The recent AMC TV series Mad Men, set in and around a New York advertising agency in 1960 has been very popular, earning high ratings in many countries around the world. Many icons of the fifties, such as cars, bars, cigarettes, and especially fashion, have not only revived memories for anyone around at the time, but also sparked an interest in younger generations.
Alongside the realization of how far we have come as regards the woman’s place in society, at that time either as a secretary or housewife, although some may say not very far, there has been a revival of interest in many topics of those days. Fifties automobiles have always had an appeal, a well-preserved Chevrolet or Cadillac will still attract an admiring crowd wherever it is parked. Even a rare Edsel, reviled in its day, is worthy of admiration!
A more noticeable effect of the series has been the surge of fashions, influenced by the fashions worn in the program. There has been a growth of 50’s based designs made available by several fashion houses.
Not least among these are the lingerie specialists. Several startup companies, some already operating before the series went to air, have had exponential growth as the demand surged for everything fifties. It may be that the series was released to build on the existing growth of interest in the fifties.
Late fifties lingerie was typically not as brief as today’s thongs and push-up bras, but could still excite with the sheer materials such as silk used to make tap panties, or french knickers, or the pointed emphasis of breasts with the bullet bra. These were both typical of the period’s fashion in undergarments.
Lacy petticoats or slips were also there to be glimpsed by the male, if at all possible. Think Marilyn Monroe in ‘The Seven Year Itch’. A petticoat could layered, to fill out a full skirt, such as may be worn for square dancing, or merely worn under the skirt, seemingly for no better reason than that the lady would feel undressed without it.
The other obvious difference in what was not supposed to be observed, but could be glimpsed accidentally or deliberately, was the change in hosiery. Much regretted, by most males, in the 60’s was the invention of pantyhose, no doubt in response to the development of the mini-skirt. Before this men could fantasize about stockings of all styles and transparencies, would they be able to see how far up they stretched? Maybe a glimpse of garters would be stored in memory, to be brought out to remember later, along with that patch of bare flesh above the stocking tops. Some of the more erotic scenes in movies of the time showed a woman taking off her stockings!
Another garment now necessary for stockings, was the garter belt, or sometimes corsets or girdle with attached garters, or suspenders. These have figured prominently in the sales of sexy lingerie stores for some time, but are now becoming mainstream again, resulting in more choice and better quality being widely available to the growing number of purchasers.
As a sign of the times, such items purchased by mail order or from on-line stores, no longer need to be sent in that ‘unmarked plain wrapper’ to avoid embarrassment.