Image via Einestages.
Last week, we received a Facebook comment from a fellow vintage lover about the potential irony in celebrating ’50s and ’60s fashions in our holiday stylebook. Customer Sarah B. stated that it’s a good idea to consider that the mid-century was a period of time when women were merely expected to be homemakers and not much else. Sarah is right! Channeling a time period that left us with flattering, feminine garb worn with grace and glamour could also mean bringing up that same period’s social shortcomings and values that we don’t support today. How do we deal with that?
Well, we start by making sure we’re all well aware of what we don’t want to communicate. In this edition of Vintage Sexism, we’ll look at a handful of mid-century Christmas gifting ads, and talk about the inspiration we take from them — and what we leave behind.
There are a lot of themes in vintage ads we avoid. While the Hoover and Eureka vacuum ads above shine with jolly, mid-century style, the messaging is questionable.
Meanwhile, Dormeyer’s “WIVES” ad asks the customer to circle from the narrow selection what she she wants for Christmas and also gives joking advice on how to ensure she’ll receive these items. Prescribing the expectation that all wives will absolutely love these impersonal and gender-labeling gifts is something we trade for more aspirational and positive messages.
In the tanning light and watch ads above, the product is equated with the strength of romantic relationships. Ladies: If you’re not tan, then your fella may not be into you. Gents: If you give your lady a watch, she’ll love you. The way we see it at ModCloth, clothing is not a tool for social acceptance, but an accessory to your self confidence and natural beauty.
Image via A Christmas Yuleblog.
Presenting models and apparel tastefully is important to us, as well. This cheeky Mojud stockings ad is eye-catching, but also gratuitous and a little weird. It’s very much about the gaze upon the model, rather than displaying the quality and function of the product in a flattering, tasteful way.
Image via Carla-at-home.
The models’ poses and placements in this vintage catalog page best spoke to the look for which we were going. However, the message isn’t. “Tell him how very lovely you are,” is nice, but what’s he doing there? It’s not about him — rather, it’s about how you feel in what you chose to wear. Whether you choose to look pretty and poised or free and fun or any which way you desire, you’ll look lovely!
So, when it comes to drawing inspiration from decades like the ’50s and ’60s, which are known for both fabulous fashions and a lack of popular feminist values, we carefully pick and choose what still works well today, and what doesn’t. A lot of the aspects of these ads don’t work with our sensibility, and we want you to feel empowered and inspired to look and feel your best. Constantly thinking about how we are interpreting vintage is the essence of Vintage Sexism.
As always, we love, love, love it when you tell us what you think. What do you think about this topic?