Thursday, February 26, 2009

26 February 1955 "Movies, Sewing, and the Jean Myth"

Here is a preview I would probably start seeing in theatres, as this movie will come out this summer.
In 1955, 20th Century Fox released this film adaptation directed by Billy Wilder and starring Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell. It was presented in CinemaScope with color by DeLuxe. It's often cited as one of the great comedies of its time, having won critical acclaim and become the biggest US box office hit of the summer of 1955. It contains one of the most iconic images of the 20th century–a scene in which Marilyn Monroe, standing on a subway grate, has her dress blown up above her waist by a passing train. Her line when this happens, "Isn't it delicious?", has since become famous.
Another interesting thing about this film, is it's title :Seven Year Itch. This term was coined for this movie as a psychological condition where in after Seven years of marriage one partner becomes 'itchy' to have an affair. It was not an actual psychological term, but since this film this term has entered popular culture and has even been used by psychologists.

This was first done as a play in 1952 at the Fulton Theatre in New York

I was told the Oscars aired recently. The Oscars in 1955 were not until March, but I think a list of the winners now is still relevant, as any of you who watch them or know of them might find it interesting information now.

Best Picture- Marty
Best Director- Delbert Mann, Marty
Best Actor- Ernest Borgnine, Marty
Best Actor (in a leading role)-Marlon Brando, On the Waterfront.
Best Supporting Actor- Jack Lemmon, Mister Roberts Best
Actress- Anna Magnani, The Rose Tattoo Best Supporting
Actress- Jo Van Fleet, East of Eden

The film that won for 1955 (Marty) is really a good film and I suggest watching it. This preview is nice as well as it shows some good examples of 'average people's daily wardrobe' in the scene of the New York City crowds.

Speaking of clothing, I think the 1950's really are making a comeback in the clothing world. The lines and body conscious look seem to becoming more the norm. Although an Oscar dress is hardly, 'normal daily clothes', this dress Oscar Dress of
Anne Hathaways (one of my friends told me I had to see a picture of it) is very 1950's don't you?
This is a Givenchy of 1955 and I think the top is very close to this dress. Though the skirt is full, the sleek mermaid style of Hathaway's would be as appropriate in 1955 as 2009.

As we are speaking of clothes, I thought I would show the next phase of the dress I am working on. I have decided to trim it in this lovely robin's egg blue bias tape. I like how it picks up the color in the fabric. I have a lot of this color in my wardrobe and I think, since I am now making many of my clothes, to try and have this theme tie through my wardrobe. Just as in interior design you want an element of similiar color in every room to give each part of the whole a cohesion, I think this makes sense in your wardrobe as well. I like this color and think it really works well in all seasons, for example in Autumn with deeper oranges and browns it is lovely as well as with yellows in spring.
While buying the trim for this dress, of course I had to have a quick saunter over to the pattern books. I have seen this pattern before and my vintage friend has used it with much success, so I had to get my own, of course. As you can see by the picture of the dress layout, it could not be simpler. It is literally sewn into one piece with no zipper and then wraps around and ties and buttons. I have seen it on and it is adorable. I think the only draw back to it, is you cannot wear a crinoline with it. I think this would actually make a great set of 'house dresses' for me. I am going to try this pattern before the vintage house dress pattern I recently found on ebay. I bought this lovely turquoise quilting cotton, which has such a nice weight and satiny feel. I am going to make the dress this solid color with the robins egg blue trim.

It was only $4.99 a yard and I had a 50% off coupon. In 1955 that would have been .32 cents a yard or .64 cents at normal price. That seems comparable to todays cotton pricing. I found this image at Hearts Cottage Quilts . Here you can see that the the cost listed in this 1952 Sears catalog for a similiar cotton is .56 cents. Another example that many things today are similiar or cheaper than 1955 in comarrison with the exception of housing. Our housing market is so over-inflated it is ridiculous, but that can be another post.

I thought I would end this post with some interesting images I found in one of my Womans Home Companion magazine from 1953. I think there has been some debate and misconception, thanks to Hollywood, about what a 1950's woman would wear casually or when working. As much as tv and Hollywood wanted to protray the June Cleaver stereotype, the actuality was much different. As you can see, this article on a womans wardrobe was rather enlightening. The jeans and shirt are this womans housecleaning outfit. No pearls and heels and hose here.

Here the same woman is enjoying her yard with her family, who are all sporting jeans.

This shows how a good sturdy rubber soled shoe is the perfect paring with your jeans to clean and work in the yard.

