Posted in Revival Style Guide, The Publications

The MidCentury Housewife: As an Influence on Good Housekeeping

We at the RRBlog identify strongly with the assumption that media has a reciprocal relationship with society. For instance, if a movie comes out that exhibits strong messages of equality, it is both spreading that message but also appealing to the social movement already in place. Similarly, if a new style is spreading, it is likely that a modern movie will incorporate it.  With this in mind, the midcentury icon of a sparkling, smiling housewife was such the icon likely because of the media explosion that surrounded these women.

So let’s take a look at it through the lens of ‘Good Housekeeping’: The majority of stylistic elements of homemaking, aesthetics, and the overall notion of a woman leading the home with a matriarchal status all get a facelift in the 50s. With hubby out being a good little breadwinner, the wife had carte blanche to create the image of a modern home within the family’s means. Much like we mentioned in previous miniseries articles, things tended to become competitive. If Doreen had a showstopping new ensemble from the Danish postmodern collection, then it was likely that Charlotte living 3 doors down would be considering a redecoration of her own to showcase.

What I think also helped make these little dreams a reality were the installation of communities of ‘little boxes’ like those of Levittowns across the eastern portion of the USA. With financial incentives in place for recently-veteran’d men returning from the war, feasibility for homeownership was at an all-time high for this population (which was quite a percentage of the overall population). The iconic wives had a place to call home and raise children. In many ways, this accessibility alone provided for pop culture to latch onto the ‘American Dream’ being lived out by so many folks in similar circumstances.

So about this Good Housekeeping? Pop culture (especially the visual arts) depicted having a happy home as an accomplishment for these wives. I think, in many ways, that if means allow, many homeowners have the same bidirectional influence on good housekeeping and the media today. Thousands of remodels, keeping up with the Joneses, and publicity stunts that lower the costs associated with updated home features all contribute to finding the most pleasing look for homes across the world. With new trends like tiny house living, antique revivalism, and even the slow decline of gigantic houses, there is a broader variety of ‘trends’ and styles to fit the aesthetics of the home. Although the matriarchy no longer rules the roost in that stereotypical way, the pride associated with personalizing the home is more interconnected with media than ever with the implements of sites like Houzz, Overstock, and especially Pinterest.

So in many ways, the high aesthetics, low cost of living, and high emphasis on imagery of the midcentury is what happened to give the housewives of this era the ultimate say in how the home was structured.

Posted in Revival Style Guide, The Publications

The MidCentury Housewife: A Style Sophisticate

As many of you have guessed from the pop art image we’ve been using to share these posts, it’s pretty clear that midcentury housewives had a killer sense of style on top of everything else they did. These women, despite the constant attention being drawn to keep a home and raise the children, found time to put on the ritz. Apron included, these model maidens managed to make themselves look like the perfection they sought after. Whether it was taking that extra few minutes to make hairpin curls happen or ensure that her skirt fell just below her knees, attention to details made their era of class a memorable one.

Why did they go through all the extra trouble, though? Didn’t these women have some of the highest levels of social and familial pressures and obligations?

It makes it challenging to believe they had any time to themselves. But the one thing that gave some time to the tireless midcentury mama is that they weren’t obligated to be breadwinners. With an adjusted tax rate on the rich with far less withholding for the middle class, in conjunction with a higher valued dollar (USD) at the time, one parent working was enough to support the family. It helps also that internet, TV, and cell data fees weren’t in the budget back then. So with dad out at work, mom was left with the housework and shopping, but also with a fair share of her own time. It may not be much, but it was just enough for the midcentury housewife to treat herself to the little joys like sewing herself something that makes her feel beautiful, visiting the salon, or kicking back with her favorite tea and books. After all, the kids didn’t get back until 3:00pm.

There were several additional reasons that the spare time of a midcentury housewife was often spent beautifying herself. First was social norms: America had adopted a very collectivist means of propaganda to support the country in World War II. This meant that women were included in the passive aggressive tactic of modeling excellence in aesthetic and efficiency during a time where production was crucial to win the war efforts. From the 40s, the collectivist approach cadenced into a lingering sense of contribution toward the greater good of America. One clean, neat, and lively wife meant that the image she produced was setting a higher standard and represented the country well. (And so, in several media-encrusted situations, competition between the ladies in this era erupted…)

Another such reason for the wives of the midcentury looking so impeccable was their desire to maintain a sense of sophistication meshed with youth. Many instances arose at the time ‘Astronaut Wives’ was first published that the cover art wasn’t beliveably the actual wives- but this fact was debunked as readers became culturally aware of the variation in styles from that time period. In fact, youthly looks (like form-fitting clothing and ratted hairstyles) were often reserved for teenagers, while women in their twenties through forties had a distinct uniqueness to their getup. Preserving that image, (flared skirts, high-heeled shoes, organized colors and few patterns, and modest blouses), meant that the housewife was capable with ease to uphold her status and do so with grace.

