Thursday, March 19, 2009

19 March 1955 "Advertising, Savings, Interiors, Bulk Buying, and Fashion"

ADVERTISING spending is still climbing at a rapid pace, reports Advertising Age. In 1954 the 60 top ($10 million or better) U.S. and Canadian agencies billed $2.2 billion in ads, a 10% increase over 1953. Four U.S. advertising agencies cracked the $100 million mark. [And so it begins. The money pours into the propaganda machine, hold on tight 20th century, your in for a long and controlling ride!]

ROBERT R. YOUNG won his fight to keep Allegheny Corp. out of reach of the Securities & Exchange Commission's strict regulations. The Interstate Commerce Commission ruled that Alleghany, which controls the New York Central railroad, is a railroad carrier coming under its more flexible rules, thus overriding SEC, which had contended that Alleghany was an investment company. [Here we begin to see the game being played by the growing corporation. Through a loop-hole in that the corp. controls the entire NYC railroad system, it is able to not be guided under the stricter guidelines of the S.E.C.]
I promised to scan the whole of the 1950's childrens book on savings, so here it is:

They say "familiarity breeds contempt", but in my yearning for vintage design, I am finding it quite the opposite. Out of all the various trials I have had in trying to stay 'true' to 1955, the one constant has been magazines. I have had slip ups of course: Thousand dollar microwave use, swiffer etc, and so on and then in the realization, corrected it and also learned my modern dependency on the item. The one aspect that has been purely 100% (so far) 1950s for me has been magazines and books.
I have not, even once yet, touched a book or magazine later than the 50s (sometimes a magazine from 56-59 slips in but never even 1960). So, by having only seen these magazines about interiors and the home (the type of modern magazine I enjoyed reading before my trip to 1955) it has begun to affect my taste. My esthetic has changed somewhat, in regards to 1950s interiors.

I have always collected vintage magazines. The last couple of years I had really begun to find myself "into" the 1950s, where before I had adored the early magazines of pre WWI. Perhaps it was the precurser to this project. I naturally am drawn to magazines on the home, decorating and gardening and their ilk. However, I never really had much but disdain or a passing apalled gasp when vieweing mid-century interiors. However, I am finding myself (especially with my current pile of 1951-54 House Beautifuls) to find things I may have otherwise considered horrendous, "normal" or even somthing to aspire to or that I might try in my own interiors. While I had every intention of trying various 1950's deocrating ideas, it was mostly for the project. Now, I am actually finding myself drawn to the design esthetic.

This, of course, has got me thinking. Again I am finding another element of my personality (my esthetic taste) being questioned.
Taste. What we are drawn too, obviously, is highly affected by what we are shown. I no longer can, nor do I, watch modern design shows. I read no modern magazines. My continuing 'taste' in decor and design now can only be formed from the 1950s. Now I am finding when I see a wallpaper or a even, yes, wood panelling, from this era in my magazines, I no longer recoil. It, like ads for girdles, have just become 'normal' to my viewing.
This brought up two points for me:
The first: I am beginning to see a certain beauty and element to which I am drawn in these 1950s interiors. It is really enticing me to redo the whole house and furnishings.
The second: Oh, my god! The same thing is happening to me in 1955! I am succumbing to advertising. Is this because the 1950s is really when this is beginning? Or, is it because, as a modern woman, I am transferring my modern desire to covet and want what I see in a magazine simply now being transferred to these new 'tastes'? (Perhaps I just thing to much, but I am a homemaker and I am training my mind to a razor sharp decision maker and evaluator.)

I want to make over this house. I want to make it feel the way I wish it to feel. But, is my wanting to change and have a 'new style' to go along with the project for the project, or is it just another aspect of the old me wanting to spend and redo?

It is becoming harder to separate my conditioning from the real me. Who IS the real me? I also don't want to get bogged down in the other thing I fear: that sort of delusion of phsychotherapy where you are left evaluating yourself so much you just end up obsessed with YOU and only thinking about how YOU feel or what makes YOU happy.

It is at this point that I channel my 1955 self.

