It’s just so crazy – suddenly WHOOMPH! we’re in patio-days temperatures. We went from no visible leaves to a forest of green within 1 week. I’m not complaining, but my plans to vet the “summer” evidence file got moved way ahead. An investigator always must be prepared for an unexpected change of plan. Stay tuned . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Harking back to 1950’s styles, or with Swiss, Italian and British style inspiration and yarns, intrepid needlecrafters went for it. In the spirit of Jacqueline Kennedy’s famous cloth coats in elegant designs by Oleg Cassini, home-knitters made coats with European and designer style. Even the two white Fifties-inspired designs at top were au courant with an open front or cruelty-free collar which looks like an animal skin (although we know that wool, including knitting yarn, IS fur and is NOT cruelty-free).
I especially like the cape with matching skirt and high-neck sweater. Worthy of Sherlock Holmes, himself, with it’s identity-concealing, equipment-hiding capabilities. A sleuth can swan around undercover, looking like a brainless fashion-plate . . . . . . . . .
Pants, skirts and culottes! Very avant garde for the U.S. But, ladies with knitting needles were not timid and the pattern magazines spurred them on. No one can say that “American” women didn’t avidly follow European high fashion. Investigators have long known that, wherever we are, successful sleuthing depends on being able to blend in. (Must be cautious about calling people from the U.S. Americans, as if we’re the only ones. People from Mexico, Central and South America also identify themselves as American).
The photos I publish are all from vintage McCall’s Needlework and Crafts magazines, an offshoot of the well-known and popular McCall’s women’s magazine that published monthly from 1873 to 2002.
Right around 1960, when the Kennedys stepped foot into the White House, women’s fashion underwent a major change. Jacqueline Kennedy’s elegant and modern simplicity of dress was a powerful influencer of women’s fashion. See the changes here from top to bottom, left to right. Conservative styles, old standards like the nautical themes and midi lengths phased out or disappeared. Hemlines rose to just below the knee and sleeveless dresses were more commonly worn. Pastels and bright tones also made a bigger appearance. We weren’t quite MOD yet, but gettin’ there.
Women loved the new, more youthful styles and these patterns with simple sleeves and a minimum of detail were also more straightforward to make, though adding belts and texture can be tricky to do just right.
This had always been true for the upper classes, so in the 1950’s the whole family got in on the act and Mom knit activewear for everyone. Although commercially-made knit bathing suits were common in the 1920’s, I can’t imagine a more likely opportunity for a wardrobe malfunction. As advertised above, the “bulky” or “stretch” yarns would probably help.
The newly popular “short shorts” with a coordinating top were a perfect project for beach and lawn sports like volleyball, badminton and croquet. The classic and endlessly-versatile cardigan and short-sleeve sweaters were just right for boating, birding, tennis and golf. How civilized . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Women were wearing pants more and more in the 1950’s. You’d really want to create this outfit after your trip to Spain! And, DOLMAN SLEEVE SWEATERS – LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!! They’re so Forties and I can’t get over them – just like wedge heels and platforms.
1954 was still pretty conservative, but girls just wanna have fun. And, speaking of fun . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Big decorated tote bags! These are often associated with the 1960’s, but the trend started long before. Whimsical, cute, pretty; whatever your fancy. Big skirts of hand-woven material; how Boho of you! This called for home-made colorful ankle-wrap sandals, designed to match your outfits – a bit of throw-back to 1940’s styles.
As always in mid-century magazines, the pages are also filled with special-interest advertisements and mail-order offers. Women were constantly encouraged to go into home-based business selling accessories and home-assembled items which they could start with a kit by mail or correspondence course – early front-runners to today’s online marketing.
While time and culture kept marching forward, we can continue to see the reluctance to give up previous ways of being and doing things. Just like today, there were big leaps forward that surprised everyone alternating with slow-grinding incremental change that almost seemed like no change at all. However, also like today, it was accelerating . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
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 . . . . . . . . . .
No ifs, ands or buts about going to a fancy event this time. Also from Montevideo, Uruguay, it belonged to a woman who was or was posing as a member of “society”. This frock has a huge amount of glitzy embellishment both front and back, but what better way to hide in plain sight? Very pretty, and it’s all hand-done. There is a label from “Mae’s” but I still suspect a small tailoring business, unless this was a toney department store that had it’s own tailoring department. The suspect or agent in this case had access to money and obviously had “help” or a very loving and patient partner. Can you imagine any other way to manage all those close-together buttons in back? (Hey, Mae’s, looks like you could have gotten zippers from Argentina instead! See yesterday’s post)
The very 1940’s style details are evident – big shoulders, midi hem length, below-elbow sleeves with shaping detail and that bizarre stuff going on at the hip-line. Unless it’s on the right figure, it’s pretty gruesome but Stella can wear anything. This dress has a very different cut from the one shown yesterday. It may have been made for a different woman but I suspect the measurements have more to do with the style of the dress. The padded shoulders, naturally, are wider but so is the bustline. The hips are narrower. My best guess is that this was done to balance out all the pleating on the hips and keep our heroine from looking bottom-heavy.
It’s a little tired from long-term storage but we know what a good drycleaner’s can do in a jiffy. Stay tuned for stepping into the 1950’s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Although, at first glance, this looks like another standard 1950’s winter coat it has several features which set it apart. The fur collar has been dyed in a distinctive pattern. The hip pockets are a very different style, though plenty deep for hands, etc. Also, the fabric, rather than being the usual flat weave, is a boucle’. That’s not frequent on these coats at all, in my experience.
So, the general rules don’t always apply, which makes the sleuthing fascinating. And, I love coming across a favorite brand from back in the day. Fashionbilt consistently made stylish coats for the middleclass market that always impressed me with their design and quality, so these exceptional details are no surprise.