I find vintage home economics books fascinating to read. While absolute treasure troves of information and charmingly outdated language, they also really highlight how much pressure was put on women from an incredibly young age to appear perfect at all times – often times disturbingly so. Part one of Clothing Construction and Wardrobe Planning (which you can read online for free here at openlibrary.org) is called “Personal Grooming”, and has some lines in it that gave me the creeps, to be honest.
Yes, we must always look pretty, neat and perfect to boost the “morale” of our male relatives, because that isn’t creepy at all! And don’t forget, your country needs you to look perfectly groomed at all times as well, because the reputation of the entire nation depends on it! Being neat and clean is fine, but the outrageous level of pressure to always be perfectly groomed is really unhealthy.
I’ll end with some other random tips and excerpts and a note that while I enjoy reading these books and taking a peek into the past, they serve as an important reminder to me of why though the 1950’s are an era I’d like to time travel to to buy clothing, fabric, sewing patterns, sewing machines, etc, I really wouldn’t want to have lived back then.
The present may be a very far cry from “perfect”, but we have taken some great strides since the 1950’s, and while there are people who are trying to strip away some of the important rights the women (and immigrants, people of colour, the GLBTQ community, etc) before us fought so damned hard for, we just have to double down and fight just as hard, if not harder than they did, to keep those rights and to keep progressing and move towards a better future for everyone.