I was a ‘dork’ before ‘dork’ was a word – rather awkward and shy, a book worm and not very athletic. I also loved Star Trek before it went mainstream. I guess you could say I was a pioneer of sorts.
Clothes weren’t a big part of my life. I had no fashion sense whatsoever. All that changed after my two daughters were born. I began to notice clothes because baby girls are real live dolls, and it’s fun to dress them up. Fast forward to the teen years, and my daughters began to dress me. For some reason, both were born with an innate style of their own that they certainly didn’t get from me.
Mom, get rid of that hummingbird sweatshirt - it’s so nineties!
They tactfully suggested I watch What Not To Wear, and I became hooked. Clothes really can make you feel better about yourself, and make you look better, too. Not to mention the accessories that go with the clothes.
Nancy Drew knew this, of course, like she knew most things. I may not have known much about clothes, but I did notice Nancy’s wardrobe. I would read about her sleuthing adventures with great anticipation, but even more exciting was the suspense surrounding what she would pull out of her closet next.
Nancy’s fashion style has changed with the times, along with her book covers. My favourite era is the one I read as a girl, known as the ‘Yellow’ series hardcovers (1962): the books shed their previous dust jackets, in favour of yellow picture covers. Later on these turned smoother and higher glossed than earlier versions.
The authors of Nancy Drew never spent a lot of time discussing Nancy’s wardrobe. They spent far more time describing what she ate, along with her friends Bess and George. This only added to the mystique. Thank goodness the reader was given the occasional photo to go along with the story, and it was here I spent long, happy moments examining Nancy’s outfits.
The early Nancy Drew resembled a classically dressed ingénue from the 1930’s, and usually featured a cloche hat, a simple shirtwaist dress and sensible heels. Later versions were updated to reflect the fashion of the time, but one thing stayed the same – Nancy seemingly effortless, classic style. This was an outward reflection of her quiet, graceful confidence.
During the day Nancy usually wore simple day dresses (or ‘frocks’ as they were called) blouses with Peter Pan collars and knee length skirts. Occasionally she wore pants, even jeans, if the occasion suited it. A sweater if it was cool, or perhaps a navy blue coat with matching shoes. She always kept a hooded rain coat nearby if the weather turned foul. Invariably, after a busy day of sleuthing, she would go home to shower and change into evening wear – perhaps a striking white dress that made Ned’s eyes pop out, or a powder blue evening gown for really special occasions.
And for bedtime? I found very few references to her nightime attire in my book collection, other than a red bathrobe and red polka dotted flannel pajamas (The Hidden Window Mystery, 1956).
Her jewellery? Simple pearls and gold bracelets, of course, unless someone gifted her with something special – like the cameo ring, an heirloom from Mrs. Putney, to thank Nancy for finding her jewellery and revealing her swindlers – (The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, 1948) or the aquamarine ring from new friend Laura Pendleton, whom she met during The Bungalow Mystery (1960). She also received a pin set with tiny diamonds in the shape of a lilac spray from Emily Crandal for saving their business and solving the Mystery at Lilac Inn (1961). She received several mink pelts from grateful clients in the Mystery of the Ski Jump (1969). If that story were written today, the mink pelts would have to be ditched in favour of faux furs.
I can remember an outfit she wore in Password to Larkspur Lane – a pretty lime green dress with a matching sweater, chosen to compliment her titian hair. I daydreamed about owning an outfit like that. I recall a dark blue and green striped sports dress that set off the shade of her hair to perfection. She also had a turquoise bathing suit. In fact, most of her clothes were chosen with her hair color or smooth suntanned skin in mind.
Of course, she kept old clothes at the back of her closet in case she needed a disguise – one of her favourite get ups was dressing as an old lady.
Nancy knew who she was, and was comfortable in her own skin – probably the thing I admired most about her. She didn’t dress to trends, she dressed for practicality. She wore conservative clothes with ease and grace, and in doing so encouraged her fans to do the same. It took me a while to catch on, but better late than never.