- Do you prefer the life of the 1950’s housewife, or do you prefer the life of the modern women? Why is this?
I have come to find, through my project, that there are many ‘modern’ women who are in fact housewives/homemakers. My personal experience is different in my wardrobe and various household appliances being vintage and trying to allow myself only access to 1955 literature, movies, tv, magazines etc. So, there is an element of the ‘housewife’ still about. So with that said, I think I would have to say without a doubt, and I didn’t think this would have been the case when I started this project, that I prefer the life of the 1950’s housewife.
Perhaps I should clarify that: I prefer my VERSION of a 1950’s housewife. I realize as a modern woman and one who is trying to ‘recreate’ a time past, that I have a certain perspective and options that the ‘real deal’ 1955 homemaker may not have had. I have that advantage over her. Yet, she had at her disposal an arsenal of training that would have been expected of her. Years at mother and grandmother’s knee learning skills. These same skills would have been studied further in Home Ec at both High School and College level. Something I have come to believe is important now at the High School level.
I was amazed at my own lack of very basic skills and it was not only me, but many in my generation and earlier and later generations have a great gap in their ‘practical home based’ knowledge. There appears to be almost no emphasis on basic cooking knowledge, cleaning and scheduling your day, finance and money management. It’s odd to me that so many young people are going to be expected to hop on the “student loan” train and almost nothing is taught to them about options or how this debt could impact their lives or how frugal living or doing for yourself could ease that same burden. But, I digress…
So, with that said, I think this version of my own present mingled with a ‘studied’ 1950’s past is preferable to what I had before the project. I have, this year, been living in a sort of ‘time bubble’ of the past, but still affected somewhat by the present. This, however, has been a great tool to allow be to view, side by side, the two eras and how we got from point A to point B. This compare/contrast lifestyle has really opened my eyes to my world, my country, and where we are currently in terms of economy and interpersonal relationships.
The level of skill I feel I am attaining mingled with the increased feeling of self-reliance has me not wanting to turn back to the more ‘lazy’ ways of the 21st century. There is still so much I want to learn and do that is in the vein of the 1950’s that I cannot let it go at the end of this year and the project. I feel my future life will eventually become my own version of modernity and 1950s. I could never turn back into that person I was in 2008. I DON’T want too!
- What does your typical day in 1955 involve? (provide as much detail as you see fit).
I am up with the alarm. I grab my dressing gown, sometimes I am in curlers from the night before so I don a scarf or my hair is still ‘set enough’ to give it touch ups later. I go into the kitchen and immediately set my ‘modern electric percolator’ (it is from the 1950’s and cost me all of a dollar I believe at a local sale, makes wonderful coffee and looks pretty on the table).
Next I begin breakfast. This is usually a full breakfast. It can be pancakes or waffles (both homemade completely and I have a vintage waffle iron that is actually from the late 1930’s and works wonderfully)eggs, bacon or sausage, toast, homemade jam etc. Grapefruit sliced with cherry is a summer time treat, but in the winter it is more hot cereal with dried fruit. But, we are both egg lovers and they often feature in the breakfast, rather simply fried or scrambled or my specialty, Eggs Benedict ( I am particularly proud of my Hollandaise sauce, also homemade.)
Then, while breakfast is on, I begin packing my husbands lunch. We save quite a bit in our budget by my doing this and I enjoy it. It often consists of leftovers from the previous day’s meal. I sometimes plan on cooking a little extra or will eat a little less (which will help with the waistline) to have leftovers for this purpose. Or, if there is a roast going or leftover chicken I will make sandwiches with that or egg salad etc. NO store bought lunchmeat for us. It is too expensive and doesn’t taste as good. Of course I do use tuna or salmon in a can sometimes.
