Saturday, March 31, 2018

1952 Good Housekeeping Magazine: Fashions

"A first lady chooses a universally flattering, wonderfully wearable coatdress of Ames wool. The narrow white tracing of trim is Angora. Dress also comes in red or black. Sizes 10 to 18;
about $40. Kay Wynne."
Today I am sharing the fashions from the October 1952 Good Housekeeping magazine.
"She's so tiny she makes the average height look towering. She chooses long lines, scaled to her size details, something eye-catching close to her feet. Middy dress with cuffed hip line and neckline. In rayon and acetate crepe. Also green or back. Petite sizes 10 to 19. About $45"
"She dresses in crepe-a triumphant revival this season. She loves the coatdress look, the pretty trim at throat and hip line. Onondaga acetate and rayon crepe. Also in mink or black. Sizes 10 to 20. Leonard Arkin. Hat by Betman."

The lead article was fashion for The First Ladies, starting, "There's a first lady in every American home. She comes in assorted sizes, ages, and temperaments. She answers to such varied names as Mrs., Mom, and Darling."
"He's particularly partial to the deceptively simple cut of this shirtwaist dress, the very rich look of its bronze-colored fabric. And he likes the delicate detailing, the little tucks and collar and cuffs. It's of rayon brocade. Also in gold or pale blue. Sizes 10 to 16; about $50. Kasper for Penart Fashions."
The fashions illustrated in the article were from B. Altman & Co., NY and Marshall Field & Co, Chicago.

"When she asks, "What shall I wear tonight?" he always requests the same dress--the one with the portrait neckline, the criss-cross trim, the shining star buttons. Tawny yarn-dyed acetate rayon taffeta. Also in rouge or slate blue. Sizes 10 to 18; about $45. Miguel Dorian for Arnold and Fox."
"When a First Lady as a date to Meet Him at Five"...they suggest the coatdress pictured below.
"They're off to tea--he very proud, she very pretty in a coatdress of Bloomsburg acetate faille with revers faced in acetate and rayon satin. In black, brown, or navy. Sizes 10 to 20; about $40. Ben Barrack."

"In larger sizes, she chooses a filigree of lace. Her figure is rounded and feminine. She elects to minimize her hips with a softly breaking skirt; to camouflage her short waist with long, smooth lines; to half-conceal her arms and shoulders with a dramatic bodice of Chantilly lace backed with a band of pastel acetate satin. The dress is acetate and rayon crepe. In black, gray, or sugar-brown. Sizes 14 1/2 to 24 1/2. About $40. Fashion Wearables by Mayda Williams."
"The First Lady Pampers the Man in her Life," which according to this fashion advice means purchasing stripped shirts, argyle sweaters, and checked sportscoats.

 And, of course, ironing those Arrow Shirts for "handsomer husbands."

"Shopping magic!" this ad starts, "my REALSILK nylons walk in the door."
Suncraft Shirts, "most versatile blouses in your wardrobe," pledged to iron "hanky fast."

The Good Housekeeping Fashions section also shared new sewing patterns from Simplicity.
Simplicity coat 4021, skirt 4013, and blouse 4010
"We used Forstmann's new pebbly-surfaced wool coating in bright red for the skirt and coat. Blouse is of red and white Security wool jersey."
"Make Much of Your Wardrobe," readers were advised.
"Above. Pretty party dress cut in a flattering V neckline. We used a "Cromsepun" fabric by Ameritex in grey and black checked acetate taffeta brightened with Lurex. Simplicity Printed Pattern 4000.
Left: Button trimmed dress with a big bowed detachable dickey. We chose black and white pin-checked Botany worsted wool for our version, added smart stripes at the throat. Simplicity Printed Pattern 3994."

Two versions of Simplicity Printed Pattern 4007 made in blue acetate rayon and wool faille by William Skinner.
How were ladies making these fashions in 1952? With their Singer sewing machine and a GE steam iron.

