1950 illustration by Robert Patterson For Caviar For The Duchess by Ruth Yorck; From Good Housekeeping; Image courtesy of TotallyMystified on Flickr.com
Glam Pack, according to this Glamour Shot, we are supposed to wear lots of red lipstick to bed. Never mind that red lipstick is no fun to get off of white linens or, it seems, a white nightgown; the red lipstick will coordinate with the ribbon around the edge of the pillowcase. I’m not sure what we’re supposed to do if the ribbon is blue, green, or yellow, though….
In about a month, I’ll be celebrating the six-year anniversary of Modern Retro Woman. Things sure have changed since its inception! I went from being an administrator at a university in California to being a homemaker who was teaching part time and going to design school to get my custom clothing certificate to The Mister losing almost all of his ghost-sculpting clients because they lost their funding within the space of a few months to us moving to the Midwest so that I could be an administrator again. Whew!
As we started the Glamorous Mid-century Lifestyle Project, I decided to take a look around this old blog and noticed that it needs a little updating to keep up with all of the technological changes (who knew that we’d all be reading stuff on a screen the size of an index card?). The blogging platform/template I have purchased promises to make my blog easier to navigate on a variety of devices.
But, as many of you know, I have a sewing blog. Grandmas Sewing Cabinet has been around almost eight years and, at one time, had a very popular podcast associated with it. Sadly, I had to take down the podcasts because I couldn’t afford the hosting fees while we were struggling to make ends meet and the blog itself has pretty much been on hiatus since I finished design school. Frankly, writing just one blog is a lot of work but two can be overwhelming when working outside of the home and trying to fit homemaking into the mix, too.
Mid-century magazines to the rescue! As I was reading my vintage magazines a month or so ago, I had an “a-HA!” moment. I am merging the two blogs into one and will be transitioning to a “magazine” format with departments related to cooking, sewing, fashion, charm school, design, fiction, and inspiration…and, of course, glamour…just like the mid-century magazines! This format will enable me to bring all of the things I love into a more cohesive vision of what it means to be a Modern Retro Woman living a Glamorous Mid-Century Lifestyle that will be easier for you to navigate.
I’m excited about the redecorating…I hope you will be, too! I just ask that you bear with the dust and the paint cans while I go through the transition. Hopefully it will be relatively smooth (I can dream, can’t I?).
Illustration for “The Stranded Blonde” by Joe De Mers, story by Edward Lind; Saturday Evening Post, 1958; Image courtesy of Today’s Inspiration on Facebook
Yes, I am blonde (mostly natural…). And, yes, I was recently stranded. But that is where the similarities between the woman in the illustration for The Stranded Blonde and me end.
Okay, now that we’ve got that straight…
I know I suggested that you dress monochromatically for an increase in your glamour quotient, but this dress shows us that if you’re going to go bright and colorful, a simple sheath silhouette will enable you to be glamorous, too. And, walking from the hips apparently helps, too.
I am officially on Spring Break. For a few days at least. All week my colleagues have been asking me how I’m going to spend my mini-vacation. I usually gave some nondescript response but I’m willing to share with the Glam Pack my top five fantasies regarding how I will spend Spring Break:
Singer sewing machine advertisement card, distributed at World Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893, showing a couple from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) with Singer sewing machine. Printed for Singer Manufacturing Co. by J. Ottmann Lith. Co., New York, 1892; Public domain image from Library of Congress; Image source courtesy of Trials and Errors on Flickr.com
3. Open the Windows
4. Did I mention sleep?
Oh, I guess I did, didn’t I? I guess I mean it, then, don’t I?
5. Go Outside
As you can see, my Spring Break fantasies are rather pragmatic. For the next few days I’m going to rest (and try to finally overcome a bit of something I picked up when I went to that training session in Florida a month ago), doing some updating of the blog formatting, be creative, spring clean, but most importantly, spend some time with The Mister…enjoying the first warmish days we’ve had in months.
It’s 1945 and Betty has decided to throw a formal dinner party for Bob. Two other couples have been invited. She’s feeling pretty good about her manners until the housekeeper notes a mistake or two. Betty’s parents are nowhere to be seen so they must be off skiing and leaving poor Betty to learn manners on her own.
Even though he is the guest of honor, Bob has to play the role of host and is completely stressed out about it. He even ends up spilling his milk and forces Betty to pretend that nothing is wrong as she wrangles an olive pit.
