MERYL STREEP, it almost goes without saying, excels playing publisher Katharine Graham in The Post, the Steven Spielberg film about The Washington Post’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers in 1971, after the New York Times was ordered to stop. The story is true and the period details are accurate, as are the clothes. Oh, those clothes!
Prints and shirtwaists, blouses with bows, strange colors—and one ridiculously wonderful caftan. LittleBirds who were already wearing grownup clothes in 1971, well, it takes us back. The film’s costume designer, Ann Roth, told The Hollywood Reporter that she aimed for accuracy but didn’t clone any of Mrs. Graham’s actual dresses and suits. In the film Kay Graham is seen most often in muted skirt suits (were there any other kind back then?) and pale shirtwaists, and is the only woman in a roomful of dark-suited men. As the story unfolds and Mrs. Graham grows in confidence, the prints and stripes take over.
There’s a Gucci print that brought me bittersweet pangs. How I wanted something—anything—Gucci at the time, and how out of my price range it was! My young husband (now my “more mature” husband) bought me a bottle of Gucci fragrance that came in a signature silk-wrapped box. That box stood atop my dresser for years. The Gucci print dress now seems almost comically garish, but in its time it was a bold and elegant statement piece.
Mrs. Graham’s cinematic style progression culminates in a flowing, glittering creamy silk caftan that rivets the viewer in the scene where she makes her momentous decision, once again surrounded by men, to publish the papers. You can’t take your eyes off that caftan—talk about power dressing!
This LittleBird was fresh out of college in New York in 1971, with a wardrobe replete with flowing Indian skirts, little minis and poor-boy ribbed tops. I even recall a pair of brown suede Earth shoes, whose negative heels were supposed to promote good health. But for job interviews there were print dresses, striped blouses and a pale yellow “man-tailored” silk shirt paired with a navy straight skirt (as opposed to an A-line, my actual favorite shape at the time). In The Post, Mrs. Graham wears a light-colored long-sleeved dress (no jacket) for her historic day at the Supreme Court. When did the blazer or jacket become de rigueur for women who mean business? Not in 1971, apparently.
We grownup girls have graduated to black trousers, sleek tunics and sleeveless sheaths, but for a look back at the nude stockings, long sleeves and belted dresses that ushered us into the 1970s workplace, The Post is pure fashion nostalgia.
Mary Wisniewski is a longtime friend of MyLittleBird.