Next, after lunch is packed, breakfast is done and plated and put in the oven on warm. I set the table: linen napkins, full silverware, glasses for Orange Juice and Milk, coffee cups. There is a pitcher of cream for coffee, one for milk if there is cereal. I stopped putting the container the cream or milk comes in, as it seems an ugly presence with my china. As the eating at table evolved, the presentation just became normal and now I expect and enjoy a table well set without the distraction of ‘store-bought’ packaging. By the time I have finished all this, my husband is usually dressed and shaved and we sit down to breakfast. As I am writing this I realize how normal this all seems to me now, but a year ago it would never happen. There was getting up whenever, rushing about, maybe grabbing a bowl of cold cereal. What I love about our breakfasts now, is it is such a great start to the day. We can sit civilized, enjoy a great breakfast (if I do say so myself) and actually have a conversation before we start our day. We often discuss what we both need to get done with our days of ‘work’ and then try to remember anything that needs to get done, but we also end up discussing interesting things, politics, the books we are reading, etc. I can’t imagine our ever NOT doing this anymore. Even on day’s off, we do this. We rarely go out to breakfast anymore and I often find myself not actually enjoying it as much as being at home. The modern world often talks of ‘you deserve it, pamper yourself’ which of course always means going someplace and spending money to have other people, who don’t care about you, take care of you. Yet, simple inexpensive things such as setting your table with nice dishes (also does not have to be expensive, my vintage china set was very inexpensive) sometimes dressing for dinner, sitting in the dining room at a table to discuss your life. These are things I now find important to my day and that I deserve to live thus. I don’t want to have to ‘get away’ from my daily life, I want to enjoy it as if I AM being pampered, even if much of it comes from my own hand.
After breakfast in a very 1950’s style, hubby gets his packed lunch, vintage thermos of coffee and a kiss and he is off. Then my day really begins.
Most of my days have a certain structure to them every week and then ‘extras’ get filled in as things come up. For example, Monday is Wash Day, Tuesday is Ironing Day, Wednesdays are the Floors (vacuuming and mopping etc of course through out the week I will vacuum as needed, but this is the day furniture gets moved, the stairs get done, corners really get the dust mop). Fridays are the bathrooms as well as Mondays. But this is just the general skeleton of my week, there is marketing and errands thrown in as well and those are dealt out for the day by a few minutes in my little sitting room with my cup of coffee from breakfast and my little notepad.
I also write my blog usually in the morning after Hubby has left for work or at least get it started. Though I don’t post every day, I am writing or researching a post everyday. It is very much a part of my ‘work day’. I have found this year’s schedule the best thing to getting things done. It is hard to procrastinate when you have so much to do! And you find little time to regret your day, when only getting half of your list done still surpasses what I might have done in a week in my past.
Yesterday, for example, was ironing day. So, as I turned on the radio (a radio repro that looks old but I play old music and old radio station on cd.) and began my ironing, I will also work on other things. I have been needing to get back to my sewing, so I might take a few minutes and look through my patterns and yesterday was a good day to cut out a dress. It is even better to actually sew on ironing day, as you often need to ‘press seams and hems’ as you sew and having everything out and ready is always helpful. Right now I have to turn the dinning room into my sewing room/ironing room, but I am lucky to have an out building that I plan to convert to my studio/workroom. There I can revel in having places specifically for sewing/ironing/artwork etc. It will aide my in my housework immensely.
Now, I also always give myself a lunch break. As I have been wanting to shed pounds, lately this has been cottage cheese and pineapple on toast or something along those lines and I always make a pot of tea to sip. I will settle into a corner with my tea and usually peruse my vintage magazines. Making notes of things for posts or ideas for my home, such as noting page numbers and month of magazine so I can find it later. And it is a time that I go through my various vintage cookbooks for ideas for menus, things I would like to try in the future. This is important as this affects my marketing for the coming week. Yesterday, for example, I decided next week I am going to try a week of ‘one dish meals’ I found in one of my cookbooks. So, I went through and jotted down anything special I might not already have stocked, so it can be adjusted into my weekly grocery budget.
This is a very important time, I feel, because it allows me to recharge and it really lets me appreciate the joy of being a homemaker. It also says to me: This IS a job. Making one’s own schedule and working out the day can be harder than people think. It would be rather easy to become lazy, but as you challenge yourself and realize what you can do, your days open up to you full of promise and you can’t imagine sitting and not doing something for too long. Or when you do relax, you can feel pride in what you have accomplished and dream of what you would like to challenge yourself with next.
