Kathy and I split the cost, a whole $5, for a vintage catalog a couple of weeks ago. It was a 1959 Aldens, Chicago, Illinois catalog full of the best 1950s fashions, household items, including furniture, pedigree puppies, auto supplies such as tires, plus much, much more. I took some pictures of my favorite fashions, but obviously we’ll have to address the rest of the catalog later. I’m still shaking my head over the puppy thing!
The cover fashion is pretty special:
The clothing descriptions are quite something: Pure Paris, completely new! See how easily it slithers along your figure from shoulder-framing collar to hem. High-curved front belt pinned with glitter. Shantung-look rayon-cotton-acetate in the latest shades.
I like the look of this dress quite a bit; it would look great on an Audrey Hepburn clone. I do wonder how you get the drape of the collar just right—and keep it that way. I hope the belt stays nice and tight, or things might just get a little more interesting up top! Do you think that the belt goes all the way around your ribcage inside the dress, or is attached at the left and fastened at the right? The alternate colors are hot pink and willow green: I like the blue and would like to see the pink or green before springing for a whole $10.98 plus shipping.
These are the dresses just inside the cover:
It appears that the empire-waist style is back in, or maybe it never left. The empire descriptor refers to the first French empire and Empress Josephine, wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, but the style is even older than that. It was a Greek and Roman style with loose flowing gowns fastened right under the breast. They were comfortable, cool, and flattering to the “pear-shaped” figure—who wouldn’t love that? Fast forward to these 1959 versions of the empire-waist where the loose and flowing skirts are much, much tighter and more close cut. Cue the straitjacket-like foundation garments to make sure your lower half is not too pear-shaped!
Another style that comes back periodically:
The drop-waist style, bottom right, that was associated with the 1920s. I love how the purple dress is described as, “Up-to-the-minute in fashion …”. Yeah, if your minute was 35 plus years ago! Even the T-strap shoe is perfectly up-to-the-minute in fashion from 35 years ago. Having said all that, those shoes are perfect with those dresses.
More 1920s fashion:
I’m referring to the green number on the right, which is at least described as an updated flapper fashion. I think her beads should be longer, but otherwise it looks pretty good. The updated part must be the slight acknowledgement of a waistline in the silhouette; a flapper dress would drop straight down. On the other hand, two of the dresses on the left, the purple and light blue, seem very 1950s, especially the middle one with tons of fabric in the skirt. Very feminine.
How do you keep those huge skirts afloat?
Why with a big old can-can slip underneath. It’s just an updated and more comfortable version of the Victorian-age crinoline petticoat, which must have been a monster to sit, stand, or dance in! Your dress might still rear up when you sat down, but at least you have rows and rows of can-can ruffles to show off.
I had one other dress that I liked:
The blue dress with the stripes down the back looks like fun. From the front, it looks pretty sedate, but turn around and everyone will find out that you still have something to say! It’s called “Smart Back-Talk” which is another point in its favor. There are also buttons all the way down the back of the dress that are the same color as the dress, so you will need some help closing this up, or have double-jointed elbows. A zipper is much, much easier to close.
Other fashion necessities were on offer:
I really like how the scarf, upper left center, is tied at the waist. It looks very pretty and has an ombre dye job, which is a nice detail. Changing collars to change the look of your blouse was a thing back then. Kathy and I have found several fake pearl, or beaded versions of the removable collar at garage sales, which are slightly more glamorous than the ones shown here. And gloves were still a thing. I can remember having to wear gloves to church when I was young in the early to mid 1960s. Then all of a sudden, no one wore gloves any more, and that style hasn’t really come back except for the Met Gala, the opera, or in the winter.
And of course, you could not go out without a hat:
I really like to see what the styles of hats were called in the time they were worn. Cobweb caps is pretty descriptive for the netting hats in the lower right. The cobweb with the large dots seems to be a not-well-thought-out design because those big freaking dots on your face isn’t a good look. I also thought it was funny that the hat in the upper right center is described as “wig witchery”. I guess it’s because you don’t have to spend a lot of time on your hair if it’s covered up. Seems like a good trade to me.
I thought you might like to see these:
I’ve never really associated the line up the back of the calf with sexiness, since my second and sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Rayner, who was a battle-axe before I ever knew what that meant, wore hose with a back seam. Shudder!! I do like the designs at the top although you would need the right kind of high heels to make them work.
Thank goodness there was something else to wear besides dresses all the time:
My favorite is the black outfit in the center—very modern and sleek. It’s called Matador mates, which is appropriate. Those two outfits in the upper left are nearly as short as the modest bathing suits in the catalog. Thank goodness that they have attached panties under those skimpy skirts.
I’m not sure what California colors are, but I do like the drama of the tied-off waist blouse with the red pants. You wouldn’t catch me dead in that outfit, but you have to admit that Barbie would look killer in any of those styles. The rest of it is kind of meh, but the little sailor style dress/pants suit in the upper right would be kind of cute on the right person. I looked at the description, and the blouse is made of rayon-silk combo, so no way do I wear that to the beach, or to a pool! I bet it would go over big at a church affair.
I have two more photos dedicated to the young ladies of the house:
These are for the Juniors, which means teens, early 20 year olds. No matrons allowed!! They look suitable for dances or dates—especially with all the bouquets in hand. I would have worn several of those dresses in the 1970s when I was a teenager. Kind of surprising considering that would be 14 years later and all the fashion rebellion of the 1960s.
This last set is kind of confusing:
It’s labeled “Pre-Teens” in the upper right corner; that’s younger than 13, right? Do any of these girls/women look that young to you? They are all wearing red lipstick, which I don’t remember being a thing in the 1950s. The page does say from sizes 8–16, but those sizes could certainly be Junior and Misses sizes, too. Several of the outfits seem kind of matronly for a Pre-Teen, also. This must be some kind of code that I don’t understand. Hopefully, someone out there can explain it to me.
I hope you enjoyed the trip down fashion memory lane. There are tons more fashions, home furnishings, and other things in this catalog. If you want to see more, just let us know!