And, even if you are having company for a 'television night' or going shopping, this outfit of slacks is appropriate. Now when I am doing basic marketing or running to the local store, dress slacks are appropriate. If I were to meet for lunch with friends or shop in the city, I believe a dress and hose would be more appropriate. This is going to change my entire view for the dressing of this project.

I am slowly uncovering that mysterious creature: the 1950's woman, and really finding an interesting creature there.

I had mentioned the other day that an Australian morning radio show interviewed me for my project. They are going to send me a link to the finished show and I will post it when I get it.
Also, I had some trouble the other day with blogger and one of my blogs dissapeared. I reslisted it and it is back in numerical order by date. Here it is, if you didn't see it before.

So, until tomorrow, happy homemaking!


  1. oh yes! Marilyn is one of my favourites! I just love this particular movie! I also love some like it hot, have you seen that?

  2. Can I ask you something totally off topic? It's about stockings. I have picked up a couple of proper 50s fully-fashioned stockings at op-shops, but I'm too scared to wear them in case I ladder them. As someone who wears stockings every day, can you tell me how long your stockings last on average? Where do you get yours from, I assume you wear fully fashioned ones, so are they modern reproductions or vintage ones? Do you have different weights for at home or going out? Have you tried mending them? Am I being paranoid? Thank you so much.

  3. Marilyn is so wonderful and yet somehow so sad in this film. There's that playfulness and trust...ah, I can't express it.

    Hey, I have a link for you, it's 1956 rather than 1955 but the clothes are wonderful. I want that red coat. Want, want, want!

  4. The Doris Day film Please don't eat the daisies has some gorgeous housewifey clothes in it. It was filmed in 1959 so it's a little too late for you I guess but the clothes are to die for and include plenty of trouser for dirty work as well as dresses and skirts and suits and hats and coats and all kinds of loveliness and Doris looks beautiful in it all.

  5. 50's Gal,
    Thanks for reposting the other entry. I had seen it but hadn't read it yet and when I checked the next day it was gone. I was beginning to think I dreamed it!

    Piroska, I was just looking at stockings today since my traditional pair just sprouted a big hole! I buy mine from in the UK and they have several traditionally made ones (no stretch) and some that are even made on vintage equipment. I can usually get half a dozen wears out of a sheer pair and a year out of something heavier (like my thick old lady traditional ones).

    If you're buying vintage, be aware of the lack of stretch. If you have very slim legs, they may be too long. Or, if you have tree trunks like I do, they'll come just above the knee. I just bought three pairs of vintage CC41 stockings on eBay and I need to lose A LOT of weight before I can wear them.

  6. I also have this dress pattern but haven't tried it yet. I'm bad about putting colors together. So far your dress looks lovely!

  7. Amy- Yes I have seen it before, great film!
    Piroska-that is a quandry. I first tried just using vintage, but for me, as I am quite tall, even the larger sizes did not fit very well, and due to age would tear farely easy. What I now use and LOVE are some stocking I got at a local chain store here in the New England called Lady Grace. It is considered an 'old ladies shop' as it is all lingerie bathing suits and pajamas, but they carry all the girdles etc that are still made. My favorite girdle (which I am wearing right now!) I got from there but is made the same as it was in the 1950s. The stockings they have there are only 4.50 a pair and I have a pair (also wearing today) that I have worn off and on for the past two months and they have not torn or snagged yet. They are nice as they even have the reinforced toe and heel and when you take them out of the package they have that 'foot' shape. Many modern pantyhose do not and you shape the foot into them and then you can never find it again and you put them on and u have a heel buldge on the top of your foot. They do not have the seamed stockings, though, but Victoria secret carries them. They are however 12 dollars a pair. Vintage friend and I found out that there is a Lane Bryant subsidary store in the town where our 50's diner is that carries the seamed stockings. We are planning a pilgrimage there. here is the lady grace web site
    these are great and cheap if you are short (which I am not)
    I think tomorrow and in the future (now that I know how to do links) I am going to start putting together good places to find vintage and vintage inspired things such as housewares, clothes etc. Don't you think that would be a good idea? I think it would tie in nicely with the things I am discussing and such.
    Shay-Be still my heart! that coat is simply diveee! I also want the mustard yellow pleated number and the outrageously full green number, heck I want all of them!
    Aggie-my vintage friend has made this pattern with some success and I have tried her version on and loved it. Now that I sew, I had to get my own pattern and try it out. I am doing the solid color first as a good staple and then will do some with mixed solid and pattern.

  8. I love the animal print cushion the 'television night' lady is sitting on!

    My maternal grandmother was 40 in 1955. Up until her death, she always wore "housedresses" at home and would change into something dressier if she was leaving her neighborhood. She did wear nice tailored pants but she never wore jeans. I bet jeans were much more popular with younger women.