Then round about 4 0r 5 I will begin preparing dinner. I usually have a rough idea of what I am going to cook each day, as it helps in my shopping, but the kitchen and I are such old friends now that I feel, much as I have in the past in my art studio, that it is such a natural place to be, often just walking in will inspire me to cook this or that. I usually have a dessert going and this is usually done twice a week. I try to have dessert day coincide with an easy meal, so yesterday I wanted to make a cake and frosting, so dinner was a simple meatloaf with a baked rice and vegtable side dish. This was easy to throw together ahead of time, pop in the fridge and then I could work on my cake. Then while the cake was cooling, the oven was hot and in went dinner. When you are as involved in your weekly meals as being a homemaker allows you to be, the concept of waste and leftovers is greatly changed. Meatloaf, for example, is a great vehicle to use up old bread crusts etc. I have a shelf in my fridge that holds ‘waiting leftovers’ to become ingredients in other meals. You will find, too, that you will try things on a whim, as opposed to only following recipes, to discover what works and what doesn’t. This sort of feels as if you have gone to the next level of food prep in that you are creating your own recipe.
Then I go about and try to do a good cleanup so the house is not all sixes and sevens when hubby gets home. I used to laugh at the old homemakers manuals saying, “Make sure the house is nice for hubby when he gets there” and my modern response was, “Yeah, why doesn’t he do it!” But now, I realize how hard it is to go out and work a job, I have done it myself, even run my own business, so I appreciate his hard day at work enough to say ‘thank you’ by not coming home to a messy house. We probably talk and have more together time now because of this lifestyle. When he comes home we can have time to have a cocktail or glass of wine while dinner is finishing (I may have already set the table or I will do it while he tells me about his day) and then we sit down and eat a full homemade meal at a nicely set table and discuss our day. This one simple thing, meal at a table, makes such a difference from the ‘modern version’ of eating in front of the TV.
Afterwards, he often goes to his study to read and write a bit (he collects and uses antique typewriters) while I clean up. It would have been normal for a husband to help the wife with dishes at this time, but as I have the luxury of a dishwasher , des rigueur in 1955, I find it easier to do this alone. I actually prefer to have the kitchen be my province and my husband rarely even needs to go in there unless he wants to snack from the fridge, which he rarely does.
After the kitchen is cleaned and table wiped up, I go into my little sitting room off our little kitchen and work more on my blog posts. Later in the evening we come together and sit and read or talk or sometimes watch TV ( I have vintage shows on dvd such as Father Knows Best etc). I might even try my needlepoint or work on the hem of a dress. Then every evening we usually read an hour or so in bed and then lights out and it starts all over again.
I rather like this life. The old modern me HATED wiht a passion routine. I didn’t mind working that much, but was never happy. Even when I tried my hand at being a business owner, I never felt ‘satisfied or fulfilled’. We have moved a lot and done various things and yet I find being a homemaker the most rewarding. Perhaps it is because it entails SO much, creativity, imagination, hard work, always learning new skills and pushing your existing skills to the limit, the list goes on. It is a good life.
Can you tell me a story of an incident that has occurred during this time? (perhaps an incident with the public, with getting the girdles on etc)
I have thought about this one and there are so many incidences that I have written about in my blog. They are rather longwinded, but my encounters in public have run the gamut from being sniggered at in a Mall by teens (who were wearing what would be considered basically ‘Hobo Costumes’ in 1955) as I strolled by in veiled hat, white gloves and seamed stockings and full ‘New Look’ dress to an elderly gentleman in an antique store almost tearing up and thanking me for ‘looking so well turned out’. It made him smile and then I too smiled.
My most recent encounter was a trip to our local antique store. I was dressed as usual and it happened to be a Sunday. I had Gussie in tow with me as well and she was also dressed 1950’s that day. The woman asked if I was involved in a fashion show, to which I replied, “My life is a fashion show”. She laughed.
I once, early on, was at a 1950’s Diner we frequent with friends when I became rather ill feeling. I was not yet used to the more restrictive Girdle I had on that day so I had to excuse myself to the Ladies room and remove it, roll it carefully with my stockings (as they would not work without the attached garters and I was not wearing a garter belt that day, as the girdle had the attached garters)into the pocket of my swing coat. Thank goodness it was cold enough to have my large coat. We laughed about it later and I have a variety of Girdles I wear now, some more ‘freer’ than others. It depends on what I am wearing and the occasion. I find if I need to wear the Merry Widow it is to make a nicer dress fit well and I then eat less and am less hungry. It is the most like a corset (and I have worn Victorian Corsets in the past so I know!)
