When I considered some of the overwhelming pop cultural trends of the period between the early 1960s and mid-1970s, I knew I would have to include the wild fashions and the music. What better way to do this than to have Beth Russell explore the bedroom of fictional teenager Melanie Tippitt, who died in 1971. Her room was left just as it was at her death. Beth learns a great deal about the nature of Melanie Tippitt by looking through her clothing, but she’s also in for a big surprise.

When I consider what we wore back then, I knew I had to include one of my favorite pieces of clothing: my navy CPO jacket, bought at a secondhand store. Of course, miniskirts were all the rage too, and I was wearing those through the early 1970s, as well as the chunky jewelry. These are some of the descriptions from A Death at Tippitt Pond…

Fashion: the brighter and crazier, the better

As Beth peruses the closet filled with clothing, she notices a small area that holds fashions belonging to the younger Melanie Tippitt: gingham blouses and skirts, dresses with white Peter Pan collars and cuffs, and a tailored black suit hanging in the far corner.

Then, however, in the main part of the closet are bright colors surrounded by layers of hippie clothing, a style Melanie must have shifted to in the late 60s. Wild colors and polka dots, vintage vests and pants, geometric patterns and the peasant look crowd out the older clothing. A brown suede vest with a fringe at the bottom hung lopsidedly on a hanger adorned with silk scarves of various colors. Beaded headbands curled around the top of the hanger. Several tie-dyed shirts accompanied a shift with a miniskirt made of faded yellow and bordered by daisies.

Ah, the flower child era.

Jewelry and Headbands

A chest of drawers holds other wonders that reflect the nature of Melanie Tippitt, but also remind us of what those years were like. On top of the chest is a jewelry box and plastic tray holding all kinds of jewelry in every shape and size. Wildly colorful geometric shapes, clusters of plastic flowers, chunky bangles and pop art necklaces were woven together with two or three beaded headbands snaking through them.

  Ah, and the Music!

One of the drawers in the chest contains 45-rpm records in paper sleeves. Beth picks up a few and reads the labels. “Yesterday,” by the Beatles; “Stop! In the Name of Love” The Supremes; “This is Dedicated to the One I Love,” the Mamas and Papas; “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” Simon and Garfunkel; and “Only the Good Die Young,” Billy Joel. The irony of the last song doesn’t escape Beth. Melanie was up on the pop hits of the day. Beth wonders how many times she had listened to these, lying on her bed in this room.

“The other item on top of the chest is a bottle of Chantilly perfume. Let’s see how awful this smelled, Beth thought. She sprayed a little of the perfume into the air. The fragrance was strong and powdery, with a scent of orange blossoms and lemon. Maybe a hint of vanilla too, Beth mused. She closed her eyes, taking in the aroma. Over her came a softness, a tenderness, a comfort as if she never need worry about anything ever again. Her whole body relaxed. It was hard to describe: a feeling of euphoria, lightness, peace. Joy spread through her, and her breathing slowed down. It was the sense of being held in someone’s arms, safe, cared for, and loved.”

That death at Tippitt Pond changed everything…