It makes us wonder how this new generation of wives will set the standards for themselves, no? Stay Curious!

Posted in Revival Style Guide, The Publications

The MidCentury Housewife: Memorable Motherhood (A Mother’s Day Special)

Another extraordinary component we would like to explore about the midcentury wives is their experiences as (often young) mothers. Despite the considerable lack of real health research that supported the notions that butter is awful for arteries, tetra-chlorides in clothing detergents are a terrible ingredient, and that spanking children in public is actually humiliating as opposed to effective; these women did all they could to produce a breed of childhood that remains the nostalgic reverie of tens of thousands of baby boomers today.

What was it that made this golden age of childhood so memorable? The answer to that question, no matter what year, decade, or century it is, will always be: Mom.

There are several components of timeless maternal methods that started in the middle of the 20th century. Strongly-encouraged outside play, independence, a gentle touch, and a firm teaching of what is earned versus what is given all mesh to create the image of the midcentury mom. These may seem like the very basics, but without the adornments of materialism and modern luxuries, but these are what make moms so memorable.

Take for instance one classic situation; the children are instructed to go outside to play after their homework is finished- there would only be the rule to be home in time for dinner or before the streetlights went on (whichever came first). Unless the rain is falling, mom made sure they would at least spend time out of the house to prepare dinner. Once dinner was made, mom in her apron and the children with their hardy appetites would convene, talk over a warm meal and discuss the day. Should one of the little ones refuse to finish dinner, that’s all that would be offered through the next day’s breakfast. A balanced diet was ensured. But at the end of the day, though her rules were unbreakable, her kids could always count on mom to attend to each of them, tucking the children into bed, one by one.

Always available to offer advice, hem pants too long or skirts too short, stitch up a favorite teddy bear, or cook warm soup during winter’s unforgivable season of sore throats: moms had to have it all to offer. It wasn’t a competition per se, but becoming a masterful mama meant that she could be counted on again for future generations and for friends and neighbors. Eager to share understanding and warmth, midcentury motherhood was no exception to the housewife’s ultimate desire to achieve excellence in her role, no matter how many roles she played.

Moms make the best memories. Period. This Mother’s Day, we salute all our reader-moms and readers’ moms for their timeless and truly unconditional sharing of love.

Posted in Revival Style Guide, The Publications

The Midcentury Housewife: Pursuit of Perfection

While we simmered through the last post regarding the Midcentury housewife, this month, we decided to discuss the housewife as an icon of distinction and eloquence through her pursuit of perfection. How does mother dear make the perfect gelatin casserole every time for her guests to enoy? How does she keep the pleats of her skirt so sharp? The truth is, a housewife of the middle of the 20th century had to juggle at least a dozen roles to keep her household a powerful, pristine representation of excellence. Most of these multiple roles are identical to those of today’s mothers, except that 70 years ago, many modern amenities like microwaves and dryers were only just becoming affordable commodities. Clothes lines, handmade dinners, and manually-steamed clothing were all the responsibility of the household matriarch.

When someone creates anything handmade, there is a strong sense of unmatched pride that comes with its production. So, in order to truly impress, the housewives took explicit care of their individual capital, making each napkin folded crisply and ensuring the stitches of their children’s dress clothes were tight and neat. If guests were to arrive, the children would be on their best behavior, the table would be set, and a formal homemade meal would be executed. Back in mid- 20th Century America, despite the somewhat rampant materialism associated with this mentality, the worth of a household was often assumed by the visual appearance and aesthetic of the family and their output. (At least, this was the perception of mainstream pop culture)

The housewife was responsible for creating this aesthetic for whatever guest or company the home may have hosted. For instance, if a husband invited his company’s executives to a dinner, it became the artistic expression of the wife to prepare a spotless home, culinary masterful meal in traditional fashion (appetizers, salads, formal entree, desserts, and cordials), and prepare the family to impress: all in anticipation of wooing over hubby’s employer. In taking into consideration that cleanliness, formality, and tastes in food are all subjective; the eloquence of the night was an illustration of the wife’s perception of perfection.

