Copyright 2011 Lorraine Ray
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You would have to go back to Arizona in the nineteen forties and fifties—and let me immediately discourage you from doing that—if you wanted to find squaw dresses hanging en masse from dress racks. Of course, they were always a southwestern costume, or peculiarity, or politically incorrect horror, you might say, depending on your point of view. No one wore them on Park Avenue in New York, except in a strange photo in an old beauty magazine which I leafed through at a hair dressing parlor one morning in 1962 when I was getting my hair cut in a stylish seal cut that showed everyone how badly the prickly heat scabs had spread on the back of my neck. The two girls in that photo, the one in a lady's charro suit and the other in the squaw dress, looked mortified posing on New York’s famous boulevard. No amount of white paint on their teeth or red lipstick on their lips could cheer up those frigid, angry smiles. They seem to be thinking, “If you ever pose us again in dresses that are decorated with rick-rack and sequins, we know people who can introduce you to the terrain at the bottom of the East River.” Even out here on the frontier of fashion, squaw dresses sold rather slowly. The extent of their unpopularity became evident one late afternoon when I was about seven, a few years after I had seen that photo in the magazine.