Whether daily shopping, a rockabilly event or dressy dance, circle skirts were a style front-runner and showed up everywhere. This trend had started with some peasant styles in the 1940’s, but really took off after the war ended. Of course, it called for a new kind of blouse and top. Favored styles were close-fitting, whether tucked-in or extending over the hips. The natural stretch of knits made them perfect for the job.
The upper photos show casual tops that worked well for warm or cold weather. Needlework magazines published both patterns for these tops and instructions for making and decorating the skirts. Below, we see two-piece dresses in another iteration of those we’ve recently looked at. The apricot-colored dressy skirts pictured met the need by including matching tops in the patterns. The striped outfit has a cap-sleeved blouse for tea-time and one for an evening event with longer sleeves and a plunging back. The solid-color dress is a bit more demure. All of them carry the added possibilities of separates to be mixed and matched within a wardrobe.
And, what a wardrobe! We’ll see how many looks the home needle-worker could create with a few pieces . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s needlework magazines embraced this exciting adventure and symbol of the Good Life and modern prosperity. Women were still mostly “at home”, but were REALLY getting out of the kitchen sometimes. Styles shifted right along with them.
Nothing portrays a life of leisure, well-being and financial freedom better than the ability to travel. This was a revelation for many women and international journeys were truly “another world” for most of them. New activities, of course, require new products and definitely a new wardrobe. The clothing industry, including handicrafts, got right into it and has continued to heavily market wardrobe items for travel ever since.
So, was there anything more thrilling than making an outfit for an upcoming trip across the country or the planet? The dream machine was in high gear and wardrobe, including all accessories, has led the movement. Only, perhaps, cars have had an equally compelling attraction and ability to follow and create culture. But, that’s another blog . . . . . . . . . .
In the decade that followed World War 2 the image of women in society had been changed by the independence and social involvement required of them during the 1930’s Depression era and the war effort of the 1940’s. Although our culture still expected most women to be homemakers, the surge in average family income and more modern lifestyles encouraged them to become drivers of the consumer economy, which meant getting out in society more often and more visibly.
A woman who wanted to see herself as a benevolent member of her community often participated in volunteer work and this was a step up in her social standing. Sophisticated wardrobes were a part of the image-marketing aimed toward women. Many were still economical do-it-yourselfers and were avid consumers of craft magazines. Tomorrow we’ll continue the journey as this dream lifestyle expanded in the fashion worlds of mid-century women . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Yes, they dreamed. A few of them actually did it, though it took phenomenal skill with needles or a knitting machine to make one of these outfits with good fit and beautifully-finished detail. The most popular needlework magazines were very good at following the fashion and cultural trends. The pictures above come from issues dated 1954 – 1958. Look at the blue dress top left – remember my posts of dresses and coats with fur trim on cuffs and hems? That was a “fad” in the ’50’s to early ’60’s which came up now and then on the most sophisticated styles. I was surprised to see it shown on a custom-knitted dress.
Can you imagine crafting something tailored as exceptionally as one of these? I can’t, but would LOVE to find one with this amount of style and added detail. You’ll be the first to know when I discover one . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
You know me – I can’t stay out of the files. Just opened up a box with many mid-century needlework and craft magazines gifted to me by an elderly friend several years ago. As I reviewed the images, I came across several which show styles similar to some of mine that I’ve recently posted. The examples in my blogs have been from the 1940’s and these two are from the early 1950’s.
Both of the garments pictured above are made from needlework patterns in women’s magazines that many subscribed to. Most women still were not working outside the home. The new image of a suburban homemaker with a new house, many modern appliances and a luxurious life of ease had taken hold in the popular media. Therefore, it was believed that she had plenty of time to concentrate on crafts for pleasure or profit. It’s true that many, many women were knitting, crocheting, sewing and making their own clothing, hats, purses and jewelry during their spare hours if their partners had steady employment. But, of course, most of this was a dream machine.
However, lots of neat stuff from that era is out there and was made at home. Unfortunately, most needlework projects didn’t survive. This is especially true of dresses and coats, which got the most wear. Some of them were absolutely beautiful and I will be showing more pictures. Two-piece ensembles were especially popular right around 1952 – 1959 and into the early 1960’s.
I’m sure to keep on finding these magazine pages that will dovetail with recent posts and fill in the gaps between finds, so stay tuned to the airwaves . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
What a wiggle dress this is! Marilyn Monroe – move over!! What a rare find – couldn’t believe it when it appeared (no, I fib. Of course I could). It’s hand-knitted, as was the one given to me several years ago by my friend Rosalie, who had made it herself in 1952. Likely, many women who were competent needle-workers did so when this style was popular.
This example is made of the same glossy yarn I wrote about several days ago. My other garments made from it are casual sweaters, so I was floored to find this lovely dress of the same material! Just perfect for a sophisticated occasion. I’m keeping it for wearing at just the right vintage venues (local museum events come to mind) or theme cocktail parties, Halloween . . . . . . . . ..
Anyway, I’ll be having LOTS of fun with it. That’s what it’s all about!!! Too much enthusiasm? Never . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Count on the McCall’s magazine to come up with everything! – including patterns for hand-crocheted or knitted dresses for all the women in your wedding party. Unbelievable!!
Well, it would certainly have kept the cost down. Many women did make their wedding gowns and attendants’ dresses in the past, or have them made, but usually the designs weren’t so labor-intensive as something like this. Can you imagine, with everything else there is to do to prepare for a wedding?
So, that was life in the early 1950’s. A lot simpler in some ways, a lot more tedious in others – but we’ve lost most of the elegance along the way. We’ll keep stepping back in time with my latest finds . . . . . . . .
MORGANA MARTIN, THE MAGICVINTAGESPY
BOOK: HOW TO FIND THE BEST IN VINTAGE FASHION – AVAILABLE ON AMAZON.COM
Although this kind of carry-all has never lost popularity in general, it seems like the 1960’s was a really big time for smart, tailored bags like this. Many were used to carry needlework, like knitting and crochet. No matter the use for it, totes like this are always SO handy. In this case, a very elegant design . .. . . . . . . .
Not sure why, but fashion needlework was kind of a “fad” in the Sixties among everyday women even though lots of people have always done it and certain people still do. I picked this bag up when I found it because it is beautifully made, in pristine condition, and just spoke to me of that Mod time in fashion.
The tortoise shell plastic handles were really “in” then, as well as the printed lining. I’ve left the closure flap turned up so that you can see the lovely lining material, too. It’s fully-lined, with metal hardware.
Just a simple bag, but with a shift dress and flats (or a sheath and pumps if you’re at the Club or an appointment) you’d look just like any photo from a popular magazine of 1964 or so. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Needlepoint totes and sassy little clutch purses were very popular in the late 1950’s – mid-1960’s. I’m tickled to find these great examples that will be so practical and fun to carry! Love the touch of asymmetry in the designs of both.
Although modern shoulder straps can make today’s monster purses quite handy when only a large handbag will do, I often prefer the design of older ones – and they’re better-made, too, unless you want to pay hundreds of dollars (and even then, it’s no guarantee – shame, shame on modern makers).
Anyway, these pretties got tucked into my closet and will come out soon – so perfect for the season . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .\