Sooner or later, any collector of canoe ephemera or anyone who has lately lamented the collapsing of gender-specific outdoor gear into one same-sex trousseau of space-age polymers will collide with the rarest of woodland creatures, the sporty pin-up girl.
As You May Have Heard, Everything Old Is New Again
And with so many of us embracing our postmodern, post-plaid fashion choices, I thought it useful to offer outdoor fashion seekers some other time-tested options for ladies’ haute retro canoeing couture.
I’d like to propose a few more thoroughly expedition tested outfits in lieu of the perhaps sexy but impractical pink smalls, garter belt, nylon stockings and high heels shown here in the lily pond of Gil Elvgren’s famous “We’ve had a little falling out” pinup calendar canoe queen from July 1952.
The First Of My Three Retro Wild Wear Options Is The All-Purpose Mina Benson Hubbard Backwoods Skirt
Like any sensible outfit of the day, this ensemble—which may have been inspired by American sharpshooter Annie Oakley, except without pleats—begins with cotton bloomers, woolen leggings and calf-length lace up boots. Over this is a three-quarter length woven wool wraparound skirt with bosem pockets for snacks, small knives and fire irons.
This, in a pinch, would have doubled as a shawl or blanket. On top is the wash and wear camisole under a high-necked cotton cap-sleeved blouse which, depending on circumstances, can be layered with a oneor two-ply knitted turtleneck pullover. For an outer shell, a sensible tailored tweed topcoat. And, of course, completing the outfit is a peach basket hat.
I think Audrey Hepburn rocked this Full Mina look in her 1951 film, The African Queen. Mina Hubbard, on the other hand, was the first white person to cross the wilds of Labrador and she did so way back in 1905.
Attempting a wilderness journey that killed her husband was impressive. Returning with answers about his death was amazing. Writing the book, A Woman’s Way Through Unknown Labrador and going on to lecture about the trip was unheard of. The outfit she wore, timeless.
Second, Is The Lillian Alling Skirtless Option
It’s what you’re thinking. The determined and secretive Ms. Alling was an Estonian immigrant to North America. In the 1920s, Alling and her dog walked from New York City to Alaska in an attempt to find her way home on the cheap.
Playwright John Murrell discovered the Alling’s story while he was leafing through an old paperback called Wild West Women and, rather ironically created a $1.6 million eponymous opera about her astonishing story.
Alling, who may not have been trying to set fashion trends at the time, had the wide-brimmed hat but opted for a more rakish turn up at the front. Below she wore a more décolletage open-necked cotton shirt and woolen cardigan.
For bottoms she wore leggings under thick tin pan woolen trousers. The trousers were, for effect and bug interdiction, tucked into her calf-length lace up leather miners’ boots. Rounding out the getup was a raffish colored silk scarf that doubled as a belt.
Lilling Alling’s transcontinental trek is something that has never been repeated. Apparently she was last seen on the coast of Alaska negotiating with the coastal Inuit about a ride across the Bering Strait where she was to continue her odyssey back to central Europe on the other side.
If the Latin sage who said “vestis verum reddit” meaning clothes make the woman was right, it would seen that dressing retro for outdoor pursuits is where one should begin when creating memorable expeditions.
Which Brings Us To My Third And Final Alternative To Skivvies On The Lily Pond. This, Of Course, Is No Couture At All
Could Eve have been wrong in the Garden of Eden? There is certainly much to say on this topic.
To get started, one only needs to Google search, the Paddling Bares Canoe Club. Here is a paddling club with a strict dress code that is about both fashion and function. This group of adventure enthusiasts puts emphasis on quality trips in areas where participants can skinny dip without legal hassles. Perhaps this is a subject better left to campfire conversation. Just watch out for sparks.