I tell myself, "alright, you made it thru WWII and the Depression, don't worry about YOU so much. If you want to change the house to make you feel more 'connected' to your work place AND to make it more efficeint to live frugally, then just do it! Don't over-analyize! If you can't afford something, take somthing you have and repaint it or decopage it. Make your life happy and comfortable within the reason of your funds and move on. This will give you time to worry more about what you can do to become more a part of your neighborhood rather than wasting time on if you can find wallpaper to match the drapes!"
This IS important to me: my home and my interior and how I decorate and live. But, don't make it become an excuse to fall into the habit of the 21st. century. Do what a 1955 housewife could ONLY do. Live within your means. I know you could 'charge' things back then, but it was not really common. Take what you have and make it different and better and only buy here and there to supplement it. Also, try to buy actual vintage that is sturdy and worth more in that if it is still around, it is probably fairly well made.
This is the balance I am beginning to strike.

I am beginning to see my 1955 personna as a sort of 'symbol' I can call upon. Let us hope I don't end up with multiple personalities! Really she has become more of a Jimminy Cricket character for me, or the angel on my shoulder. After all she has been through a war and a depression, so she knows hardship!
So, with that said, I thought I would share some of the images of different designs in my magazines. You may find them hideous due to your own living in the modern world. Maybe they look like 'grandmas' house. Any way, I am responding to them, either good or bad, and thought you might like to see them.

This is an ad for Heywood-wakefield furniture which was actually quite well made and I somtimes come across such pieces at sales and antique shops. It often is rather inexpensive, as most people don't consider it worth collecting. I love the almost 'doll house' like quality of the line. It has a rustic simplicity mingled with a modern esthetic that seemed unique to this time. What once looked like a bad hotel to me, now seems to have charm and warmth. If you saw the post I did where I found the top of a china cabinet, you will see how similiar it is to the bottom picture in the dinning room. Mine will end up in the breakfast room, either in its orignal wood or painted.

I like the daring of this room. I am also, since 1955, beginning to view pink as an actual choice for interiors. I used to loathe it and found it to twee. Here I think it is treated in a nice way and I like how the pattern on the ceiling is carried into the draperies. There is a sort of calm organized maturity to these rooms. There is never too many 'things' and each item seem well thought out. I find this 'decorating' less 'overdone' than many modern ways of decorating (21st century I mean)

Though I don't, myself, really respond to this green (having live in the 1980's I am still shell shock from all the Forest Green) the concept of the design is good. I like that the fabric on the sofas is bold and that the series of paintings over the mantle share not frame styles but the color. I think that grey-white painted frame is quintessential 1950s. I am really growing to love it and I am sure by the end of the year, some of my non-antique frames will be recieving some such paint affect.

I really like this room. I like the color. I like that the calm of the room is the result of minimal amounts of color. I think a room can be too matchy, but here, for me it works. Another thing I now like that I used to make fun of, is that froth of sheer curtain at the window. You often see it in movies of the 40s and 50s. I really think I want some. This is a great example of taking a bunch of disparedged garage sale finds, giving them all a lick of paint, and suddenly you have a pleasing set of furntiure. I would use more artwork on the wall, but again, less seems to be more in these instances.
This is one of my latest acquistions. It cost me the whopping amount of $5.00. I bought it at my favorite little antique shop. The woman said, "well the frame is really nice and worth more than that" to which I replied, "oh, the picture is staying in there."
This blue is the perfect color to my bedroom which is this blue and deep brown. She will hang in my corner next my dressing table. I will post a photo when she is in her new home. Isn't she adorable. I might have thought this too sweet once, but now find it the perfect boudoir pic. When I see it, it just makes me smile. Perhaps I see myself at my own dressing table, waiting for a big evening in the city.
Now, onto cooking.
I thought I would share a little experiment I made yesterday. I keep coming across various recipes with advertising for pie crust. Each claims the recipe ONLY works with their particular brand, which of course I do not believe. Yesterday I made a pie with this recipe. I have cut out and enlareged the directions as well as leaving the whole ad in tact. I do not think they make this type of shortening any longer, so I just used my store brand.
It was a very quick and easy recipe.
The result was really nice. (that is cinnamon on the crust not burnt) It does not compare with my homemade pastry that uses lard and ice cold water, but it was fast and delicious. I explained the flavor as having a definite homemade taste, but more like the 50's diner we go to, where I know they make their own pie. It was flaky and nice, but not like my old fashioned recipe. I would recommend it and it is great in a pinch for homemade taste and feel ( I mean it is homemade) but when you don't want to take the time to properly cut the flour into the lard. It rolled out quickly and was much like sugar cookie dough.
To make it more of a 'quick busy day' recipe, I used a can of canned cherries (which I would never use, but someone had given me a can for some reason.) I added to this a can of whole canned cranberries. It was easy and made a nice tart/sweet pie. It served beautifully and hubby enjoyed it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. There is a piece in his lunch today as well.

