Monday, December 13, 2010

Progress... in various forms

It's been a few days since I've blogged because I've been working on a couple of things and the perfectionist in me wants to complete one thing, then blog about it. So I'm fighting my perfectionist nag, and am simply blogging anyway! (It really a big deal for me to conquer because I'm even strange how I eat my food... I only eat one item until it's gone before I can move on to something else... seriously, I am strange, lol!)

I've been thinking a lot about my project and while I began it thinking that I could simply do 100 days, I wasn't thinking about that freakish perfectionist in me. I forgot that I must PREPARE. Preparing is a big deal for me. Even when I was little and I'd play with my cousin, we'd play school or office but before we could "play" we had to prepare... we had to make forms or worksheets. Once we did that THEN we could play, but not before! I'm sort of tackling this project with the same child-like mindset. Not purposely mind you.... it just seems to be something in me that I must "prepare" to play. I do sort of look at this like playing house. It's much more fun that way. While I'm finding the historical facts I'm learning about to be quite interesting, I really don't think I mind if the image I'm imagining in my head is simply a fairytale. It sort of reminds me of the movie, The Truman Show with Jim Carrey. The plot of this movie is that a gentleman named Truman. He lives unknowingly on a constructed reality show. He believes his daily in's and out's are just that... daily life. Little does he know that behind the scenes there is a "real world", and that what the creators of the show have created is simply an image of a world that he lives in. 

That being said, I'm certainly not trying to escape "the real world", although lately with the more craziness that is on the news, sometimes I think I'd be crazy NOT to want to escape. I like the idea of the 1950's, no doubt. Rather or not June Cleaver was a true role model or not, does it really matter if that is how I'd like to run my house? Would it be so horrible if everything had a place, dinner was eaten at the dining room table, breakfast was piping hot oatmeal before sending the little ones out into the cold for school? I mean what would be so bad if I did a little prepping before my man came home from work? I'm certainly not trying to scare him off with my sweatpants and ponytail, but maybe changing things up with the monotony of life would be rather.... fun?! Imagine that!

So, who cares if I look at this project through eyes of a scientific historical nature, or simply through the eyes of a child who occasionally misses "playing house". There are other things I'd like to get out of this project, and my main goal is to simply find out how the women of the 50's (and previous generations) "just did it". Sure sounds like a simple mantra, but when society no longer has expectations as it did, it's easy to just fall into the hum-drum of the "same 'ol, same 'ol, why put on makeup when I just gotta run into Walmart" feeling. I'm tired of feeling like Walmart... I'm ready to feel like Bloomingdale's. ;) Surely I wouldn't walk into Bloomingdale's with no makeup, bumming it because then I would get a few stares! Basically I simply miss taking the time out for me. I like feeling good about myself. I like when my hair is done and makeup is on. Sure in the 1950's they may have said women did these things to "keep their man", and while it maybe true, it also prevented them from getting into a slump. Being put together, you feel rather "put together". It's still hard for me to find that "just do it" attitude but I'm trying.

As I mentioned before I've been working on a few projects. I recently became the new owner of a very nice 1957 Kirby vacuum. I love it. I'm working on refurbishing it to get it looking new again, and that's been fun. I've got a draft blog post about my progress, but again, the perfectionist in me isn't letting me post it right now.

I've also got a chance to go to the antique shop I love last weekend and I got a few awesome patterns. I've also ordered a couple off ebay and etsy and can't wait to get started making a few of the dresses! I've found I am very attracted to the 1940's slim dresses and then the princess in me loves the 1950's "New Look" tight waist, big poof skirts. Here is one of the patterns I got that I can't wait to get started on:

I love the lines in this dress, so flattering!

