festival-goers contrived for the occasion.

One year, while I was editing the T-P Living section, I suggested to  fashion writer Chris Bynum that she take a photographer with her and capture this craziness for a story and picture layout.  Those old photos would give me the words I lack to describe exactly what was so eye-catching. But after I got to thinking about it, I realized that the get-ups that seemed unconventional in the early ‘70s mostly are de rigueur today.

Me, I’ve not changed in my fashion approach to Jazz Fest. For the first one in Congo Square I probably donned a pair of  light, baggy pants and teamed them with a cotton tank top and a loose over-shirt with sleeves that could be rolled up or down depending on the intensity of the sun’s rays. That’s exactly what I’d wear this weekend, and certainly not an outfit an elderly woman can’t feel at home in across all the years. But I’m wondering whether my fashion approach to other occasions shouldn’t change a bit.

The other day I was rummaging around in my closet and spied two pairs of tight-legged jeans, one cream colored and the other a faded-by-the-manufacturer black.

These pants have seldom seen the light of day because I discovered after bringing them home without first trying them on in the store that they’re hip-huggers. (I usually forego the pleasure of viewing myself in those triple, florescent-lighted  mirrors common to fitting rooms.)

Anyhow, the sight of those costly fashion mistakes got me to wondering about some of the other contents of my closet: A tee shirt emblazoned with “Hard Rock Café, Kuala Lumpur,“ another sporting a poster advertising an Elvis Presley concert, a third with an image of that iconic New Orleans water-meter cover; a denim shirt with a big “Big Pig” logo from a barbecue restaurant and a linen tunic bought on a visit to India and obviously meant for a woman  much smaller and slenderer than I; the Jazz Fest shirt with the alligator teeth for buttons.

My shoe rack holds a pair of sneakers suitable for a teenager with a very long foot or a Saints fan (they’re black and gaudy gold), some red-red-red faux crocodile loafers I bought online, and a pair of the shoes the British call “trainers” in white with pink accents.

When and where did I think I’d ever sport these prizes? Can’t you just see me in the black hip-huggers with the “Big Pig” shirt and the red loafers? Or the Indian tunic with the clunky pink and white shoes?

I’ve had the sense to wear each of the items I’ve told you about no more than once and probably at home. But, oh, if I’d just had the sense not to buy them in the first place.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at [email protected]