But, for the most part I would say I have received positive responses from people. Many strangers will comment on my ‘style’. I think in our modern homogenized plugged in world a bit of uniqueness really affects other people.
- How has it been adapting to the way of life of the 50’s? What has been the hardest and the easiest aspects?
In the beginning there was a rush of excitement. I know look back and see it was another outlet for the modern “consumer me”. I was able to find vintage appliances and clothes, decorative items. IT was fun, but I look back now and still see that as the very modern me. Not that I should not have fun furnishing my home, but my concept of a ‘new time’ meant, “what could I buy”?
After that settled in, I was also lucky to have a close friend who was very into it with me. This allowed us to go crazy with girdle shopping etc and having someone else be a part of it helped me ease my way into it. I think one of the hardest parts was later learning this friend, whom I thought was close with me, actually felt a sudden need to distance herself. That was the hardest. I think the more I really realized how much our modern world is so made up of consuming and how much I felt lied to by the very modern attitude of shopping is good vs. making do is bad, made me feel more distanced from the modern world. I felt less connected with people because of it. I couldn’t relate in a way, because if I expressed my own feelings of how I felt doing this or that was bad, I felt it was misconstrued as if I was “trying to tell people how to live”. It was an odd place to be in. This friend and I are now becoming close again.
It was funny that it wasn’t hats with veils and white gloves and puffy skirts that made me feel disconnected to the world, but the very realization of what the world had become and the way we viewed the 1950’s was so off from what was actually going on. It made me sad because there is so much promise in the 1950s and somewhere along the line we missed the right path and that just made me feel very disconnected and sad, often wanting to quite literally really get into a time machine and go to the actual 1955.
What made it easier and bearable in that aspect was my blog. I have so many wonderful followers and we have become such a community, that it has made the whole experience superb! In fact, because of the people who read and comment on my blog and their own desire to want to learn or improve on their own homemaking skills, it has really given me the hope of my modern times. I know, through our technology, we can grow and make a change where early on I felt powerless and sad, now I feel plugged in and happy to see just what the new Vintage can mean for all of us. It has given my life a scope and direction I never would have thought possible a year ago.
I think one of the hardest things for me with this project was realizing how my past years seem almost wasted to me in their little endeavors. Of course, I am glad for the journey I have taken to get where I am, but I wish I was realizing the importance of the skills I am now working to gain at say 16 or 20. Of course, perhaps at that age I would have merely scoffed at them, yet given the choice to NOT do it at that age most of us have chosen not to, and in a way, though it would mean ‘forcing it’ upon young people, when you become older you would be thankful for it.
I think sometimes Freedom gets mixed up with Not Caring what you do. I think those are two different sides of the same coin. Freedom is knowing you are equal among others and now you have the right to make your own choices, but there should still be a level of expected responsibility. We should want to be a productive part of the whole. That doesn’t mean conformity, it can also mean being an expressive artist or great musician, but you can’t be either of those things without discipline and if you can’t discipline yourself to clean your home, organize your finances, make your own food, than how will you ever tackle the sometimes insurmountable hills of greatness? “The longest journey DOES begin with the first step” and I think, much of homemaking is an important first step that can than lead down any path. I feel like in my past which was the ‘future’ I was sold short on what the realities of life actually were. We are always told “you can do anything, reach for the stars” schools spend more time, it seems, trying to sell a philosophy of ‘good feeling and positive thinking’ more than the actual skills and knowledge you NEED to try and reach the stars.
- Have you noticed a change in any aspect of your life - relationships, stress levels, habits? Have these changes been for the better or the worse?
I would have to say that honestly almost every aspect of my life seems to have changed this year. I know that sounds unbelievable, but quite honestly the very core of my beliefs, how I view myself and my place in the world, how the world currently is run, and my relationship to other people is so drastically different to my ‘old self’ that I sometimes almost think of her as if in a dream.
Early on in the project, I would often find myself doing something and think, “Would the 1955 me, do this?” In a sense, she became almost a separate identity to myself. I lived a sort of ‘forced multiple personality disorder’. There was the ME, which was the modern version and the OTHER ME which was my 1955 persona. What I found has happened is over the stretch of this year, one has converged on the other.
I was just thinking about this today and wondered, “Had one won out or conquered the other?” And I have decided that I feel the two have converged. My basic personality and likes have remained, but I have changed in a way that I feel more adult and yet in many ways feel a freedom I more often associated with childhood.
