Monday, October 1, 2007

Family Life and Interior Design Circa 1957

The postwar "Baby Boom" both reinforced and challenged the traditional definition of the American family. Peaking in 1957, the Baby Boom helped the nation's population grow by 30 percent--nearly 40 million people. Young parents moved to the suburbs to raise their large families in homes purchased with the aid of government-subsidized and -insured loans. Between 1945 and 1960, the proportion of homeowners in the nation increased by 50 percent. well. The Palm Springs, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert area also experienced a building boom during this time to accommodate weekenders and growing families as the stereotypical image of a commuting breadwinning husband and father, stay-at-home wife and mother, and playful, happy children was consistently portrayed in the popular media. Yet the overall percentage of women working outside the home increased during the 1950s, as families faced higher costs of living caused in part by rising expectations of comfort and conformity that went along with the new prosperity.

Uniquely American, "teenage" entered everyday usage only at the end of World War II. For the first time in the nation's history, teenagers were the focus of the nation's attention. By mid-decade, parents and teachers, fearing the loss of their authority, warned of the perils of teenage sexuality and juvenile delinquency. Advertisers and businesses, on the other hand, enthusiastically developed this affluent "youth market."
A variety of age-specific consumer goods, from clothing, cosmetics, and cars, to transistor radios, portable phonographs and rock 'n' roll records, satisfied teenagers' desires to create their own identities for themselves and for their peer group.

Style and Color in the home of 1957

Early in the decade, domestic design echoed military stiffness and order through the use of spiky, angular forms. New materials such as plastic, plastic laminates, and latex foam, developed through wartime research and application, inspired designers' conceptions for the shape and manufacture of household goods. By the end of the decade style had become more organic. Biomorphic forms, such as the kidney-shaped coffee table, represent the Contemporary style many American manufacturers--and purchased by families for their suburban homes. High style was popularized in such do-it-yourself leisure activities as paint by number and designing and building a recreation room. The basement "rec room" offered a space for creative and indulgent fantasy. Fathers and sons together recreated the "Old West" or a "Paris cafe" or another exotic locale in which to entertain or to relax. When Carmel Snow, editor of Harper's Bazaar, labeled Christian Dior's first postwar fashion collection a "New Look," little did she think that the term would become popular coinage and last well beyond the Dior fashion phenomenon of 1947. Many manufacturers aligned their goods with the fashionable term; in fact, in 1955 the Tupperware Corporation introduced its new "TV tumblers" by asserting "Christian Dior isn't the only one coming out with a 'New Look' these days!" In the form of the suburban Tupperware party, housewives sold and purchased goods as stylish as their dresses.

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