I've also been scoping out various makeup techniques and hairstyles. I've always found it really fun to play with makeup and hair, so I'm all about changing things up every now and again. My hair has been growing out and it's at the stage it's too long for my taste now, so it's about time to chop some off. I'm never a big fan of chopping it way off and I blame that on a really bad Hair Cuttery experience in the 7th grade. Ugh... I'll never visit Hair Cuttery again (or any other similar joint!) So I'm thinking getting it cut in a long length middy cut. (Even longer than these spec's) The middy cut was popular in the 1940's. The cut itself is a pretty basic layer cut only instead of it being cut straight across, it's cut in a "U" shape. 

 I'll also get my hair colored with various fun highlights because I want the look to appear fresh and young, not like grandma's hair! I've seen other bloggers with this cut and it's great because it looks like a normal layer cut on days they don't feel like doing vintage styles but when they do, they can easily play with it and it's cut for that as well. Sounds perfect to me!

Another great tidbit I came across is that the Woman's Weekly magazine has been posted online from the 30's-early 80's.

So, for now, that's my progress. I think I'll keep preparing for my true 100 days and start that on Jan. 1? That is if I can get Ms. Perfectionist to hush long enough! ;)


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 11 ~ Consumerism... Would you like fries with that?

This morning I woke up to a lovely blog post by my cousin talking about waste. I have to admit that before I began this project of mine, I really am ashamed to say, I never truly thought about waste. Somehow I selfishly thought that throwing things away, buying more, and not caring about the in's and out's of my consumption was just somehow my God-given right. I mean when you take out the trash and the trashman takes it away, do we ever really THINK about where it goes? It's something you can easily take for granted. I have to be honest too that the talk of "going green" for environmental concerns of global warming sorta grate at me because I don't believe in global warming. However, just because I don't believe in global warming doesn't mean I should get a free pass to make as much trash and waste as I want. It simply revolves around the common point of being responsible.

Being responsible means being educated and AWARE! Sometimes we do things just because  it's what we grew up with and it's second nature, we don't even think to THINK about it. An amusing story I once heard about traditions is a good example of what I'm talking about. A young woman was making a Christmas ham and she cut off the back part of the ham. She did it because her mother always did it. When her husband saw her, he asked "Why do you cut the back of the ham off?" She replied "because my mom always did." This got her thinking so the next time she talked to her mom she asked why she cut the back of the ham off. Her mother replied "because my mother always did". Curiosity got the best of the young woman so she called her grandmother and asked, "Grandma, why do you, mom and I cut the back off the ham?" Grandmother's response was, "I don't know why you and your mom do it, but I cut the back of the ham off because my pan was too small to hold the whole ham." 

So, sometimes we need to THINK about why we do things and not just do it because it's all we know. Times used to be different. Very different. While today it's chic and trendy to be environmentally conscious, our grandparents and great-grandparents were environmentally conscious and didn't even know it! 

Consumerism has a history. Here is just a brief example of some aspects of our countries consumption and results:

  • The 1920's is when "mass production" began. With inventions of things like the Ford Model T, companies began to build factories to mass produce items to sell to the American Public.
  • In 1930's households were shouldering an unprecedented amount of consumer debt. Consumer debt in the 1930's was not like it is today. Businessmen were borrowing money from banks and individuals then buying stocks in the mass produced market. Down payments were large. Contracts were short. Missed installment payments triggered repossession. (Just remember those old movies showing someone's thug coming to the businessman's house and dragging the wife out of her fur coat and taking the silverware!) Cutting consumption was the only viable strategy in 1930 for avoiding default. Indebted households chose to default rather than reduce consumption. This resulted in a minor recession becoming the full on GREAT DEPRESSION. 
  • IN 1940's during WWII, consumption was regulated. An excellent article from the American Historical Society explains rationing in the United States. Even if you could afford items, you were restricted on how much you could buy based upon coupon books that were given to each family. It was required to ration items because the government needed things like rubber, wool, steel, oil, etc. Using less on the home front meant that our boys at war would not go without.

