Style and the Home

Style and the Home

Christian Dior: The New Look

With the war over, for women some things changed while others remained all too much the same. It is an oversimplification to see the war as a period of outright liberation for women, but nor is it true that they were just pushed back into the home after the cessation of hostiIities.

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Fashion, Film Noir and Romance

At the same time as Christian Dior was creating a nostalgic fashion and the French film industry was revitalizing itself, with period romances in which the stars appeared in dresses that seemed only slightly more exaggerated than the evening crinolines of the modern couture salons, Hollywood film noir was in its heyday.

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Evolution of Fashion Styles

Fashion is how we express our identitites. Fashion not only highlights the social history and the needs of women, but also the overall cultural aesthetic of the various periods. The evolution of fashion dates back to several hundred years and as our attitude and culture change, fashion comes along with it.

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The Reappearance of Youth Fashions

Fashion is a way of life; an attitude that transcends through your ensemble displaying your own originality. It allows people to express their feelings and make statements through their clothes and accessories. With the prosperity of the 1950s in full swing, American clothing manufacturers discovered — or perhaps created — new markets eager to buy their goods: children and teenagers. Television and printed advertisements instilled in 1950s kids at an early age a rampant consumerism that their parents had never had.

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American Dream: Suburban Life Design

The prime difficulty in most city planning until the 20th century was due to the fact that too few trained individuals had given specific thought to such problems as the regulation of traffic, control of the ingress of food stuffs, and the elimination of waste material. No one had considered the city as a greatly magnified human being which needed light, air, and exercise, as well as protection from the smoke and noise of the machine.

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The Promotion of Lifestyle

With the Arcadian and Utopian idea continually before him, the average American considers the ideal living conditions to be such as will allow him a maximum of space in an individual home, preferably in the suburbs. Beginning with the town of Pullman, founded in 1880 at Gary, Indiana, there rose in America several privately planned suburban real-estate developments.

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1950s Cars: Dream Machines

With the return of prosperity in the early 1920’s, the American automobile industry came into its own as the nation’s largest manufacturing enterprise. Production of motor vehicles climbed from 2,227,349 in 1920 to a phenomenal high of 5,337,687 in 1929, a figure not surpassed for another 20 years. By 1929, there was one automobile on the highway for every six people in the United States, and Herbert Hoover’s campaign slogan of “two cars in every garage” was by no means as ridiculous as it was made out to be by subsequent critics.

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Fashion Illustration

Socio economic changes that occurred during the First World War 1914-18 and became accepted, changed the role of women in a way that no amount of campaigning by a few liberated ladies could have achieved. High fashion until the twenties had been for the richer women of society. Poiret had commissioned leading avant-garde photographers to photograph his work in the early 1920s; however, until after World War II fashion magazines and store catalogs most often used line drawings in iliustrations.

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Beatniks Generation in San Francisco

In the United States the Beats, or Beatniks, were originaIly a West Coast phenomenon. The word ‘beat’ was primarily in use after World War II by jazz musicians and hustlers as a slang term meaning down and out, or poor and exhausted. Jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow combined it with other words like ‘dead beat’or ‘beat-up’ in his book Really The Blues.

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Advertising for Men: Cigarette Advertisements

While, in the interwar years, most consumer goods had been aimed at a female market (even if it didn’t earn the money to pay for them), by the 1950s men had become, increasingly, the target for the ad-men of Madison Avenue. People honestly believed that smoking cigarettes were, while maybe not good for you, at least would not have harmful effects. The cigarette industry was in what is now referred to as its “Golden Age.

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Japanese Design in the 1950s

The question of Zen’s origin and its relationship to Buddhism has been taken up by many authorities and given different answers, depending upon the author’s background and point of view. Yet everyone agrees that Zen–to use Alan Watts’s expression–has a peculiar flavor and is unlike anything found in India.

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Japanese Design in the 1950’s

Japanese Design in the 1950's

The question of Zen’s origin and its relationship to Buddhism has been taken up by many authorities and given different answers, depending upon the author’s background and point of view. Yet everyone agrees that Zen–to use Alan Watts’s expression–has a peculiar flavor and is unlike anything found in India.

As Sir Charles Eliot says, “Zen, as far as our knowledge of its history goes, is a Far Eastern religion, and it is not easy to say anything definite about its connection with India. Even if the Lankâvatâra-sûtra expresses its main doctrines, it expresses them in a thoroughly Indian way, and the idea of not depending on books and letters is not at all Indian.” No doubt there are parallels between certain aspects of Indian thought and Zen, but, interestingly enough, these are found not so much in Buddhist scriptures as in the Upanishads, with their strong mystic tone.

As other authors, such as Professor Arthur Wright, have observed, Zen may be looked upon as “the reaction of a powerful tradition of Chinese thought against the verbosity, the scholasticism, the tedious logical demonstrations, of the Indian Buddhist texts.” Since the Chinese tradition was a humanistic one which emphasized common sense rather than abstract philosophical speculation, Ch’an, with its directness, its simplicity, and its distrust of intellectual analysis, was very much in keeping with Chinese thought.

In fact, during the Late Chou and Han periods, long before Dhyani Buddhism was introduced from India, the Chinese had already developed their own form of mysticism in Taoism. Christmas Humphreys, the president of the Buddhist Society of London, puts it aptly when he says that although Zen was not a Mahayana doctrine, Mahayana was a prelude to Zen’s birth, “for it was the Chinese genius working on the raw material of Indian thought which, with contributions from Confucian and Taoist sources, produced, with Bodhidharma as midwife, the essentially Chinese School of Ch’an, or as the Japanese later called it, Zen Buddhism.”

