Clothing and Material Culture

Today, we basically put together a list of things we need to learn about in order to make decisions on how we want to go about portraying the 1950s.

The first thing, of course, is to learn about what students wore; what styles were common for both men and women, and how students actually dressed for class. (A Google search turns up serious fashion, but how fashionable were students trying to look for lectures?) We’ll try to answer that question by looking at the pictures available on the 1950s website as well as those in the library’s collection.

We also talked briefly about material culture, and “no laptops” seems like a fairly basic place to start. We also considered handing out (or asking students to bring) college ruled paper and pencils. Books from this time period would help create a kind of ambiance, a sense that the 1950s is happening outside the classroom as well, and so we plan to borrow books from that decade from the library, so that people can carry around materials for “other classes”.


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7 Responses to Clothing and Material Culture

  1. Kendall Simonpietri says:

    How long is the class period going to be? Are we going to try and stay true to the length of time a class was in the 50s, or will we have to lengthen or shorter depending on the material we are fit in to it? Also while looking through the photos the female students had pretty distinctive hair styles but I’m not sure how far we want to take the recreation of the 50s look.

  2. Katy D. says:

    I think we should have a mix of casual AND serious fashion. Even now, some of us come in sweatpants and others are dressed to impress. (I’m not sure who exactly, but regardless!) Were there any gadgets or popular item students carried around at the time? I could look into that. I agree that maybe we should only have one or two girls knitting. Maybe one re-applying lipstick in the back corner or reading a letter from a beau? I’d love to have a lot of variety from the students in the classroom so that it’s a fair representation of the students.

  3. Nicole Steck says:

    This may be too much, but we could try to find out what students from other classes would have been studying and have some students go over notes from that class before our (history?) class begins. I think it would be good to have some students “zoning out” – like Brooke mentioned, knitting did happen – to lend authenticity.

    We could also have class take place in the first few weeks of the semester, so freshmen would have to wear beanies, or try to set our class during some other traditional period like Devil-Goat or some kind of senior ceremony, so that students would be wearing different colors/styles or otherwise representing some subsection of the school.

  4. Claire Brooks says:

    I think we also need to think about where exactly we are going to be holding the classroom recreation, like which classroom. Obviously the classroom we currently hold our class in is updated with today’s technology. Maybe we could find an available classroom on campus with chalkboards (I think Chandler might have some, or maybe Trinkle-there are at least rolling chalkboards if I remember correctly). I think it’s good that a lot of the stuff they wore and used is still stuff a lot of us use today.

  5. lepa says:

    I mentioned this in another comment, but possibly having Dr. M hold up the textbook that would have been used for that class? That way we don’t have to get 20 of them, but it is still there for historical context. Brooke and Carrie summarized pretty well what the typical fashion was. Definitely no pants. Long skirts, sweaters, hosiery. Not sure if you’re including makeup, but the cat eye eyeliner look and red lips were pretty “fashionable”, though I’m not sure how practical.

  6. Carrie says:

    So, after thumbing through some of the early Battlefield pictures, it looks like female students usually went for simple, straight, narrow cut skirts, like a modern pencil skirt, paired with a sweater or cardigan, with either long or short sleeves. Saddle shoes or loafers with white socks look to be pretty common. Several photos show girls with silky scarves tied around their necks or in their hair. A lot of these styles are still around so it might be worth looking through our closets before we ask to borrow things from the Costume Department or make a run to Goodwill.
    The veterans seemed to wear primarily sport coats and button down shirts with ties. Some looked like they slicked their hair on a side part, but a few look like they just rolled out of bed and got dressed. Again, a lot of these things probably don’t require a special trip to the thrift store, but we should look through what we’ve got and decide whether it’ll be worth borrowing.

  7. Brooke says:

    The library’s photos available online are great, but the yearbooks have a much better variety. Since we have “veterans,” I’d suggest flipping through the 1950-1956 yearbooks for clothing. You can check them out online . I found the wealth of my classroom/material info from 50-53.
    Just some tidbits of info since I worked with photos/classroom stuff for the 50s.
    Overcoats seemed important to wear to class, as well, if I remember correctly.
    No shorts, slacks, etc were allowed in classes. Heels were low if students wore them at all. You could stretch it a little bit and have a couple people knitting. While it wasn’t super common, it did happen. I remember one picture (posed and dramatic of course) where a student was reading a Life magazine in class. I also remember the girls holding only a few books–maybe 2-3–with one notebook, small also, like composition books or a small binder.

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