I recall often wondering, as I grew older, when would I be a ‘grown up’? When would I feel that magical moment when it would happen? Oft times my friends and I would discuss this very topic and it seemed no matter how many responsibilities, mortgages, finishing our education etc, we never quite felt like a ‘grown up’. I have come to see that this evolution, this year, has been a composite of what most young people in the ‘old times’ must have just gone through naturally. There are endless films shown to youngsters and teens in this time and earlier and books and things all about ‘growing up’. Parents, though even if thought ‘square’ were still the ultimate goal:the grown up. Girls looked forward to emulating the styles and responsibilities of ‘grown up women’. Boys, too, looked to the days of responsibility and attitudes of the adult men in their life. This today seems to be almost non-existent. Now, the older people want to be ‘cool’ and try as hard as they can to by young. Mothers are more ‘friends’ to their children than parents. The ultimate search for Youth culture is in full swing.
This incessant need for youth and coolness is the perfect state to be in to become an increasingly consumer culture, for we do NOT get younger and to appear so we must buy products. Clothing styles must be hip and up to date; faces must bewrinkleless, so Botox, surgery the list goes on. We are more concerned about appearing cool and young to younger people than to learning to care for our homes, raising children and making ‘grown up’ decisions about our community. Perhaps if we were more concerned about our minds and responsibilities and making a grown up life, then the younger generation would eventually aspire to it through our example. Somehow along the way ,that concept seems to be lost. How can generations learn to be adults when their own parents don’t understand how to save, handle finances, organize days, make their own food and entertain themselves?
So, here I am feeling more ‘grown up’ and yet my stress level has gone down. To feel one’s place in the world can have a calming affect. I think there is such a culture of ‘Celebrity’ worship today, that most people are more concerned about what those people do and how to become one of them, that their lives are passing them by. To clean a house or be proud of a stack of ironing or well prepared meal is silly, but having an anxious feeling of needing to always be ‘trying to reach the brass ring’ though the rings definition is so vague and the path to it rather impossible, that many people lose out on the simple pure joy of living. SO, to feel plugged into that elusive world of ‘celebrity’ there is the reality show. Watch other people doing and having what you think you should have and then emulate them as best as you can. Of course, being unaware that all of this is simply one large advertisement made to coerce you more into spending and buying.
Simple, middle class life, work and tasks, joy and friends, and the responsibility and real tasks and level of skill that can accompany that can really fill a life with happiness and contentment. But, this is not cool, or fun, or so we think. But, working endless days at jobs we hate to pay off the debt to buy things we couldn’t afford to make our life more bearable because we have to work to earn more to buy more…You can see the sad hamster wheel the modern world has put us on.
When I think of the old ME I feel almost anxious. As if I was always struggling towards some unclear goal without any focus and no real feeling of place. Today, though it might seem boring or to be scoffed at, at the end of a day, if I have a stack of ironing done, meals made, dresses I have made myself and a quiet night with tea, my needlepoint and those I love around me, how could that ever be bad? Certainly, people should struggle and work towards goals that might mean they are very important and celebrity, but for many it won’t happen. There are many potential Happy Homemakers out there that don’t even know it and given a chance might find them self in the most rewarding work ever. And homemaking, the stay at home woman of the 1950s, her position was so elastic. It could become anything she chose.
We are shown or taught that the 1950s smiling wife waiting at home was repressed and stifled, and though that might have been true for some, those with imagination and personal drive that does not need the gratification of others, were very happy and talented. These were women who, with limited budgets, decorated homes, had wonderful wardrobes, happy friends, nights out dancing, bridge parties, ladies teas. They were artists, philosophizers, repairmen, nurses, writers, chefs, the list goes on. There was a reason that image of the woman smiling in the pretty dress and apron with the cocktail waiting for her husband existed. It showed a goal and believe you me, those hours at home, especially without tv and computer all day, are exciting and challenging and fun. There is frustration and problems, of course, but you must work it out, puzzle it away, and that is often more challenging and rewarding than working out of the house.
I find it funny now that we view the housewife of the 1950s as oppressed and bored when you think of the endless chances each of their days could bring to them; the creativity and skill and the sky was the limit for their personal growth, while their husbands often has to do boring tedious work in offices day after day.