    This is a few years after your time but, I remember reading about the negotiations that Mary Tyler Moore had with the producer of the Dick Van Dyke Show about allowing her to wear capri pants in some scenes of the show. Mary thought the June Cleaver look was unrealistic for the housewives of the day.

  9. hairball-so interesting. I remember the darling capri style pants she would wear in that show (as I have seen reruns, of course I cant watch that or leave it to beaver)
    I like her earrings too. I forgot that not just button earrings were in style then but those darling hoops they are adorable. I need to find some. Maybe I will include any sorces for vintage jewelry tomorrow in my post as well.
    I wish your grandmother was still around, what a find source of info she would be, non? I am sorry she is no longer with you.

  10. The slack or skirt with blouse and flats combination is my off duty uniform. That is, it replaces those nasty sweats for me when I have to do basic jobs like gardening.
    I meant to get back to you on the Aus radio thing. I've been researching and speaking to friends that live in that city, but no one seems to know who they are. Send us the link when you have it, so we can find the interview. Can't wait ot hear it!

    BTW - you can now find me at

  11. I love "The seven year itch"! But I love "How to marry a millionaire" and "Some like it hot" even more!
    The best supporting actress Anna Magnani wasn't she married to Humphrey Bogart before he married Lauren Bacall?
    Cissi from sweden

  12. Super kawaii-I have the link and will post it today. I do sound rather hoarse, as I was getting over a cold.
    I think and have worn a skirt in the garden to say cut flowers or vegetables, but my love of gardening involves a day with troussers. I have to get down into the dirt, digging, turning soil etc. I find it like a great artists canvas and I am never satisfied, so bushes and shrubs often find themselves rather mobile! I will check out your new site.
    Zizzi-I used to watch How to marry a millionaire all the time when I was younger. I am dating myself, but when I was very young my friend and I used to record the songs of our vhs tape with a hand help tape recorder and then use it to playback and sing along. fun.
    also Magnani was married to Goffredo Alessandrini from the 30s to the 50s. This film, the rose tattoo, was written by her friend Tennesee Williams and the lead character, Serafina, was based on Mangani. Interesting stuff. I need to check out some of her few movies.

  13. 50s gal,
    When you write your post on housing (then and now), perhaps you'd like to comment on how our expectations have changed. In our town the average house built in the 50s is quite small by today's standards. An area newspaper ran a feature story bemoaning a young couple's situation: they were expecting and unable to sell their condominium to move up to a bigger house. The condominium had a comparable number of square feet to many of the homes built in the 50s.

  14. I'm glad you re-posted that other post. I had not seen it. We make a King cake every Epiphany as well. Instead of using sprinkles to decorate, I get the kids little candies, especially mini gumdrops, to use as "jewels" to decorate the cake with. I make our cake in a bundt pan to help give it that crown shape.

    Your dress is coming along nicely. I can't wait to see it done and you modeling it for us. :)

  15. How cool being interviewed by someone so far away!!! Since I'm an Aussie, I wondered if you'd tell me which radio show is interviewing you?

  16. OK, I'm going to inspire a little more envy...I (finally) cleaned out the basement and found a stack of (among other things) 1955 Vogue pattern magazines. Griffe, Patou, Schiaparelli are featured designers (among others.

    (the other things include six fashion/pattern magazines from 1921-1926 and about three dozen, no kidding, yarn company pattern booklets from 1940-1955. Evidently I used to have a lot of disposable income and a really bad eBay habit!)

  17. Shay-could you post some of the pics?
    tracy-I have the link now to the finished interview, I just didn't get my blog finished but I am going to post it tomorrow. here is the link they gave me originally though I have the direct link to the show that I will post tomorrow.

  18. I love the look of the high-waisted slacks and jeans of the fifties, especially the photo of the beautiful lady sitting on the black'n'white leopard pillow. Note her shoes, aren't they lovely!? To die for! I've read that the rule in the fifties were flats for jeans, never (!) high-heels.

    Have a lovely weekend, both of you. :)

  19. I just found this is quite fascinating. My mom was 19 in 1955. She had already been married to my father for 4 years. I asked her today what she wore when she cleaned. She said she always wore rolled up jeans or capri pants which she calls pedal pushers. She also would tie some handkerchief type thing in her hair so dust wouldn't get in it.

    I love your blog. I will be stopping by constantly for new posts.

  20. I will be posting the 50's stuff later this year on my the meantime I found these 1955 Vogue magazine pix on Flickr for you.

  21. Shay, wow, thank you for that link to the 1955 vogue magazine, it is only making me want to sew more!

  22. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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