In my thirties, I worked as a buyer for the home shopping network QVC. Because of my job, I was able to introduce my mother to fashion designer Bob Mackie. Upon meeting Mr. Mackie in the QVC green room, while surrounded by the Mackie design team, my mother explained why she was such a fan of his embellished knit pants suits. “They’re great for travel,” she told him. “I have to be comfortable when I’m sitting on a plane. You can’t travel with a tight crotch. That’s why these are so great.” To illustrate her point she grabbed a fist full of fabric from between her legs, squatted slightly, and pulled. “See? Plenty of room.”
When my mother was younger and her crotch could withstand the pressure of fabric, she favored Liz Claiborne’s high waisted wide-leg jeans. The jeans rose to her navel and wrapped her crotch in denim the way you’d wrap a leftover chicken breast in Saran Wrap. But as she got older, Bob Mackie became her go-to designer for casual clothes.
While listening to my mother, Mr. Mackie smiled and nodded. I think he enjoyed meeting her in the way you enjoy an exotic dinner out in a foreign country. You’re happy for the experience but not certain how soon you want to repeat it.
For years later, during merchandising meetings with the Mackie design team, if we got stuck on a style or silhouette, we’d volley ideas around. Did the leg need to be wider or the inseam longer? Were the pockets too small or the wrong shape? We’d come to an impasse and inevitably design fatigue would set in. Then someone would offer up a reminder of our purpose, of the thousands of customers who appreciated our efforts and sacrifice, and yell out like a battle cry, You can’t travel with a tight crotch!