November 23, 2014

Aging gracefully, 1950's style

Ok, I had really planned to have some nice pictures of my new coat to share with you today. However, life and circumstance intervened once more. Other things to do, low energy and the weather which turned at the very moment I could have gone out for those pictures, to be precise.
However, with some luck E's schedule will allow us another try on Monday or Tuesday when he should be home fairly early.

Instead, I thought I would share these images which I added to my Pinterest boards today.

I don't have a separate board for 'vintage style at a certain age'. I picked both of these images from magazines from the 1950's simply because I liked the styles. 

Of course, this first one is incredibly glamorous. It must have been back in 1951 and it still is today. Who wouldn't want to age like that... 
Obviously, girdles and the like, which were common at the time, would have helped one to keep and show off a figure like that. We wouldn't consider such things very comfortable but at the time, they were credited with providing welcome 'support'. 
I also love her super-sophisticated hair-do with the grey bits clearly visible and just adding to the overall air of distinction.

This second one, from 1956, is a bit more 'lady of a certain age next door'. Which makes sense because this image illustrates one of the patterns offered by the magazine while the first one belonged with an article about fashion. This lady doesn't have such a killer figure and her dress has the sensible long sleeves which can be used to hide a variety of beauty issues. But despite being a bit more sensible and covered-up, her dress is very much in line with the fashion trends at the time (that type of skirt drape was a hit that season) and she looks both comfortable and rather dignified in it. 

I'm not a specialist on this topic, mostly because, let's face it, I don't have to. Not yet. However, three years in the bridal business (where you also get to meet many mothers of brides) and countless conversations with my mother and aunts have told me about the minefield of dressing when you get older. Depending on style, circumstances and body type, most women can only follow 'regular' (=for young women) fashion up to anything between 40 and 55. 
After that, it's hard to find really good looks. Mainstream fashion is for younger women but the only alternative often seems to be aimed at a much older audience. There is the option of embracing a certain 'signature look'. That can work really well but carries the risks of becoming a bit of a cliche. 
Of course it's dangerous to jump to conclusions based on just a few magazines, but it doesn't seem like there was such a great gap 60 years ago. Mainstream fashion and the reigning beauty ideal looked less 'young' so following those from a distance might have been easier for longer.

There are major differences in media treatment as well: These 1950's magazines were primarily housewives with young(ish) children living at home but (based on the reader's letters they published) read by all kinds of women, from teenagers to grandmothers. And they tried to address the issues each group might be facing with dressing advice being for the student-nurse on a tight budget one week and for the upcoming mother of the bride the other. In all my vintage fashion, sewing and knitting magazines, there is a mixture of designs for all ages.
Nowadays, you may still find that mixture is sewing or knitting magazines but never ever ever in fashion ones. 

Again, I don't claim to really know what I'm talking about here. I just know the ladies in these vintage pictures look great and just about every present-day mother-of-the-bride I've ever met was really struggling.


  1. lovely post, especially as recently I have been looking at style lines for a mature figure, (wallis simpson patterns, etc) and it only seems to highlight the limitations of contemporary wear in fashion magazines

  2. I think you're quite right about mainstream fashion targeting a younger age group than it used to. The people the glossy mags hold up as fashion icons these days are often in their 20s.

    On the other hand it can be done: Vivienne Westwood looks amazing and I can think of many others. I fear it takes more money and dedication than it does when you're 20 though.

  3. I wonder what would happen if you offered 50’s styles like these to the mother-of-the-bride?
    I totally agree, there’s a serious vacuum of ‘fashion’ for women in their in-between years. Being in this demographic myself, all the ‘fashion advice’ I’ve encountered seems to only offer the horrid, unshapely, layered look as ‘appropriate’ for my age. Didn’t buy it! Instead, I make garments for myself using mainly vintage patterns from the 50’s and 60’s (pre youth-quake). This era has a wealth of elegant styles for - dare I say it - middle aged women. I may not be in the shape I was at 20, but at (nearly) 50 I still have a shape I’m proud of and I - for one - am not prepared to disappear into the background quietly!

  4. This is a very thoughtful article and did hit a chord with me. I agree with juxtapose's comment that women in and around their 50's are encouraged to wear awful sacks, many garish and intended to hide you in swaths of scary colors and embellishments. This is why I've taken to sewing my own garments. Keeping it simple and still showing some curves is still appropriate, not looking like a circus tent.