Wednesday, 14 May 2014

1950s Inspiration

I'm finally ready to tackle the epic challenge that is the 1950s for my Hats of the Past series. I did a lot of research and was blown away by the volume and complexity of the projects I wanted to tackle, both in terms of hats to make and stories to share. It was clearly more than a month's worth, and I was a little burnt out by throwing myself completely into the 1960s, so I took a break and removed some restrictions from my plans.

"Hat being modelled for a T. C. Beirne advertisement, Brisbane, 1951" State Library of Queensland

To get myself back into the mood, I've been listening to some 1950s music, watching movies of that vintage, and reviewing the pictures I found and sketches I did when in full swing a month ago.

I listened to 1960s music during March, but I was able to just look at my music collection and find plenty of material (mostly Beach Boys, The Band and Donovan). For the 1950s, I had hardly anything. Luckily, the internet is full of lists and I trawled through, looking mostly for songs I already recognised. It was lots of fun  rediscovering songs I know and enjoy but had not listened to for years.

Some of the favourites on my fifties playlist include: Chantilly Lace (Big Bopper), Teenager in Love (Dion & the Belmonts), Summertime Blues (Eddie Cochran) and All I Have to Do is Dream (The Everly Brothers).

"Mrs. Roberts stands between two friends in the rose garden in New Farm Park, Brisbane, 1953" State Library of Queensland

My movie watching is entirely based on what classics happen to be on the ABC in the wee hours of the morning, or on GEM in the middle of the day. Recent ones I've watched that are new to me are Texas Carnival (1951), Dial M for Murder (1954) and Tonight's the Night ("Happy Ever After" according to IMDB, 1954 - you can't have too much David Niven). I've got a few more recorded, plus it seems like a good excuse to rewatch old favourites like How to Marry a Millionaire, Designing Woman and Sabrina.

Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, 1954. This outfit is pretty much perfect.

My research has included looking at as many photos of hats as I can, through museum websites and vintage selling websites. The Australian Women's Weekly archive has great photos, sketches, some patterns, and advice about new styles and finding the right hat for the occasion and outfit. I'm going to take a research trip to Lithgow library soon, as it turns out to have the biographies of two fifites milliners I'm particularly interested in. Flickr commons is a great starting point for vintage photos out of copyright, and it includes a number of Australian collections. And of course, the love of my hat-researching life, British Pathe. They recently added their entire collection to youtube, but I still prefer browsing through their own site.

"Miss P. Conrad and Miss C. McGuire in the rose garden at New Farm Park, Brisbane, 1954" State Library of Queensland

One thing I want to spend more time doing in general, and in this series, is actually designing hats to go with specific outfits I own. As a self-appointed ambassador for hat-wearing, I want to wear hats more often. In the spirit of self-promotion, I want to wear my own hats (plus, if I wear a vintage one, people I meet inevitably ask if I made it, and are disappointed when it isn't). But everytime I dress up, I discover I don't have a hat of mine that matches anything I own! So it's time to change that and do some more making for me.

"Maine State Society Lobster Dinner" 1951, US National Archives

So while I get on with the making and the stories, I'd love to hear about your inspirations. What are your favourite fifties songs and movies? What are your favourite places for inspiration about 1950s fashion and style?


  1. You've filled this delightfully fun (and fashionable!) post with my very favourite source of 1950s style inspiration - genuine vintage photos (with those of real world folks, the yesteryear equivalent to myself, being my absolutely favourite). I pour over oodles of them each week, studying and admiring each little detail of the way folks dressed during the decades (the fifties very much included) that I hold nearest and dearest to my heart. Flickr, Pinterest, and blogs are some of my favourite go-to sources for tons of these kinds of snaps.

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Although I do love the fashion photographs and their chic and sometimes over-the-top hats, the everyday photos provide that detail of how people were actually wearing the fashions. And people of all ages and backgrounds too!

  2. This post is wonderful! I love the way you surrounded yourself with vintage music, movies and pictures, to be able to breath the spirit of the old times, for your research - creation process! :o)

    And what a good start! Create hats to go with your outfits!
    I'm looking forward to see your new beautiful creations :-)

    Miss Beta

    1. I do find it fun to be inspired by a range of sources, and it helps get me in the mood too!


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