Perhaps it wasn’t limited to special occasions, but rather perfection was sought after whenever this iconic cohort of women wanted to feel as spectacular as they share. Perhaps it was an attempt for microcosmic, local collectivism- where the effort was to contribute to a greater America, one household at a time. Perhaps the desire to reach perfection was self-motivated. No matter what the desire, the goal of feeling accomplished was met and exceeded. This work ethic is timeless, brave, and its results overcome decades of submission. This is the first of many reasons that we have much to model after when it comes to the midcentury housewife.

Posted in Revival Style Guide, The Publications

A New Series: The Midcentury Housewife as an Icon of Empowerment

When most people think about the 1950s housewife, the first idea is of a well-dressed, poised woman whose smile beams as bright as the sun against her spotless kitchen floor. For a good percentage of the same people, the second image of the housewife in Midcentury America is sad, oppressed, and suppressed of her sense of self. In many ways, both are accurate and both are inaccurate. The media has remained consistent in its methods of displaying only what’s pretty and idealistic in pop culture and has only recently opened up more fully to the idea of exploiting oppression in exchange for the feminist movement. So this segment will focus on concepts and attributes of the social darling, the icon, and the controversy: the Midcentury Housewife.

Despite rampant sexism, systemic oppression, stringent gender roles, and excruciating social expectations, the housewives of the 1950s were very powerful. I’d never minimize the fact that the conditions surrounding their perceived perfection were emotionally deplorable; but this is the value of revivalism: we can take what positive tidbits we find and use them to inspire a retro future. However, when we use the term ‘midcentury housewife’ we should probably give the date range of around 1929-1970s because of the gradual evolution of the role as it experienced different eras of history to mold itself around. The 1950s is perhaps the most visually iconic, however.

So let’s talk about it! There are several major empowerment components of the housewife. In fact, the capabilities of a housewife were capitalized on for mainstream propaganda, pop culture art, and advertisement back in the day. People did, despite the often sexist behaviors and remarks, identify with the potential of these women. This miniseries will analyze a midcentury madre for her pursuit of perfection, memorable mothering techniques, influence on good housekeeping, as a self-made, home-taught, vocational genius, and for her sophistication in style.  Amid all the duties of making a picturesque home and contributing to the greater image of their communities, these women managed multifaceted lives that deserve to be observed as models of powerful work ethic, remarkable grace, and timeless (tireless) tightrope walkers in balancing their lives’ most cherished facets.

Be sure to check back with us in 5 days to get started into the Pursuit of Perfection! Stay curious, darlings~

Posted in Revival Style Guide

Revival Style: Giving Snoods a Second Chance

It is no secret that Harpie Lyn never liked snoods. Nothing screams ‘bombshell’ to me quite like an alternative-fabric hair net. Can you taste the sarcasm yet? In every effort to stay classy, I was very dismissive toward the idea of a hair snood. This month, it was time to challenge my own predetermined assumptions of the dreaded snood. “Snood”…What an odd word. It sticks to my tongue like a rogue piece of yarn in a frenzy of knitting.

The first stage of snoodwearing was denial. This isn’t a hairpiece. It’s not an accessory. It’s just a beanie worn awkwardly at some sophisticated angle. I refused it. The second stage was experimentation. If it’s knit by me, it can be taken apart by me if it’s dreadful. Maybe that’s a fair trade. So there’s a resolution if I wore the snood and thought it was the worst thing since Herbert Hoover’s economy. I ended up knitting a generic snood of snuggly brown yarn. The third stage of snood was knitting it and dumbfoundedly becoming attached to it.

I started wearing my snood around the house in an attempt to build some sense of confidence in my latest mushroom-esque addition. Eventually I realized that even while banging away at my keyboard (completely sedentary activity, mind you), the stupid thing would slip off my tiny head. Flustered, I tried stringing it with an elastic piece. It looked even worse. Giving up, I resorted to those little snap-clips that every little girl uses to keep her bangs out of her eyes. With one on each side by my ears, the snood finally stayed put. Then I realized that the reason a snood wasn’t prudent for me all this time was because it isn’t a simple garment, despite its appearance. Topvintage.net (which has quickly become one of my favorite sites on the internet) had several illustrations of snoods and how to wear them- 100% of the time, the models had their hair rolled and done up. Here lies my problem. So I began rolling my hair before wearing the snood using a hair tie and one oversized bobby pin that matched the color of my [natural] hair. I wore it out the first time to run errands (what a conservative lady stereotype) and got no feedback, which I interpreted as a good thing. So I wore it again. In the brittle misery of this particularly frigid winter, my little snood experiment did well to fit into my own style and appeal to women who don’t want to wear hats but also don’t want to have a bare noggin to the temperatures.