  • The 1950's truly sparked the consumerism that we are so familiar with today. In the early 50's average household debt was virtually unheard of. But the 1950's were a very exciting age to live in because so many new products were being introduced... it's the age of the radio blooming into the TV, the refrigerators and stoves were becoming "high tech" electrical appliances, washers would soon have a companion... DRYERS! Advertisers were able to sell the public more and more, especially with the invention of TV which led to the COMMERCIAL! 

I had to include the Jello commercial just because of the "Busy Day" theme, and it made me giggle. 
Soon there were credit card commercials. This one is an example on how the commercial had to show the American public HOW to use a credit card. Today, our kids grow up just knowing, and don't know anything different. 

Once credit was released, there were various programs of "buy now, pay later". Either way the consumers desire to have it NOW prevailed, and still does today. In 1953 Eisenhower took office and the US government encouraged American's to buy and consume American products so that America's economy would skyrocket to lead the nations. Economically speaking, it seems to make sense to me:

Country A produces a product = Country B buys the product = Country A gets money. Simple concept.

Country A produces a product = Country A consumes the product = Money (and jobs) remain in Country A. Another simple concept. 

So, that's basic economics. I can remember my great-grandparents and grandfather always talking about "Buy American". I never really got WHY. I just thought they were really patriotic or something. They also talked a lot about the unions... and I didn't know why.

In the Eisenhower years it was stated that if we, as American's could produce more goods we would be able to sell more to reach a high global status. In order to produce more goods, it meant the average worker would have to work a large amount of hours. Factories began requiring individuals to work excessively long hours. The union was formed in an effort to make sure that fair labor practices were enforced. American's typically today are still working longer hours and spending less time on vacations than other industrialized countries. The top producing countries are still China and Singapore. Rural migrant workers in China can work 12 hours A DAY, 26 days a month.

This abcnews video shows what Chinese production workers have to go through:

I highly recommend watching the above link just to have a visual the next time you plan on shopping at a "big box" store like Walmart and Costco. 

So, what does all of the above knowledge bring *ME* to do?

1.) Listen to my great grandparents and BUY AMERICAN. Looking for American made products is a new concept for me. I like knowing that *I* control my dollar and where I want it to go. American items may cost a bit more, but with my new outlook on simplicity, not buying as much will mean I have more money to buy things that I truly need and will be able to afford American. So much of our clothing is made in other countries, but it is considered disposable clothing. Cheap $5, $8, $10 t-shirts only last a few months. 

2.) Consume less. Live Simply. Sure, it ends up being "green living", but it goes back to old fashioned ways. The overabundance of stuff has overwhelmed most of us. We live cluttered lives and are highly stressed whether we are coming or going. We aren't happy accumulating more STUFF.... whatever highs are all momentary until we need something else. 

3.) Buying Used. I'm a lover of all things vintage to begin with. My mom used to take us to various antique shops while we were on vacation, so maybe my love stems from early on. I'm not ashamed to walk into Goodwill, Thrift Stores and other "junk shops". I'm a treasure hunter at heart. I search out old things that I can put to use again. Most of the things I find are better made then today's counterpart.

4.) REUSE. Reusing things can be a fun and innovative process. One couple in an attempt to live a year with "no new plastics" found various ways of reusing containers to hold their pantry goods. While I don't plan on plastic-free living, I can use some of these ideas! I also love the idea of putting your fruits and veggies in your own handmade bags! I also want to take the time to make my own grocery bags that I enjoy looking at... and are helping to reduce the landfill of various grocery bags.

5.) Buy Local. I'm in a search of local businesses in my area that I can purchase everyday goods from. I want to avoid the mass-marketed "big box" stores as much as possible. Walmart and KMart are easy to avoid, it'll be Target that's my downfall. I love their decorating goodies! In west-Atlanta it's really hard to find "local" goods. In comparison to north and east of Atlanta where the population is heavier, you can find local goods easier. Again maybe I'm so used to seeing my day to day surroundings I miss it, but I'm trying to search them out.