Again, that skill set of the homemaker, even if you do not want to become a homemaker, is so important, that it should be taught and discovered. I am happy now, as well, to be a part of learning and teaching that goes on in my blog and know that the learning and sharing can continue on and is exciting AND rewarding. I have never felt oppressed nor put upon. It is true that I have chosen this path, but it IS modern times and women should be show this as an OPTION for them to CHOOSE, not just fed a lie about oppression and mindlessness so instead they watch tv for hours, go out to clubs, and get deeper into dept at college with no real focus. How is THAT not oppression?
So, I would have to say emphatically that the changes wrought by this years project and the lessons of the past have changed my life completely and for the better.
- Will you maintain any of the lifestyle changes once the year ends?
At this point I think most of my changes will stay the same. I will return to reading modern fiction and news, of course, more purposefully, but will most likely find it hard to go back to modern magazines which now seem silly ads for products with no real teaching value. I will see modern movies, of course and those type of things.
However, I feel my clothes will stay the same. I am finding that to choose an area, such as the 1950’s, and to then build a wardrobe by my own hand as well as vintage finds, is so rewarding that I do not want to give it up. Nor, will I ever feel ‘out of style’ if my style is that. This way I can spend less and not need to throw away, but only mend and add to an ongoing style. Why do you think fashion changes? To make money after all it IS a business. But, we modern women now live in a world that doesn’t tell us what length our skirt has to be or etc, so we should USE that and choose an era or style of clothes we like and then focus on that. Think of the wardrobe you would eventually have and the money you would save by never having to get rid of it because the style changed. Basically, every original clothing idea has already been made. You can pick and choose what you like, but then stick with it and evolve within it. This is truly what being chic is all about, I think. My hair, as well, which is now short with bangs is so easy to maintain and so fun to curl, that will continue on after this project. I understand now why very old women from this time often still have their original hair cuts/sets.
My role of homemaker, though uncertain of it’s path in 1 January 1955, I think will continue on. The more modern aspect of my life will be the continued use of the computer but to learn programming that will allow me to now run a website that coincides with my blog so I can go further with revising and showing the Homemaking skills. I want to grow in my own local community as well as continue to grow my online community. I feel we women should share and celebrate our history of homemaking.
Things like modern fast food, chips and junk food, I have found I do not want to return to. The more I learn to make my own things the more I realize how horrid modern processed manufactured foods actually taste. The more I find that has been ‘hidden’ by greed and government about ‘store-bought’ foods, the more I want to make my own things. My hubby told me about the sweetener splenda, which had been turned down by the FDA for years until Donald Rumsfeld, who was involved in it, was appointed to a political position. That combined with lobbyists throwing money at our politicians allowed them to approve something they knew unsafe. I used that product as a sweetener and bought products containing it up until this year. It was even found out that it tricks the body into thinking it has actual sugar so your body produces the level of insulin it would need to process the actual sugar calories which is dangerous to your body. A very unsafe result and it also makes you more hungry in the end. I feel used in such a way by news like that. I feel no more than a wallet to our government in ways like that and it just has me wanting to be more in control of the parts of my life that I can, such as my own food preparation, which I have also come to find enjoyable.
So, with the exception of a few things relating to news and modern movies and culture, I will most likely remain the same. It has become to me so much my LIFE and less a costume or artistic performance piece, that I am not even sure if I really could ‘return to the present’ wholeheartedly.
What I don’t want to do, however, is to live disconnected and feel that I am locking myself away in a fantasy world of untruth, but in fact a new kind of Modern is born in me. I feel more than ever that I want to become involved in my community and to share and learn such skills as I have with others. I can’t ever be again the norm of current modern, but in a way I almost will feel ultra modern in a way that is taking things from the past but challenging the ideals and ideas of my day. It is funny to think the norm today would be a tattooed pierced consumer while the ‘subversive’ is the lady in the petticoat hat and gloves, talking about baking for her local community. Is Homemaking the NEW Counterculture? Perhaps corporations will make school films showing why not to give in to the subversive lifestyle of the homemaker!
- How have you found the clothing of the 50’s? Has it been an effort to prepare yourself like a 50’s women each day? (corsets, girdles etc)
I have found the fashions to be fun and flattering. I do wear a girdle, but when I am at home working or in the height of summer I did not. My stockings and garter belt were only worn in the summer to more ‘formal’ or a ‘city occasion’. It was perfectly appropriate for me to wear a summer cotton dress without hose as I live in a summer resort area.
