Reading an obscure article on when women in Britain were not being allowed to wear trousers for other than sports events through most of history I was reminded of two things. One was the old Talk of the Town restaurant in Santa Barbara in the 1960’s. I arrived at the popular restaurant for a dinner party being hosted there by Vesta and Robert Hutchins. Robert Hutchins was formerly Chancellor of University of Chicago and in Santa Barbara headed the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions who brought people of every type of political thinking and accomplishment to Santa Barbara. The Center was a most exciting part of our town for many years. But back to that Talk of the Town dinner party with extremely important guests of honor. I arrived wearing new Palazo Pajamas I’d bought in Rome from a young designer named Valentino in his shop on the Via Condotti. The new style pajamas were a great extravagance and I was very proud of them. However, the stuffy owner of Talk of the Town who knew me well refused to allow me in wearing pants! Well the outfit had a long dramatic tunic on top so I simply slipped out of the trousers right there in front of the maitre d’, my date and him, handed them to a valet parker to put in our car and the speechless owner couldn’t say a word. I’ve read of other women doing this later but I hadn’t heard of anyone before!
The other episode concerned my good friend the late Sir Hugh Wontner, chairman and major owner with Mme. d’Oyly Carte of the Savoy Group of London (hotels including Savoy, Claridge’s, Connaught, Lancaster Paris, and The Berkley) and Lord Mayor of London 1973-74. During luncheon with him one day at Claridge’s he confided a rather embarrassing predicament he’d been in that morning. Coming down from the fabulous penthouse he’d built atop Claridge’s after WWII (actually he built two — one for himself and one that was rented by Walter Annenberg former US Ambassador to Court of St. James and later to Stavros Niarchos) in the lobby Sir Hugh spotted a woman wearing horror of horror pants in the lobby of Claridge’s. Quickly summoning over his trusted assistant manager of the hotel Michael Bentley he ordered Michael to send the woman out of the lobby immediately. If she must exit the hotel in trousers then she must use the servant’s elevator and exit!
Michael always the great diplomat hesitated. “Sir Hugh, this presents a bit of a problem. You see the woman in trousers you refer to is married to the president of the United States.” Michael confessed to me later he’d never seen Sir Hugh at a loss for words before in their long history of working together. Jackie Kennedy unknowingly had made history! And Hugh only picked at his delicious luncheon that day muttering occasionally under his breath!!! I could only imagine what he was saying…
Kathleen Fetner, Technical Advisor and Friend