The home seamstress had lots of La Mode buttons to chose from.

This roomy housecoat has HUGE pockets. Imagine what you could keep in them.
 "Once in a blue moon, we run across a dress design that's becoming to practically everyone--the older woman as well as the younger person, the large figure as well as the slimmer one." Simplicity 3950 had a four-gore skirt and diagonally placed tucks for fullness over the chest. Sizes 12 to 44. Theirs was made in a sheer wool fabric of deep royal blue.
For $9 women could buy a Rite-Fit dress of the month.
 One of the new fabrics was Celeanese, an acetate Tricocel knitted fabric, her shown in a peignoir and gown from Carter's  selling at $15 for the set.
A lady needed shoes to complete her wardrobe.

 And to protect her shoes, Rain Deers clear plastic boots.

Maternity fashions in nylon tricot from Kickernick included panties with elastic, expandable, shirring.

With swing coats this full, The First Lady could hide that baby bump for months.
 How to dress the kids? The magazine had ads for that, too.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down 'memory lane.'

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Surprising Life Behind Whistler's Mother

Whistler's Mother by by Daniel E. Sutherland and Georgia Toutziari relates the life of Anna McNeil Whistler (1804-1881), immortalized by her son James McNeil Whistler in his 1871 portrait Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1--commonly referred to as Whistler's Mother.

Detailed information gleaned from Anna's diaries and letters, as well as previous biographies, show that she lived a more interesting life than her Victorian apparel and demure pose in the painting would indicate. She was a well-traveled woman with a wide, international social network.

She held Confederate-leaning sensibilities along with Christian pietism while exemplifying Christian values; she socialized with Russian peasants and her son's Pre-Raphaelite friends and distributed church pamphlets. 

A pious Episcopalian, Anna was born in the American South among slave owners but was raised in the North. Sixteen-year-old Anna was quite taken with her brother's handsome friend from West Point, George Washington Whistler, but he married another. After the early death of his wife, George and Anna met again. They married and Anna helped raise his children from his first marriage as well as their own children. George became America's leading engineer--who gave the locomotive it's whistle! His work meant frequent moves, including to Britain and St. Petersburg.

Anna endeavored to embody Christian virtues of reverence, charity, and patience in her daily life. She warned her children against the vanities of the world. And yet, she accepted slavery as a "benevolent" institution. Her own family was kind toward their slaves, and one member had several slave 'wives' and families that were well provided for.

Even after the death of her husband, Anna was always on the move, visiting family across America and the Continent. Her sons Willie and 'Jemmie' (John McNeil Whistler) were a 'handful.' Willie finally settled on a career in medicine and Jemmie in art.

Anna made friends everywhere whether participating in charitable activities or dining with Bohemian artists. Through Jemmie she met Mazzini, Garibaldi, the Rossettis, and Swinburne. Thankfully, she was ignorant of some things, such as Jemmie's long-term association with a mistress.

The place of the painting in art history and its reception over time is presented. Whistler's work was too modern for his time. He endeavored to move away from the Victorian preference for art that told a story, a moral, or to convey emotion.

"Art should be independent of all clap-trap--should stand alone, and appeal to the artistic sense of eye or ear, without confounding this with emotions entirely foreign to it, as devotion, pity, love, patriotism, and the like,"he later told a journalist..."Take the picture of my mother...Arrangement in Grey and Black. Now that is what it is." 

The painting we know as Whistler's Mother became famous in America in the early 20th c. In the 1930s it toured the country, drawing two million viewers. President Roosevelt endorsed the use of the painting in a stamp to commemorate Mother's Day.

The painting became one of the most iconic and popularly known in America. Cole Porter and other songwriters referenced the painting in popular music. It was exploited in cartoons, satire, and became a symbol in movies and literature.

It is amazing how much Anna packed into her lifetime.

