Tuesday, July 6, 2010
6 July 1956 “1950’s Models and Our Body Image”
This image of one of the famous models of the 50’s, Jean Patchett, is quite intriguing to me. First off, I adore that suit and cannot see how a body hugging outfit that also stays in place when you move, is not considered sexy today. Or at least, that is what I assume, since modern bathing suits seem to be less fabric than a handkerchief and held up by the grace of God.
Jean Patchett was one of the five or six main models of the 1950’s (their version of supermodel, only better dressed off camera). So, the second thing I find interesting about this image are her legs. In many photos of Jean in dresses, you can see her very thin frame, yet here, in a bathing suit with no girdle and her thighs showing, you can see she has a ‘natural’ thigh. And by ‘natural’ I mean it is not so overtly muscled that one needs to constantly be pounding energy drinks and doing 800 reps on the stair master. The ability to maintain this sort of basically male musculature would be all consuming. And I have to say, when I saw the thighs on Jean in that bathing photo, I suddenly felt better about my own legs. That tells me the POWER of media, even here in 1956. To see someone in the high fashion world suddenly have what we would consider in 2010 as ‘thick thighs’ does wonders for a gal.
Jean came onto the scene at the very beginning of the 1950’s in Vogues quintessential 1 January 1950 cover. Her face, with her natural beauty mark, set a tone for make up and the look of the coming decade.
The other main models of the decade were Dovima , Dorian Leigh , Suzy Parker , Evelyn Tripp and Lisa Fonssagrives
Now, it is clear to see that all these models are certainly thinner than your average housewife, but they have a real body. You can see in Evelyn Tripp’s photo with the cat, her arms are shapely not skeletal. I am sure the sad bit of these women is cigarettes probably paid a major role in their weight and I know Jean Patchet dies in 2002 of emphysema. That is one lie I wish I could tell the ladies here in 1950’s, about the tobacco companies. And, oddly enough, if they simply made a cigarette with tobacco and no tar and added chemicals and bits of minute broken glass so one’s lips receive tiny slits to therefore become addicted quicker, perhaps cigarettes would have taken another turn. The greed and insatiable demand to want more and more money and not be happy with a good income making a trustworthy product has been taking over the American conscious since the turn of the 20th century. The new man, the Industrialist, wanted it all and at any cost. I wish, in any time, we could learn to curb that human trait. But, I suppose, really we are simply using our animal instinct to take and take to survive, but we are meant to be civilized, which means to think and consider.
Well, I am not sure how a photo of a bathing suit made me think of all that. Yet, there it is. I suppose my only point was, then I saw that image of that famous and thin model and saw her legs, even a hint of what we would call cellulite today, I suddenly felt a little better about myself. Sometimes 1956 can be very forgiving and uplifting to a gal. Even here, we can see she is very thin, yet see the softness in her leg. There is a spot where here bathing suit cuts into her leg and has a bulge. This, I think, is natural. The leg is not meant to be a stone pillar. It can have a beauty in its softness. That doesn’t mean be unhealthy, but I wonder, is it healthy for your mind to worry about what ‘squishes out’? And, 2010 fashions, with their low rise and where they hit the body, is just asking to make folds and ‘squishes’, it is a scary cycle of impossible body shape, unflattering fashion, and photo shopped photos on magazine covers.
When Gussie and I were at the 4th of July parade, we made note of many fuller frames that would have looked so good in a simple cotton dress hitting the waist and a fuller skirt to cover the ‘bulges’ and turn them into the lovely soft female silhouette. Yet, these frames, really the average frame, looks like a tree trunk as there is no shape to the tops and the shorts hit below the waist, forming, basically, a large lump with a head. Now, I know it is not everyone’s responsibility to look nice for me, far from it, but I wonder how much better they would feel about themselves. Even without losing weight, that modern game “Oh, I will get that or wear that once I lose this many pounds” would be a weight less wretched with a 50’s silhouette. Why wait? You can always bring in the dress. But, the boon to your self esteem, the way it makes you feel is worth it. And the 50’s shape does not have to be done all out vintage, if you wear a 1950’s full skirted dress without a petticoat, no gloves or hat and simple sandals, you will not look old fashioned and you WILL look better shaped.
Well, just for fun, here are more fashion shots of Jean to enjoy. Yes, she is model thin, but many of these outfits would do wonders for a fuller figure.
Happy Homemaking and Dressmaking!