And all the while some man is doing a play-by-play voice over analyzing Betty and Bob’s poor manners while their friends seem to have gotten a handle on the whole etiquette thing before attending this party.
After watching this educational film, I was left with one question: Why didn’t anyone clean up the spilled milk?
Click here if the player does not work for you
circa 1953: A woman modelling a black lace corset with underwired cups, a short frilled skirt and suspenders. (Photo by Chaloner Woods/Getty Images); Image courtesy of Dolvima_is_DivineII on Flickr.com
As I mentioned in my previous post, women’s undergarments create a foundation for the overall look of a garment. If we analyze this photo, this corset provides the support for breasts without the need for straps, it cinches in the waist through boning, and the peplum enhances her hips just enough to give the illusion of an hourglass figure. One thing I learned while I was in design school was that couture garments have all sorts of structure–such as boning and a peplum–to help create an amazing silhouette that can’t be achieved with most off-the rack garments (and, of course, the cheaper the garment, the less structure has been built into it..).
When I see this corset, I imagine a party dress with a full skirt with horsehair braid sewn into the hem to give it “just enough” body to be elegant without the need for petticoats.
There’s a reason that department stores used to call their lingerie department “Ladies’ Foundations.” As our mid-century mentor, Ruth Tolman reminds us,
…the underclothes you wear are the foundation of your fashion. Therefore, it’s important that you choose the ones that will do the most for your figure and your clothes.
A good brassiere will make for bosom beauty by lifting the breasts and supporting them. It will create an illusion of size for the too-small breast, give control to the large, so select brassieres that solve your particular bosom problem and that have the correct line for the clothes to be worn over them.
A well-fitted girdle is a girl’s best friend. It will flatten, firm, smooth out. The less control you need, the lighter in weight your girdle can be. But never fool yourself into thinking that you don’t need to own any at all. If you do, you miss the figure flattery that comes from controlling your silhouette with the proper undergarment.
If the shoulder straps of your bra are doing all of the work, then you are wearing the wrong size. A bra should support the breasts from underneath, not the shoulder straps. In my experience, the European brands do a better job at this than the American brands. Run away from the brands that have the extra-cushy, gel-filled, wide-bodied straps. Their designs are holding your breasts up by your aching (and indented) shoulders rather than providing the necessary support. And, for goodness sakes, don’t let vanity get in the way of the wearing the right size! When I lived in New Jersey, I went to an old-school corset shop that had kept up with the times by catering to women recovering from reconstructive breast surgery. The ladies that worked there were all grandmothers from “the old country” but could determine your approximate size by just looking at you. After buying my foundations at a place where they knew what they were doing, I could never, ever, go back to that “secret” store where the 16-year-olds are horrified at the thought of seeing a middle-aged woman’s semi-naked body. In California, I shopped at Nordstrom’s. Make an appointment with a clerk who knows what she is doing. Get fitted. Try on 20-30 bras, whatever number you need until you get the bras that make you feel beautiful and supported (or appropriately enhanced).
And, if you are going for the essence of a bullet bra without going full Jayne Mansfield, I suggest the Flower Bali that is one of my favorites.
From Guide to Beauty – Charm – Poise by Ruth Tolman
From Guide to Beauty – Charm – Poise by Ruth Tolman
Girdles seem to have a bad reputation but no one blinks an eye when shaper pantyhose or Spanx are mentioned! I think they have such a bad reputation because women were buying the wrong size and it hurt. Trust me, I’ve done that and I was so uncomfortable that I couldn’t wait to get home and whip that thing off. But, I’ve got two that feel like “hugs” when I wear them because they are the right size. And I’m always amazed by how much better I look and feel when I’m wearing the proper foundation.
Our mentor, Ruth Tolman admonishes us to,
…take a good long look at yourself in a full length mirror. And not through rose colored glasses. Admit the bumps that are there…you must be honest with yourself about the foundations you will need for the basis of your fashions. The girl who thinks she can cut corners when it comes to the right foundation couldn’t be further from the truth.
A question that comes up frequently on vintage-oriented fashion boards is the sensitive topic of using the restroom while wearing a girdle. There are a couple of options; you have to figure what is right for you:
- Go pantiless. Hollywood starlets showing off their good china getting out of limos didn’t invent the phenomenon. It is quite possible that your grandmother did not wear any knickers while she was wearing her girdle. I discovered quite by accident one day that my grandmother didn’t. I wondered why until I started wearing a long-line open-bottomed girdle! You can’t tell by looking at those old advertisements, but many of them had the assumption you would go, “Scot free,” so to speak (now you know why the Scotsmen wearing their kilts seem so relaxed and happy…).