I received a free e-book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Whistler's Mother: Portrait of an Extraordinary Life
Daniel E. Sutherland and Georgia Toutziari
Yale University Press
Publication: March 27, 2018
254 pages, 60 color + b/w illus.
Hardcover: $25
ISBN: 9780300229684

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Patriot Number One, Fighting Chinese Corruption

Journalist Lauren Hilgers was covering a story of Chinese villagers protesting the land-grab by local authorities and demanding democratic rights when she met Zhuang Lienog, son of a fisherman and tea shop owner. When the corrupt local government decided to crack down on protesters, Zhuang and his wife managed to leave China for Flushing, NY to join a community of Chinese immigrants.

Journalist Lauren Hilgers was covering a story of Chinese villagers protesting the land-grab by local authorities and demanding democratic rights when she met Zhuang Lienog, son of a fisherman and tea shop owner. When the corrupt local government decided to crack down on protesters, Zhuang and his wife managed to leave China for Flushing, NY to join a community of Chinese immigrants.

Zhuang's story as the activist Patriot Number One and his continuing activist work in America reveals a great deal about the situation in China. At the same time, readers learn about the challenges of immigrant life, finding work and adapting to a new world. Readers get to know Zhuang and his wife Little Yan, their friends and neighbors.

As Zhuang continues his protests in America, his Chinese family is targeted as a way of silencing him. Zhuang's commitment to his home village and for democracy truly makes him Patriot Number One.

I enjoyed the insight into modern China and the plight of immigrants. The author keeps a journalist's objectivity. This is not a fault, but the story may feel flat to readers used to more emotional bias.

Read an author interview at

Patriot Number One
by Lauren Hilgers
Publication March 20, 2018
$27 hardcover
ISBN 9780451496133

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row by Anthonty Ray Hinton

Last year I read Bryan Stevenson's book Just Mercy. It was crushing to read about a justice system based on the number of convictions and political gain at the expense of innocent men.

That book led me to read I Can't Breathe by Matt Taibbi about the death of Earl Garner, and then to Michelle Ko's Reading with Patrick about her experience teaching and later work with a former student who lands in jail. Each book is a moving account of the stories behind the Black Lives Matter movement.

So when I saw that one of the Death Row inmates  Stevenson had represented had written his own book I had to read it.

Ray Hinton had a record and had paid his dues. He was working in a guarded facility when a murder took place, but a romantic rival told police that he had seen Ray at the crime scene.

Ray was poor. Ray was black. Ray had a record. With lousy representation, a partially blind munitions expert witness, and a system stacked against him, he was sent to prison for murders he did not commit.

The Sun Does Shine tells of his struggle for justice, his decline into anger and hatred, and how he found hope and acceptance. He became a model prisoner, befriending the other inmates and helping to improve their lives. He asked for their food to be covered to keep out dust and insects. He asked for books to keep the inmates from dwelling on their problems. He started a book club. He kept up morale.

Ray changed lives. A former KKK member who killed a black teenager called Ray his best friend.

It was the continuing love of his mother and support of his best friend that kept Ray going for thirty years. Even after his mother passed, he heard her inspiring voice to keep fighting. Ray knew he had what many others on Death Row had lacked: a loving family and abiding faith.

Bryan Stevenson was overworked but took on Ray's case. They had to fight the Alabama court system that would not accept the evidence that would prove Ray's innocence.

When Ray was finally released he had been on Death Row longer than he had been free. It was a shock; the world had changed. The first night of freedom he slept in the bathroom because the bedroom was too large and strange. He was given no compensation. He had no Social Security or pension or savings built up. He would have to work to support himself the rest of his life.

I was devastated and I was inspired by Ray's story.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Watch a powerful video with Mr. Hinton at

The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row
by Anthony Ray Hinton; Lara Love Hardin
St. Martin's Press
Pub Date 27 Mar 2018 
ISBN: 9781250124715
PRICE: $26.99 (USD)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

I Have Lost My Way: A Story of Reclamation Through Friendship

Three teenagers in crisis are brought together in an Act of God moment when Freya falls off a bridge onto Nathaniel and calls for bystander Harun to help her get him to the hospital.