At first the girdle was a little odd to wear, but I now know why many older ladies hold onto their girdles. They are comfortable and hold you in and make your clothes fit is a way that makes you feel good. But, really, the new SPANX product today is merely a girdle. Women want to look beautiful, I think.
I think the hardest for me is keeping up with my nails. I am always cleaning and washing and in the summer in the garden, so I need to be more diligent about my gloves. Ladies wore gloves not only in the summer as part of their fashion, but to clean and garden (thus rubber and gardening gloves). Keeping your nails covered and therefore only needing to touch them up throughout the week seems to allude me, but I do wish to do a better job of it. I also don’t feel any less intelligent or smart in caring for my appearance. I have come to see that we, as women, can look beautiful and feel pretty and still discuss politics and literature. I think not trying to do both is a sort of let down to our predecessors. One does not get smarter the dingier one gets.
We are after all, creatures of habit, so even my wardrobe has become so normal to me, that I am not sure I could or would go back to jeans and t’s. I would feel underdressed or more ‘uncomfortable’ not having my hat and gloves or wearing a dress to go out shopping/dinner.
It is interesting, as many people may not think that fashion matters to them, but with this experiment I have found that what you wear can be as important to your emotional level as what you read/watch/ think about. The 1955 woman may have felt she only had limited choices in the fashion, such as the New Look lengths, but within that ‘safe harbor’ of skirt lengths and what to wear when, was left open your interpretation of the outcome. You could accessorize and create your own style within that framework. And, beside feeling good or uplifted in nice clothes with your hair done and the right accessories, when you are with a group of women who are doing something similar (as sometimes happens when I coerce my friends into a gathering in vintage garb such as my recent Birthday tea) it has a feeling of wonderful fairytale quality. You feel as if you are playing dress up/grown up and then realize you are the grown up. So, on a psychological level, clothes really seem to be an important part of the psyche to adult hood.
I think part of the current state of our all being great grown babies and not adults, may lie in the clothes as well. It is easy to slouch, be mindless and watch tv in ‘comfy clothes’ but get together with friends in nicer clothes and you want to sit up straight, hold your tea cup and saucer, balance your plate carefully upon your napkin upon your knee, ankles crossed. It is great that we CAN act as we choose, but in that choice I just wish we would CHOOSE SOMETIMES to act grownups. Perhaps I am just an anachronism now, but I do know that I am happy and content with the pattern of my life. Though I may be the odd ball in the room in a petticoat and white gloves, I feel better and happier, so that is a part I don’t want to lose sight of. Clothes can matter and affect your life. It is the outward expression of who or what we want to be. I don’t want to be a lazy runner in a track suit watching tv, so I won’t dress that part. It is no harder to put on a dress and zip it up than to wear old jeans and t’s and yet the resulting feeling you get and the positive result you often get from others can make your day go from gray to blue. I know that sounds trite, but I also know it is true.
- Have you ever felt you wanted to stop the project? Or have you adopted it wholeheartedly?
In the beginning, after the first rush of a month or so, I felt as if I wondered if I should stop. I really felt my very psyche, the core of who the “I” or “ME” was, being questioned. I began to also feel cut off and longed for a time in which I didn’t live. I would often spend some time watching old 1950’s family films that my hubby had found for me on YouTube and feeling rather sad.
Then I began to see that what I was missing was not a past I had never experienced, but all the skills and sense of place and community that once existed. Once I figured that out I pretty much went full tilt into the project and slid into the role easier than any other I have ever tried.
- Would you like to add anything else?
I think my final words should be that never would I have thought, a year ago, something viewed with such disdain could be so rewarding. I think the home arts are such an integral part of womanhood and our history that it is a shame they are falling on the wayside. Even if you would never yourself want to be a homemaker, to not at least study and know of what it entails and what is meant is a disservice to your own sex. As History was being made and nations built, women were there cooking, mending, sewing, creating, challenging, raising children, creating homes in every aspect. I hope that all women could see the relevance and importance this part of our history has to us, as women, and to our future sisters. I don’t think an advanced people can ever truly move forward without first looking back.