I found an interesting article in my 1954 House Beautiful entitled: "What is a woman's time worth?" At first I thought it would be an article pointing out the hard work and efforts of a homemaker. But, on further reading, I found it to fit with my ongoing look into the subtle manipulation that is to become the modern consumming we endulge in today.

The article is pointing out the positive of doing all your grocery shopping in one day for the whole month. They compare your spending $300 to $500 a month as an investment kin to the ease of owning a washing machine! You only buy the machine once, but they go on with various ways to 'persuade' you to this type of shopping.

They point out the following:

"Any good domestic worker knows she can get from $50 to $60 for her 40-hour work week. [that is $350-$420 a week now] 40 hours doesn't begin to suffice for all we have to do around the home. SO, if we can save eight hours a week why wouldn't we?"

This is article the goes on to say:

"Having a variety of food on hand gives us freedom to do the kind of imaginative cooking we have always wanted to try.
Having a lot of food on hand in all stages of readiness is also very calming. For you can provide for any unexpected situation, whatever it may be."

I really think they are beginning to really prey on that feeling many would still have remembering the shortages of the war. And the idea that doing a large shop all at once for the month with every sort of food 'just in case'. Just in case, what? And also to give you a 'calming effect'. Very subtle. They call this type of freedom of choice in your own food pantry and meal making 'chain cooking'. This image I thought was crazy. The heading to this cartoon reads:

"Here's an artist's drawing of Mrs. Wiley's dream:"in our next house I want a whole room of open shelves and freezer space for storing all the supplies I need for chain-cooking"

If you look at the drawing, what she basically wants, and what they are illustrating, is your own grocery store! You would spend so much more than you would need. You also need to use more electricity to keep the freezer running and you have to have more space and maitenance on this much prodcut. This is the mentality that has lead to such places as BJ's in the modern world. Those places often result in people shopping in 'bulk' thinking they are saving, when they are in fact spending more and buying more!
What is so wrong with going to the grocery store once a week? The french housewife often goes daily to the market to get what she needs for the evening meal. This concept of hoarding, consumming, and endless quantity is becoming to me almost vile. Who would need that wall of food and products? Click on the image, you can see there is one shelf for endless Soaps!

The cost they expect as well, which is equivalent to $3500 a month! Perhaps those of you who have children spend this, but there is no way I would now spend even half that on a months worth of groceries. In fact, since I am trying to really budget and control all the aspects of my home, my shopping is in a very tight budget, which I never vary too greatly.
What do any of you spend per month on food?

It is all very interesting and now that I am more aware of it, I can see the subtle beginnings which have formulated and lead to our current spending. Certainly, I could imagine a room of shelves filled with canned good, you yourself have canned. You grew your food and you need to preserve it, but to go to the store, where they keep it anyway, and then buy it up as if there is an impending food shortage?

They almost try to address food buying as you would savings in a bank:

"The term 'Chain-Cooking' is based on the freezer, the refrigerator, and ample shelf space for canned and packaged foods. It means Wuantity buying, quantity cooking, and quantity storing, instead of hand-to-mouth buying and cooking."
Now, not to seem that I am always now on some anti-buying or having nice things tirade, I thought I would end with this image someone set me. It is from Michael Kors Fall 2008 collection. Now tell me that isn't 1950s. I guess his line was inspired by MadMen, which is the early 1960's but that is still a very 1950's time in style. This coat actually looks alot like my fur, though I am sure mine was not even 1/8 the price this would go for. So, true classic style will always be around. Even in two years when the vintage look may be considered dated, I will still wear it. Because, what better way to have nice quality things that you can care for, then dressing a particular way and NOT changing it. Then you can care for your wardrobe instead of needing to constantly shed your clothes every year to remain on the fashion hamster wheel. Go vintage! Also, there is somthing about a dress at the natural waist, a full or a nice pencil skirt and tweed that just makes a gal feel good. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?
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