Sunday, March 25, 2012

Whiskey and cigarettes

Welcome back Don Draper and the gang! I've missed your guilt-free, self-sabotaging behaviour.

To honour the return of hard-drinking, chain-smoking, well-dressed people to TV and laptops everywhere, I'll devote this post to dressing the early-1960s toddler girl.

So what would your little girl wear in the swinging 60s? Some context first.

Leading up to the 1960s fashion was dominated by the New Look, an ultra-feminine and often decadent take on women's clothing. The New Look was a direct response to the austerity of the 1940s and therefore the opposite of anything utilitarian. But it was also modest, a reflection of the conservatism of the 1950s. Think narrow waist emphasized by full, gathered skirts and luxurious fabrics like silks and satins.

Here's Betty Draper nailing the New Look. Enjoy that cigarette Bertie!

The 1960s saw an explosion of youth culture that completely revolutionized fashion. The young fashion designers of the day, the London Modernists, the Mods, led the revolution breaking taboos and traditions as they blazed a new trail. Think mini-skirts and bikinis.

The early 1960s saddled both these eras. The transition from the conservatism of the New Look to the rebellious style of the Mods is most obvious when you look at dresses. The princess waist, the natural waist, gave way to either the drop waist or the empire waist and then was lost altogether. A-line dresses and sleeveless shifts eventually replaced gathered skirts and puffed sleeves. And hem lines moved up. Way up.

Here's Betty Draper killing it in Rome. Can't really see her waist can you?

What did this all mean for toddler clothing? A huge transition. In the increasingly youth-dominated culture, it was more acceptable, and more popular, for parent's to dress their children fashionably. Increasing interest led to more stylish children clothes being available. Designers simple shrunk stylish adult clothes into children's sizes. Access to cheap fabrics, synthetics, and cheaply manufacture clothes, helped fuel this revolution.

The tension between the New Look and the Mods, is evident when you look at the patterns for sale in the 1960s. Let's look at toddler dresses.

You could buy a pattern for a dress with a full, gathered skirt and princess waist.

And a pattern for for a dress with puffed sleeves and a ruffled-trim.

But then, you could buy a pattern for a dress without a nipped waist. The pattern below is a great example of the tension I've been talking about. In one package you have a dress you would associate with the 50s (see blond toddler in purple) and a dress you would associate with the 60's (see toddlers in green).

Slowly though, the New Look disappeared. Here's a pattern for empire waist dresses. You can really start to see the Mod influence now. 

And then, poof! The waist is gone.

So, want to dress your kid like Sally Draper? Or the potential offspring of Don and Megan? You could buy vintage clothes or you could make your own. There are lots of sites that sell vintage patterns, a pattern lending library, and of course Etsy sells old patterns too. Some patterns have been used, some have never been cut, most are in a usable condition.

I can't vouche for any of the pattern sellers, I've never bought or used a vintage pattern. If you have, let me know how it went. I would be curious to find out the condition of the pattern, and if old patterns are difficult to follow.

In the meantime, I'll take my vodka with ice, soda, and a lime wedge.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Awesome fashion lesson Steph! Thanks for an awesome post!