Wednesday, January 5, 2011

5 January 1957 “1957 Fashion and Hair and The REAL MAD MEN.”

I thought we’d take a quick peek at some fashion and hair for 1957.
collaredsheath A darling sheath dress with the collar that is becoming increasingly vogue. This collar will continue into the early 60’s and actually get a bit taller. I love the little empire waist pleat in the back.
57speigelcatalog 57speigelcatalog2 These great prints in the full skirt, dolman sleeve and no defined shoulder is still going strong. These are from a 1957 Spiegel catalog.
57fashion A Peter Jones dress for this year. Sweetheart neckline and the length is getting a bit shorter.
swimwear I love the conical straw hat.
57hat Speaking of hats, the raised crown is appearing as is the brim. This will reach its peak in the mid 60’s with mod hats that look like 20’s cloche but worn very high.57hat2 This style is becoming more apparent in high fashion. Click the image to get to see more hats from 57 at 57hat3 Though the closer fitting smaller hat is still the dominant look here in 1957. This darling cloth number would be rather easy to make, I would think.
57hair This Clairol ad from 1957 also shows how hair is beginning to lift off the forehead. After the 1940’s hair began to be shorter and tighter to the head. Though this is still a shorter style you can see how it is being lifted which will eventually become the bouffant by the mid 60’s.57clairolad Here we see another Clairol ad from this year. Again, the hair is softer and less rigid than the decade’s beginning. Softer fuller waves, not unlike the 1940’s in some aspects.An interesting point about the Clairol ads, is I found out that their 1949 ad campaign, “It lets me be me” was dreamed up by a woman.
 menwomenmadisonave A few years back, when Mad Men first came out, there was an exhibit at the New York Public Library highlighting ads and the Mad Men of the 50-70’s.
What is interesting to what we are shown on the show, is much as I have come to discover with my own project: what we are told about that time and women’s oppression is often over-exaggerated.
phyllisrobinson A quote from one of the influential women in advertising, Phyllis Robinson,(the woman who came up with the 1949 Clairol ad) was interesting:
“It seemed very simple and straightforward and not pretentious,”(the ad) Robinson, 86, said in a telephone interview from her Manhattan home. Robinson said no one held her back because she was a woman.
“Not in the least,” she said. “I slid right in and did my stuff.”
HERE is an interesting article about Phyllis.
marywellslawrence Another influential Mad Men ‘Women’ of the time, Mary Wells Lawrence, started as a copywriter in the 1950’s and founder her own agency, Wells Rich Greene, in 1966. She said:
“People are always saying, ‘Wasn’t it a male business?’ It was not a male business,” Lawrence said. “You would think that we were all cowering under the desk.”

I think it is just another example of how we get so much of our current knowledge and therefore idea of history FROM TV that we have a distorted view of it. Of course it is more drama to have such a divide between the women and to portray ALL the men as womanizing chauvinists. Yet, we seem unable, nowadays, to really separate reality from fiction. Our real history is almost being re-written by TV/movie fiction writers.
I think that is one reason I am glad I am studying a time when some of the people who lived it are still alive to set us straight. There is something almost ‘whiney’ about a modern person saying, “Well, we couldn’t do that then because it was how women were perceived”. Yet, throughout history there are women who in SPITE of what was perceived still succeeded. And today, the concept of the oppressed homemaker is also a nice crutch for people to feel no need to be accountable for their homes and lives. “I can’t be bothered to be organized or pay attention to what I and my family eat, I’m not a Stepford Wife!” A term, by the way, invented for a film that seems to hold more truth for women today about their history than the actual truth of women who did enjoy and feel proud to have chosen a career as a homemaker. Obviously, women had the option even then to go off to New York and work in offices and, yes, even become Mad Men.
I think we do , we modern people, sometimes have trouble separating TV/movie fiction from reality. In some sense it gives us such a distorted sense of what life should be like, we are often depressed or striving for things unattainable because they are not real. The sad thing is it makes the REAL things not even in our range of decision. I have come to find out by disconnecting myself from that modern machine, the joy and happiness in that actual, the truthful. Odd, then, that I had to find it while ‘playacting’ house wife in the 1950’s.
In a way, that very indulgent aspect of my ‘pretending it’s 1950’s’  much like a reality show even points out to me how much I was and am influenced by media and modern programming. It seemed normal to try such a project because ‘normal’ is skewered towards fictional in the modern world. Though, I am happy for it and in my ‘fictional’ 1950’s actually feel more happy and ‘real’ than I did before the project.
Also, as an artist, walking that line of reality and imaginary is often par for the course. So, in some ways, it was probably just easier for me to do it. But, my point ( I do have one) is that we need, we modern people, to try and appreciate TV/Movies for what they are, entertainment. Yet, realize that real life and living is often nothing like what we are told on TV. And, in that as well, our history is not anything like an AMC Drama. We can appreciate the show for what it is, a ‘dramatization’, but we should also take the time to look at the real history and understand where we came from. It helps us see where we are going and how best to get there.
Happy Homemaking.
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