The Sixties—Mystery and Fashion Redux: Guest Post by Kay Kendall

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GUEST POST BY KAY KENDALL

I’ve been thinking about sixties fashion a lot lately. My debut mystery, Desolation Row, set in the sixties, was just published this spring by Stairway Press of Seattle. It features a young Texas bride who gets swept along by the tides of history during that turbulent time.

Choosing the cover for Desolation Row was tricky. It needed to evoke the Vietnam War era without turning off potential readers. Real photos from back in the day are too grungy. But, lucky for me, the tides of fashion helped me out.

I adore fashion. I can’t help it. It’s genetic. Both of my grandmothers and my mother enjoyed clothes, jewelry, and dressing up. At the age of ten I had a weekly hair appointment at a salon. Shopping trips to big cities from my hometown of 12,000 were real highlights. When my Texas grandmother took me to the original Neiman Marcus in downtown Dallas, I almost swooned.

Flash forward to the eighties. Shoulder pads made the scene. Love at first sight! They helped balance my proportions, counteracting my hips. My mother, however, disdained shoulder pads. “Styles I wore in the forties don’t excite me.” I didn’t understand. How could she be so stuffy?

Flash forward to this new millennium. Boho chic arrived. But it’s all sixties fashion to me. Retro hippie would be an even better name.

The first time I saw bellbottom trousers in an issue of Vogue several years back, I groaned. Oh, that will never catch on again, I mused, throwing the magazine aside in disgust. Then out popped the beads, the peasant blouses and all the other hippie accouterments. The only thing I’ve not seen in redux-land is a version of my old macramé purse.

Now celebrities in the under-thirty age group have staked out hippie chic as their own. Try an online search of images for Nicole Richie, Sienna Miller, and Jessica Simpson. Their looks are heavily influenced by the sixties. Nicole even wears macramé occasionally.

At first, like my mother 25 years ago, I spurned the return of styles I’d worn before. But boho chic has only gained strength and crept into more and more clothes. So, when it came time to choose the cover of Desolation Row, a winsome young woman dressed in sixties style was easy to find. And she has won raves.

And now I follow her lead. To get in the right mood to discuss my book at signings, I always wear blouses just like I wore back then and throw on some beads and ethnic-y earrings to complete the effect. These days there’s no dearth of such clothes and jewelry to choose from!

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Put on your own pair of bellbottoms and join us when Kay Kendall appears with Deborah Coonts here at BookPeople Wednesday, August 14th at 7pm. Sip some wine and hear them talk about their books. It’ll be groovy.

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