6.) Remain Open Minded. As I continue on my journey, I'm trying to keep my mind open to new ideas (or old ideas, whichever the case may be!) Learning new things, and doing blog projects to help encourage a better lifestyle are all things I look forward to.
Overall, I'd like to reduce the number of items in my house. Giving things away to charities. I'd like the things that surround me to bring me and my family joy. Understanding that as people we are NOT entitled to living without a care. It's not our God-given right to selfishly lavish a more, more, more lifestyle. It's time each one of us takes control of our own families consumption. Whether or not is chic and trendy, or just old fashioned common sense, it's the responsible thing to do!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 10~ Vintage Style

Today, instead of talking about my latest cleaning adventure (which has really just been Christmas decorating this past weekend), I'd like to chat about 1950's fashion. As I'm sitting here, in my heated home, still chilled to the bone, I ponder a question.... How did these lovely ladies stay warm in the winter? Stereotypically when one thinks of that 1950 fashion, you think of a beautiful light, full, cinched waisted cotton dress... usually a sundress! So, I've gotta scope out the info. on this because I really wanta know! 

The war ended in 1947, and in 1951 between the US and Germany. During the war, wartime fashion was considered simple and minimalistic. Having an elaborate wardrobe was frivolous, and was perceived to go against the war effort, after all, coupon books would be issued to families and they were only allowed to buy items by trading in the coupons. It was called rationing... something that today's American family wouldn't understand, nor hardly tolerate I would presume. The rations weren't horrible, in my opinion, but true, you would sometimes have to just "make do". (Something I am very familiar with being a housewife in a two income society!) An example of yearly rations included: a woman could purchase 11 dresses, but only 2 pairs of stockings. Again, my curiosity wonders how you could get a years daily use out of 2 pairs of stockings! Wool was a commodity at the time and was highly sought after because that is what the military used to make uniforms. It's important to get an idea of what the women in 1940 went through, so you can understand their mindsets when the 1950's came.

The 1950's entered a new fashion era, inspired by the "New Look", a clothing line by Christian Dior. The signature shape was characterized by a below-mid-calf length, full-skirt, large bust, and small waist. Dior also created the two piece suits consisting of a fitted jacket and a pencil skirt. Some of Dior's designs used many, many yards of fabric. (Sometimes up to 20 yards!) American's viewed Dior's designs with opposition due to the previous fabric rationing in the war, but then soon adapted to the new fashion.

Prices for clothes were at an all time high and women wanted looks that were versatile. Soon "convertible" clothes came onto the scene. These were clothes that allowed women to get more use out of them depending upon the occasion or the season. For example, some dresses had convertible sleeves. Slim pencil skirts had an over skirt which, if buttoned or tied on would give the appearance of a full skirt. Here is an example of such a pattern:
In the winter, women wore their clothing made out of sheer wool, wool jersey, yarn-dyed wools, silk taffetas and velvet. (But I still wonder how they kept their legs warm!) 
This image shows a quite warmly dressed woman outside.... but oh how cold it must have been when the wind was blustery... and what about her toes?! Burrr..... for the sake of these women I have to keep researching, please tell me there were wool stockings in the 50's! Even in this 50's jacket pattern, the sketch appears as if she's freezing her legs off!

Alas, I've searched and searched and here's what I've found as the history of hose... they began as wool stockings (smart!), but in the 1920's they turned to silk, in the 40's nylon became the affordable solution, and in 1950 the seamless stocking was born, although it took off slowly, most women still wore seamed stockings until the 1960's. Seamless stockings gave the appearance of bare legs which was considered a big no-no! After the war demand for stockings was exceptionally high! (After all, remember they could only get 2 pairs a year!) In 1945 Macy's stocked 50,000 pairs of nylons and they sold out in six hours! 