Among the new countries to embrace the concept of design in the 1950s was Japan. Inevitably, due to the presence of American troops on Japanese soil at that tirne, the model of design it adopted originated in the United States. Thus many of the new technological goods among thern radios, tape-recorders, hi-fi equipment and cameras – that poured off Japanese assembly lines in these years bore the traces of the “Detroit” styling familiar to American markets.

Although styling was apparent in the new goods that Japan began to produce in these years it was not yet as important as the technological wizardry and low pricing which marked out Japanese products from their competitors’. For the most part companies such as Sharp, National Panasonic, Canon, Pentax, Toyota and others considered “design” as an afterthought rather than an essential component of the manufacturing and marketing processes.

However, the Sony Corporation saw the benefits of “good design”, and engaged an in-house design team which worked closely with its engineers on the forms of its products tape·recorders, transistor radios, and television sets among them. From the start, though, the Japanese industrial designer was seen as an anonymous team member rathert han the “super-star” that he had become in America.

In the area of automotive production the Honda company stood out as a firm which laid emphasis upon the role of design. Towards the end of the decade it launched its “Super-Cub” motorbike, a small specimen of two-wheeled transport intended to penetrate the American market-place and exist as a shopper alongside the larger bikes associated with film idols such as Marlon Brando.

Next Page: Discovering the Teenagers

Advertising for Men: Cigarette Advertisements

Advertising for Men: Cigarette Advertisements

While, in the interwar years, most consumer goods had been aimed at a female market (even if it didn’t earn the money to pay for them), by the 1950s men had become, increasingly, the target for the ad-men of Madison Avenue. People honestly believed that smoking cigarettes were, while maybe not good for you, at least would not have harmful effects. The cigarette industry was in what is now referred to as its “Golden Age.”

A wide range of supremely “masculine” goods – from cars to eleetric shavers to cigarettes showed that the male species was as susceptible as women to the none-too-subtle tacties of the advertisers. The ads stressed the importance of self-reliance, strength and, above all, sophistication. Many of the masculine role models of the decade, visible in the ads, originated in the cinema.

Whereas cigarette ads tended to focus on the enjoyment of leisure hours, advertising for men located its image increasingly in the world of work, with the male shown to be in control of his office or workshop environment.

In 1971, cigarette ads were completely banned from television and seventeen years later, the tobacco industry first paid damages to the widow of a cigarette smoker. The industry began to seriously consider ways in which to continue appealing to potential smokers while dealing with the now well-established fact that smoking caused cancer. Since then, we have seen a great decline in pro-smoking and cigarette advertising, mainly for health reasons.

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Beatniks Generation in San Francisco

Beatniks Generation in San Francisco

In the United States the Beats, or Beatniks, were originaIly a West Coast phenomenon. The word ‘beat’ was primarily in use after World War II by jazz musicians and hustlers as a slang term meaning down and out, or poor and exhausted. Jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow combined it with other words like ‘dead beat’or ‘beat-up’ in his book Really The Blues.

Like the Parisian Existentialists of the Iate 1940s they were an esthetic / radical movement of dissent whose rebellion took a cultural rather than a directly political form.

When the term ‘Beat Generation’ began to be used as a label for the young people sometimes referred to as ‘hipsters’ or ‘beatsters’ in the late 1950s, the word ‘beat’ lost its specific references to a particular subculture and became a synonym for anyone living as a bohemian or acting rebelliously or appearing to advocate a revolution in manners. In fact, the Beats practised a form of bohemianism accompanied by jazz.

Whereas Teddy Boys, Mods, bikers and blousons noirs were mainly working-class rebels, these were inteIlectuals who hung out at the poetry readings at the Hungry I Cafe and other venues of the North Beach area of San Francisco, where there were links both with the homosexual subculture and with the radical tradition from the 1930s.

Beatniks frequently rejected middle-class American values, customs, and tastes in favor of radical politics and exotic jazz, art, and literature. “Daddy-O” (a term of address); “Cool, man, cool”; and “strictly dullsville” are examples of slang expressions used by beatniks.

Next Page: Advertising for Men: Cigarette Advertisements

Fashion Illustration

Fashion Illustration

Socio economic changes that occurred during the First World War 1914-18 and became accepted, changed the role of women in a way that no amount of campaigning by a few liberated ladies could have achieved. High fashion until the twenties had been for the richer women of society. Poiret had commissioned leading avant-garde photographers to photograph his work in the early 1920s; however, until after World War II fashion magazines and store catalogs most often used line drawings in iliustrations.

Illustrators such as Patou and Erte produced highly stylized work; Benito, Christian Berard and the American artist Eric provided an image of the clothes themselves, and their designers’ intended style, elegantly and economically.

In the twenties and thirties, however, black-and-white photography was becoming an important art form and photo portraits of famous personalities of the day highlighted their clothes as well as their looks (for example, Cecil Beaton’s photographs of Nancy Cunard wearing an armful of ivory and ebony bracelets). The Hollywood portrait publicity still in the 1930s added to the association between photography and glamor.

From the 1940s, photography came completely to dominate the fashion magazine although illustration was still common into the 1960s. Initially prized for its “truthfulness”, it is often less informative than line drawing, and can be just as mannered. Irving Penn in the United States, and Anthony Annstrong-Jones in Britain moved fashion photography towards a new informality and movement in the 1950s.

Next Page: Beatniks Generation in San Francisco