- or were they?
While the younger generations are drooling over the plethora of Mid-Century designs that are currently filling our shops, I have to confess to living up to my nickname as ‘The Awkward Squad’.
Yes, the 1950s certainly had the potential to be ‘fabulous’; just look at this list of thoroughly positive events, many of them hailing a new era of prosperity after the austerity of WW2 – though I also remember the threat of 'The Bomb' being very present in our everyday lives as we saw photos of test explosions in our newspapers and on television, once that arrived in our homes!
|Prime Minister, Harold - you've never had it so good! - Macmillan|
I remember making endless sketches of models
in this pose and wearing outfits almost identical to this!
· 1947: Dior introduce the ‘New Look’ with longer, fuller skirts reflecting the availability of more fabric once WW2 was over. And by the fifties, these fashions had filtered through to ordinary people.
· 1951: The Festival of Britain, celebrating everything newly achieved, especially in the field of Technology.
· 1951: The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth ll. I watched it at a neighbour’s house on a tiny black and white screen, encased in a huge polished wood cabinet, along with several dozen other neighbours! And such was the atmosphere of optimism at this time of renewal that my generation were to be called, ‘The New Elizabethans’.
· 1956: The start of the Eurovision Song Contest. Now generally regarded as a ripe source of comedy, when it was introduced, we all marvelled at the coming together of so many European nations and at the miracle of television that could, when it worked, bring them all together!
· 1957: I remember seeing political posters on hoardings, telling us that we’d ‘Never had it so good!’
· 1957: The Treaty of Rome, which later gave rise to the European Union.
· 1957: Science and Space Exploration were beginning to make the news – the Russians launched their ‘Sputnik’.
But, for me, the fifties can be summed up in one word and that word is ‘synthetic’.
Although they had been invented a lot earlier, it was the decade when plastic and nylon began to replace the more traditional materials in the home. Obviously this made for some much more hygienic products, but my memory is of my plastic doll’s house chairs with easily broken – and un-mendable! – legs.
Bri-nylon sheets were all the rage and drip-dry shirts were welcomed as ‘labour-saving’ – but in reality both were pretty ghastly!
For the sake of keeping in fashion and saving on work at the same time, my mother began to replace some of our beautiful, old and solid, wooden furniture with lightweight ‘contemporary’ pieces – that word alone is enough send shivers down my spine!
Fablon and Formica appeared everywhere – again in the name of hygiene and ease of cleaning – and what horrified me most was when it was made to look like wood!!!
|It was very much like the one on the left!|
The fashionable colours tended to be drab. I particularly detested the ‘Mushroom’ paint which replaced the sparkling white in our large Victorian home and the 'tangerine' of my sister's 'duster coat' was a pale imitation of the current Tangerine Tango!
I suspect things were different in other parts of the world, but in my neck of the woods, there still wasn’t much of a ‘teenage’ transition from childhood to adulthood. The trip to the shoe shop to buy my first non-functional lace-ups or sandals, was a nightmare as the next step up was really ‘grown-up’ shoes, as worn by my much older sisters.
For the sake of 'flexing my design muscle', I've attempted to carry out a design brief for giftwrap in Tangerine Tango (the 2012 Pantone Colour of the Year - but far from my favourite) in a Mid-Century style -
In the meantime, here's something I grew up with - a far cry from the Queen Elizabeth who parachuted into the Olympic Stadium, alongside James Bond just a few months ago!