By helping each other during an eventful morning, they each discover they are not alone. By day's end, each character will overcome what has been holding them back and find a new lease on life.

I read the first 100 pages through a Bookish First Look sneak peak, and was given an ARC based on my first look review. When the book arrived, I finished it off in a few hours.

Freya is an aspiring singer who has lost her voice. Her father left many years ago and she is alienated from her sister, once her best friend and singing partner. If she loses her Twitter followers and chance at fame, who is she?

Nathanial was close to his dad, an irresponsible dreamer whose unreliability drove away Nathaniel's mother. Nathaniel feels out of sync with his peer group, isolated and alone. After his father's death, he has come to New York City with suicidal thoughts.

Harun's parents barely accept his brother's Caucasian, Christian wife. As an obedient Muslim son, he can't bear to come out to his folks and introduce them to his secret lover, James. It has caused a breech in their relationship.

The book is a quick read, with interesting and diverse characters, their issues reflecting contemporary concerns of young people: depression, abandonment by parents, the search for love, how to reconcile personal and family needs, how to determine life choices in career and mates. It is a book that can teach compassion. It is a hopeful book. These young people find support and friendship in each other, and are able to overcome the obstacles that threaten them.

This is my first read by Gayle Forman, author of the best-selling novel if I stay.

I received a free ARC through Bookish First.

I Have Lost My Way
by Gayle Forman
Penguin Teen
Publication: March 27, 2018
ISBN: 1471173720 (ISBN13: 9781471173721)

From the publisher:
“A powerful story of empathy and friendship from the #1 New York Times Bestselling author of If I Stay. Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plansto run away from everyone he has ever loved, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City with a backpack, a desperate plan, and nothing left to lose. When a fateful accident draws these three strangers together, their secrets start to unravel as they begin to understand that the way out of their own loss might just lie in help­ing the others out of theirs.
An emotionally cathartic story of losing love, finding love, and discovering the person you are meant to be, I Have Lost My Way is best­selling author Gayle Forman at her finest.”

Saturday, March 24, 2018

1952 Good Housekeeping

I have collected vintage magazines for years. I enjoy them for the nostalgia of remembering Mom buying magazines at the grocery lane checkout, and how I read the stories included for children and cutting out Betsy McCall paper dolls. Plus, they offer a glimpse into the world of my birth and childhood, providing an insight into women's history.
Recently I picked up this 1952 Good Housekeeping magazine. The cover is so cute and family friendly.

Then you find the fiction section...

Yes! this issue included Daphne DuMaurier's short story The Birds, the inspiration for the famous movie by Alfred Hitchcock!

I remember Mom had a ponytail when I was a tot and she was in her early twenties. And when soda pop only came in bottles and was a reasonable size.

Beauty Counselors, Inc, from Grosse Point, MI suggests using Q-tips for trying cosmetics. The company was founded in 1931.
Canned veggies, especially peas, never appealed to me. But the idea of a giant man in the kitchen to do the cooking? I'm cool with that.
 As if a bride didn't have enough to worry about. She had to use up a cake of Camay beauty soap before the wedding.
Beauty was hard work and involved discomfort. I wore a girdle and stockings for a year before pantyhose came along. Worse year of my life--Seventh Grade.

Celebrities were used to sell products, same as today. Betty Hutton appeared in two ads.

Mamie bangs or a pompadour?
 The classic 50s face: dark, arched eyebrows, red lips, white face.

 My mother-in-law only ever used Noxema to cleanse her skin, into her nineties.
Co-ed reveals all: she broke the rules at a football game...forgetting her GLOVES.

But Jergen saved the day!

May all your problems be so easily solved.