- If the girdle is more of a waist-cincher type or you are wearing a garter belt, just wear the panties over the garters. This is my method when these types of undergarments. Easy-peasy.
- Do the “pull to one side” method to move the crotch of your panties out of the way. I learned this strategy from an older friend who used it when she was “getting friendly” in the back of her dates’ cars in her younger days. After getting over the shock regarding this juicy bit of information from my prim and proper friend, I realized that it would also work in other, more private, situations.
- Undress. And then do contortions as you are trying to get those back garters rehooked within the confines of a bathroom stall. Good luck on that.
I am too busty for a corselet so I have a long-line open-bottom girdle from Rago (my waist cinchers are also Rago) that I buy from Orchard Corset. Another option many women choose is a long-line bra and a regular girdle. That combination is what Joan Holloway wears on Mad Men.
From Guide to Beauty – Charm – Poise by Ruth Tolman
From Guide to Beauty – Charm – Poise by Ruth Tolman
So, don’t be afraid of retro-styled foundations. Just make sure that it fits you well!
Arrow Shirt advertisement, 1930; Image courtesy of Paul Malon on Flickr.com
I was trying to explain to friend last night–who believes a clean flannel shirt is dressing up–that a man in a good quality tuxedo is simply irresistible. I’m not sure he ever believed me…even after I told him that a good tux is the equivalent of “man lingerie.” What do you think, Glam Pack? Am I right? After all, can you imagine James Bond in sweats (wait, there IS that one scene…but you know what I mean…)?
I love vintage styles. But I don’t wear vintage clothes. And not just because it is hard to find professional-looking clothes in my size range. It’s because true vintage feels costume-like to me. Some women, like my sister, Jill, love that aspect, but it isn’t for me.
Instead, I go for “vintage inspired.” In fact, I am wearing a skirt right now that was inspired by a McCall’s pattern from the 1950s. It reads as a basic pencil skirt but there are no side seams. When I finally got my hands on a copy of the infamous Vogue’s New Book for Better Sewing, I discovered that it, too, featured a skirt without side seams. I’d say I felt a bit smug about it, but our mid-century mentors wouldn’t approve of that type of behavior.
By focusing on vintage inspired, I am able to get to the essence of why I love vintage designs without feeling like I’m in a production of Grease. I’m also able to avoid some of the undesirable attention that some vintage bloggers, like Solanah, have had to contend with from strangers.
People that I know tell me all of the time that they admire my taste in clothing, that I’m glamorous, and they love my classic, feminine, style, that I always look “put together” and professional. They tell me that I remind them of Jackie or Audrey or Grace. I appreciate those compliments because that is the image that I’m trying to convey: a timeless glamour.
So, don’t lament if you can’t find vintage clothing in your size or budget. Instead, focus on the essence of vintage style. If you’re not sure how to go about it, check out Brittany’s, How to Wear Vintage Without Feeling Costumed, post on her Va-Voom Vintage blog.
When I was a little girl, I loved my grandmother’s tuna fish salad. When I got older, I discovered the difference between my mother’s and my grandmother’s was that my mother used dill pickles while my grandmother used chopped eggs for flavoring.
This recipe, from 1936, is similar to my grandmother’s tuna salad. The bonus is that it also includes instructions on how to make your own cooked salad dressing that you blend with commercial mayonnaise for a zesty dressing.
Tuna Fish Salad
This vintage recipe, from 1936, includes instructions on how to make your own cooked salad dressing that you blend with commercial mayonnaise for a zesty dressing.
- 1 cup finely cut celery
- 4 hard cooked eggs, finely chopped
- 12 ounce can flaked tuna
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1 Tablespoon milk
- 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
- 1 cup vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon salad oil
- Chill ingredients. Mix together and add salad dressing just before serving.
- Blend the eggs, sugar, mustard, pepper, salt, milk, and cornstarch together using a wire whisk.
- Heat vinegar and oil to a boiling point in a double boiler. Add the blended mixture.
- Cook, stirring continuously, until smooth and thickened. Chill.
- Mix 1/2 cup mayonnaise with 1/2 cup cooked salad dressing. Add to tuna fish salad just before serving.
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