Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dress: The Clothing Textbook, Ch 5 (1969)

Good morning!

In continuing this week with things that were unearthed during "The Great Bookshelf Move of 2012" (the repercussions of which are still being felt throughout the house, as I tripped over a stack of forties'-era movie star biographies in my hallway this morning), I found this 1969 edition of a home economics title called Dress: The Clothing Textbook and thought you guys would get a kick out of it like I did. With units like "Personal Clothing Needs", "Clothing the Family", and "Textile Fabrics", the table of contents already boasts several points of interest-- today, I scanned some of the items from Chapter 5, entitled "Shopping Wisely and Well". Wanna see, wanna see?

Over the last five years, my clothes-shopping habits have changed dramatically from about a fifty/fifty split between estate sales/Goodwill and Target/the mall, to a 80/20 ratio of the same store breakdowns. I still hit L'Target for socks and underthings and the occasional shoe, but for the most part, all of my separates and dresses, which are legion, come from somebody else's closet by one means or another. Something about the "hunt" aspect of digging through racks and racks of old clothes is just too appealing-- and it's hard to go back and pay $30 for an okay dress at a department store, on sale, when you could have a shock-and-awe style $100 dress from the 80's for $7.99 (if you can find it and subsequently squeeze into it!). My twenty-point check system is a lot like the (bizarrely coiffed) woman in this quality assurance tutorial, except add "does it have a burned spot from the misguided ash of someone's cigarette at a New Year's party in the seventies'?" and "have the seams fallen out?" and "is this a 1960's vintage chili sauce stain? Will it come out with Biz?"

I was shopping at an antique store out in Goodletsville last week with Emma from The Fiercest Lilliputian and we were lamenting the idea of stores-full of the kinds of vintage accouterments we like for reasonable retail prices in their respective decades-- a pair of forties' leather wedgies for twenty bucks, all sizes! Sixties' pill box hats, fifteen dollars, all sizes! It's kind of hard to wrap your head around a time when you could go to the department store and there was a whole rack of the kind of vintage stuff for which we girls spend weekend-after-weekend scouring the thrift stores and vintage racks and every other where. Also, the stores themselves! I'm sorry, but Macy's in Rivergate doesn't look anything like this:

You said it was typical! You lied to me, text!

Filene's (above) was a chain of department stores that served customers in New England and New York locations up until 2005. This little wedding cake of a location looks like it's ready to take off! One of my favorite teenage bedtime stories was to ask my parents to tell me about the "Lemon Frog Shop" at Sears in the early seventies', which did have a Nashville location... I like to think this would be just the same kind of place, a veritable Candyland of polyknit pant suits and jumpers. Dis-similarly,  I would be actually afraid to go to the Wannamaker's location pictured below. Do you SEE the "Christ on the Calvary" painting that's taller than my house and probably twice as expensive? Also, note the bird cages as decoration on different countertops and the large falcon statuary close to the foreground of the picture. Don't come in here with your "Hey there, show me some cheap sweaters!" from yesterday's post, in front of a famous painting of our Lord!

Here are some more department stores of yesteryear with their "Gosh, let me go shopping there for just five minutes, just whatever I can grab in five minutes!" interiors:

What's neat about this text, and what I enjoy about vintage home ec books in general, is the tone set by the author of starting at near scratch with their intended audience. Let's assume you've just come off the farm in Dog Patch, Arkansas or descended from Mars in your shiny metal spaceship... Cousin Jessop and Xanadu alike would find great solace in the text's presupposition that you have never set barefoot nor webbed-foot in a commercial retail setting, ever ever ever. This is not so much a "tips and advice" book as a manual for how to successfully shop for a wardrobe, right from the very beginning. Here are three successful 1969 girl shoppers and their respective wardrobes. Of the center outfit, the caption reads "A basic suit with accessories for casual wear. The shoulder bag and the turtleneck ribbed sweater match the line in the plaid of the suit. Knee socks and loafers are also suitable for casual wear." Now, if you'd never seen a sixties' movie or pictures of your mom or aunt or uncle growing up, there's a blue print for a decent late sixties' casual outfit. Tell me more, oh wise vintage clothing advisers!