Let’s talk history: Recollections Blog (another excellent new resource) posted this snapshot of snoods emerging in the Middle Ages: Click Here. In the earlier part of the 20th century, snoods seemed to re-emerge as a means of function before style, and shortly becoming a staple of both. WeHeartVintage.co also illustrated excellently what different forms the modernized snood took. Click Here.

The snood, in many ways, shapes up to be something between a fascinator piece and a hat; one that is perfect for both indoors and outside in the cooler-but-not-frozen months. Aesthetically, once the positioning of the -er- headpiece is correct, the snood is rather complimentary. Particularly with a warm coat or sweater, the snood adds a certain 1930s-40s vintage look to any woman’s apparel. Despite my previous mentions of the nonsensical nogginwear, I must admit that through experimenting, my mind has been changed (if only for the season) about snoods.

Posted in Revival Style Guide

Revial Style: The Victorian Details (Winter 2018)

This year in winter, it seems like there has been a slight shift in seasonal affects. Usually when a therapist says this, they’re talking about seasonal depression, but thankfully, this time it’s a better case. Just in time for the ushering in of a new year, everyone seems to have committed to having a better time than in its predecessor year, 2017.

2018 is bound to be a year of practicality, artistry, embracing of uniquenesses, and a more open forum and expression of the retro liveliness in us all. That sense of nostalgia and warmth is exactly the type of method we have immediately adopted to survive these icy conditions. Whereas we usually have a focus on the midcentury, postwar trends that swept the Americas in the 20th century, this winter has forced us to pull all the stops from Pre- WW2 era aesthetics and potent Victorian vamp to stay toasty.

It is an excellent start to the New Retro of 2018 in that it brings us back to the ornate, highly-handcrafted, and often practical means of Victorian times with some modern twists. We found it unintentional yet interesting that the foreshadowing of the RRBlog’s Revival Style column on Clozy Coats from each decade that we published last year. This year, the desire to make layers sophsticated and elegant comes from a need rather than an adornment. Here in New Jersey, we have experienced nearly two weeks of profound cold weather; some of our nights have reached temperatures of -20 (F). As of right now, our climate rivals that of Alaska and the northern regions of Canada. The farmer’s almanac is one source we live by through its unique analysis through 250+ years of meteorological trend-tracking. In the retro spirit, to our dismay, this winter is anticipated to be one frosty, freezing experience. Thank heavens for the old-world references that are finding their way back to our culture- these revived notions may save you some frostbite!

Faux fur lined coats, thermal long socks, thick boots, heavy gloves and elaborate hats of knitted materials or weatherproof felts all have become commonplace following the crippling cold temperatures of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. It isn’t strange to see a businesswoman sporting a 3/4 or full length coat this winter. The gents have readopted work-appropriate boots and thick wool socks, shamelessly including warm (faux) fur hats, leather thermal gloves, and even hefty scarves to add to their woolen vests and suits tailored for these extreme temperatures.

Ladies, don’t even think about wearing your Sunday best heels out in this. What I think is the very best about the slight Victorian revival is how well it fits itself into wintertime. We found these puppies at Modcloth (Click Here) that epitomize the shapes of Victorian style footwear without the potential cracked ankles of high heels. Worried about the transition from slim jackets and puffy winter coats to hefty vintage counterparts? Fall in love with one of these darling demures and surely, your mind will be changed. After all, darlings, life is an occasion- we all can dress for it as we like: Click for Victorian Style Winter Gear, or perhaps you prefer the earlier years of the 20th century as your go-to for garb: Click for Era Themed Ensembles!

Gents, you have it a little easier- many of your well-loved name carriers already stock most of what you need to get your retro on this season. For instance, Macy’s carries a plethora of simple, timeless wool silhouettes for any dapper fellow to challenge the snow with. To no surprise of ours at the Retro Revival, men’s boots have found a middle ground between timeless and sophisticated, masculine yet elegant, & formal yet functional in our marketplace. DSW nailed this one: Men’s Warm Winter Footwear.

As the snow spends another few days before melting down in Jersey, we will be learning more about how to heat the home and hearth with a Victorian twist that is sure to keep everyone thawed through this intense winter ahead. Cheers, Darlings!