If your looking for full fashion 1950's seamed stockings, look no further than Magnolia Hosiery. They have been in business since 1954, and still produce the same seamed stockings (#3975) on the same equipment for 45 years!

So, I'm guessing that the average 1950's woman had to simply deal with cold legs and feet, all for the love (or expectations!) of fashion. Thankfully the late 1940's early 50's vehicles had improved heating elements in their vehicles as compared to the 20's and 30's. Oh how we take such things for granted now! 

One does have to wonder tho, with the issue of cold legs and toes, if that caused the fashion industry to create... the bullet bra.

Smiles ~


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day #9 ~ The Business Center

One of the things I was surprised to see in "America's Housekeeping Book" was a page called "The Business Center". (You can click on the image to read it)

One of the things I requested when we built our home was to have a desk area in the kitchen. I had seen it in other homes and it always seemed to just make sense to me. Unfortunately, I've never truly utilized the space as well as I could have and it soon just became another "dumping ground" for large stacks of papers that were to be sorted through later (and later just never seemed to come!). The problem, I believe, is that it was never truly organized in the first place. When you see such a clean and organized desk as in America's Housekeeping Book, it can motivate you to clean and duplicate that image. So... it's taken me three days to do so. 

Admittedly, I still have a small laundry basket that I've filled with items that I can't find a true home for, but if I can't find them homes in the next week then I'll just toss 'em out. That's the point I'm at right now. =) 

One of the suggestions the book gave was to have a bulletin board to keep the family posted as to everyone's where abouts. I've recently found a great website called cozi. It's a modern day's family solution to the bulletin board, only better! You simply plug in your schedule (it organizes it and color codes each individual family member!) and cozi will send a text message to assigned individuals reminding them of upcoming events. It also keeps track of your to-do lists, shopping lists, recipes, and more. I highly recommend checking them out, and best of all, it's FREE! If you like the FlyLady like I do, you'll also find that you can sync cozi with your FlyLady schedule! Really, how cool is that?!

Another cool thing about the homemaker's photo above is the radio! One way you can replicate that style is obviously heading to the antique stores, or Target! Check out the Crosley collection of radio's at Target. They have various styles, but the best things about these modern vintage styled radio's is that many can play records, cd's, cassette tapes and even ipods!

This way you can listen to your favorite 1950's tunes and if your lucky, still capture that slightly scratchy sound of a vintage record! It's a great way of blending the old with the new. 

While my kitchen, with the dark wood cabinets and black speckled countertops don't scream 1950's, I do plan to add touches of it with my decorating, now that I am completely organized. =) It's great to have sort of a clean slate to be able to search out darling little vintage treasures to decorate with. To browse fabrics with ideas of making cafe curtains, chair pads, and stool covers. Searching for treasures, to me, is more fun then just being able to go to the store and purchasing something new. There is just something about the hunt. 

Taking the time to actually organize this space in my life makes me feel comfortable. I now know where things go, and there is a feeling of calmness. The feeling comes because I know that items aren't hidden away just waiting to bust out of the drawers, but rather each cabinet and drawer has been organized. One of the reasons I am tackling this project is because I always want to have time to bake, sew, and do many of the great projects I read about in magazines but it seems as if the daily workload just never ends. I'm so excited to be able to open my Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook and begin making some of the lovely Christmas cookie recipes. Having this calm, peacefulness in the kitchen just inspires me to tackle the rest of the house. 

Tomorrow I will begin the living room. That is a fairly simple project for me as I've tackled the organization of that room a few months back. One thing I've learned is that once the area is organized, it does generally stay that way, especially if you keep up on the maintenance. That is what used to scare me... maintenance, as if it would take me just as long to maintain it as it was to thoroughly organize it, but I couldn't be more wrong. It only takes a few moments to tidy up, and with an organized daily schedule, it really won't take long at all and it will give me the time to tackle the fun projects I wish to do. 

~ Smiles ~