How to buy strapless and strapped brassieres, and how to buy panty girdles versus the step-in girdle...know your differences and similarities! It occurred to me, as I was reading, that all the boys in whatever grade this was necessary for in the 1969 high school curriculum, would be in shop class while we girls are covering the unit on delicates and unmentionables in "Dress Class". Isn't that crazy to think about? Wellness, when I was in high school, was probably the closest we got to any home and health instruction in the early 2000's, and it was decidedly co-educational. That means when the guy came in from the Public Health Department with his STD photo examples flashcards (I couldn't make this up if I tried), we alllllll had to see the ensuing presentation. Together. In bi-gender unity. EEK! The 1960's guys were probably learning how to use a drill press while we girls were weighing our girdle options in Dress class. Ah, well. Times, they change!

I didn't know this or think about this with regard to shoes-- I think the shiny material makes the shoe wearer's foot look slightly smaller. Maybe I should pay more attention to shiny options in shoe wear next time I hit the Target!

Patterned tights were the thing in late sixties' and early seventies' leg wear, and I, for one, would have been grateful to them for allowing some kind of coverage in those thigh high miniskirt days. Here's two tricks for thicker legs and skinny-mini legs, respectively. I didn't think about the optical value of either one of them before, but you'd better bet I'm taking it into consideration in the future! Also, I could die over how much I want to look like that girl at the football game below.

Another instructive moment-- I've always wanted to know more about what to call certain types of vintage handbags. Box purses are kind of obviously named, but look at all the different kinds of bags you probably have in your vintage collection that you haven't been calling by its right name all this time! "Swagger" and "Vagabond" are new ones on me. I wish there was a similar chart on hats in this chapter, but we came up short on that account.

Vintage department store clothing tags. Look at the Penney-Tween typography and the little sweater vest emblem on the Sears sweater tag. Ugh! Tags are so boring nowadays! I want a promise of quality along with the cost of the garment!

Last but not least from this chapter, I had trouble scanning this because of the tight binding and the size of the book, but oh Good Lord look at these poor, poor teen boys trying to look cool in front of the Sears "fashion coordinator". Could you die? You can see the Martha-haired woman at center going "Really? This is what you want to send down the runway? Not in a million years, boys! Not in a million years!". That said, i hope that guy on the far right is their very-short teacher; otherwise, he's the lest datable teen of all!

Do you have any memories of vintage looking department stores from your youth or your parents' recollections? What "signs of quality" do you look for in either vintage clothes or new store-bought items for your wardrobe? Have any vintage home ec textbooks that have taught you valuable life lessons? Do share!

That's all for today-- more book finds tomorrow!


  1. Wow this book looks amazing!

    <3 Melissa

    1. Thanks! And there's more where that came from! :)

  2. It's not a book, but have you seen the blog Pleasant Family Shopping (er... http://pleasantfamilyshopping.blogspot.com/ haha)? It covers all retail chain stores - including supermarkets, discount stores, and department stores. But duuude, the pictures are amazing.

    1. Ok, there goes the rest of the afternoon. psst: THANK YOU!

  3. Great post!

    Some of the photos in that 1969 text are terribly outdated. I can remember making fun of the hairstyles in my home ec book, circa 1973. You know, stuff like that girl inspecting the coat. That bouffant went out in 1964!

    The bird in Wanamaker's is an eagle. It was a famous meeting place for people shopping, as in "Meet me at the eagle." Actually, it is still there, but of course, the store today is a Macy's.

    1. Ha! I wondered about that, whether or not the styles were "dated" for the students reading even in 1969. Also, did not know that about the eagle. I'm glad that it's still ominous and lurking in the (now Macy's) building to this day!



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