Saturday, February 5, 2011

5 February 1957 “Sleekness in Design for ‘57 and the Need For The Latest Thing”

carcartoonI thought this cartoon spoke to me on two levels. The first was a great portrayal of the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ becoming more and more prevalent here in the 1950’s.

Secondly, we see the sleek look of design that is starting to appear here in America by 1957. The ‘old’ car of the main couple sticks out like a sore thumb, while the latest more popular couple in the front are squished down in their seats, yet the height of fashion.

Let’s see just how much the overall look of cars from 1955 to 1957 has changed.

55dodgeThis 1955 Dodge ad still has a very ‘tall and rounded’ look. You can notice the major change in the overall design of a car from just 1955 to the modern lower sleeker, though rather larger, 1957 American car, as this ‘57 Mercury displays.57mercuryad

Over the pond, however, the rapidity of change is not as great. The level of production in Britain and Europe is very slow and really the rationing had only stopped a few years prior for England.

Here we see the 1955 Morris.TRCR1050, Morris Minor, One Of The FamilyThis 1955 car already looks rather ‘dated’ by American standards. It still retains a very 1940’s car look. And by 1957 there is not much change to it.57morris Cetainly keeping up with the Joneses here must be a bit easier.

This ‘sleekness’ of design is not limited to cars. In fact the need to ‘update’ our homes is beginning to really appear. We must remember that in the 1920’s-30’s to even have the luxury of a refrigerator would have been just that, a luxury. Even by the 1940’s war time, the concern over how ‘up to date’ ones’ ice box or range was hardly a concern.

Now, however, here at the end of the 1950’s, we begin to see a drastic change in styles. These ads from this year, 1957, for Frigidaire for their ‘sheer look’ in refrigerator as well as stove looks rather modern.


  Gone is the lumpy image with which we today often associate the 1950’s fridge. This ad is only two years old 55icebox  yet look how dated it appears with the sleek sharp angles of the new ‘57 model.

Some other ‘latest’ designs from this year may begin to look rather familiar to us.moenfaucetad1This ‘state of the art’ Moen single handle faucet probably looks like many that modern people have loathed and had ripped out. Or it recalls the cheap college flat or rental house. Yet, here, it is the ‘cat’s pajamas’ (though that saying is rather outdated here in 1957 as well!)

 celotexceilingtilead1These type of ceiling tiles are always advertised in my magazines from the early 1950’s and by now are available in many decorator colors and styles. Though to modern people it appears that thing to ‘get rid of’ in a home, I wonder if they should be reconsidered. We are so quick to change, to jump on the continual ‘up date’ band wagon, spurred on by the Home Design shows that have been popular since the early 2000’s. What makes something the ‘living end’ one year only to end up ‘ugly’ and on the dust heap the next? earlyamericanroom      Images such as this, which I would call a very middle of the road Early American look also probably has a familiar ring to it. Perhaps in high school days in the 1980’s this type of furniture was relegated to unused rumpus and ‘computer rooms’ in the basement. Or Grandmother had ‘those old sofa’s’ around. Dirty college rental houses often had this type of item on front porches or in back rooms. Yet, here in 1957 they are on the other end of the scale that is Modern on one side and ‘Colonial’ on the other. But they are very highly desired.

What is amazing, is we often see this type of furniture still around and it was very well built AND built IN AMERICA. Yet the inexpensive furniture of today is not and often falls to pieces in a year or two, but who cares, they will but ‘out of style’ by then, right?

It isn’t a new realization to me here, now on my third year in the 1950’s, that the education to waste and spend is well on its way. Though there is much more conservation and much less garbage here in 1957 then in 2011, it is a mad house of spending and waste as opposed to only 10 years earlier in the immediate post WWII years.

I just hope that our love of vintage can allow us to see that we can take and love that which is already made and made well. If we do not do that we will simply wait for more of the modern production to pump out ‘1950’s vintage inspired’ furniture, dishes, etc and allow us to go and buy it with ease. We care little if it is well made or where it is made. I ask, however, to consider the hunt. To find and save and love and repair an old piece, that is to be ‘modern vintage’ in my book. Not only does the authenticity of the piece have more value it also helps out the environment a bit. And, why not give some much needed cash into the pockets of a local seller than wait for that ‘vintage inspired’ flat pack Chinese made sofa from the giant Box store?

Styles change and desires with them, but we must remember that deep down, it is all manufactured. Not only the product but the desire. Before we know it, after our homes are just ‘done’ in 1950’s we will be told it is ugly and 1980’s is the things. That is where we need to separate our true feelings toward a piece or a look and stick with it.

Who knows, maybe your children or grandchildren will be writing a blog, or whatever odd magical form of mass communication exists in 50 years from now, about how lucky they were to have had ancestors who collected up a home full of 1950’s furniture and kept it ‘all these years’.

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