There is one universal truth that needs to be widely acknowledged: the “domestic goddess” is a myth and has been created by generations of advertising to keep us feeling guilty or striving to attain that not-a-hair-out-of-place apron clad image. With lipstick on.
I deduced this yesterday after chasing my beloved toddler around the house whilst he had whisk clenched between his teeth. And he ran gleefully. Managing to have dinner bought and ready to throw in the oven (a customised bought-at-store pizza) and wine- was a feat not dissimilar to the crossing of the Rubicon. And the whole time I felt horribly guilty that I hadn’t managed to do most of the things on my on-leave list. Though I really can’t complain as every moment with my son, whilst exhausting at times, has been an utter joy- lots of giggles, tickles, cuddles and laughing.
To assauge my guilty lousy-housewife feelings, I decided that today I would bake a 50s chocolate cake. I had read about a rather unusual recipe at the following midcentury cooking blog. Did I mention the mystery ingredient was tinned tomato soup?? Today, it seemed was the day, The trick was to mix everything and get it all in the oven before my husband even left for work.
In the pan it doesn’t look any different from any other chocolate cake batter. I added the tomato soup last and didn’t notice any horrible horrible smells, though I admit I was hesitant to lick the batter from the spoon!
So, given my recent deduction about the myth of the Domestic Goddess, it really is o surprise that I love the fashion and style of Claire McCardell. McCardell, who is often considered as sort of anti-Dior was really doing what Dior was doing but in a different way- both designers wanted to make women look and feel beautiful. McCardell just pitched her designs at women in the home (if you haven’t ever seen the infamous Popover dress, here it is) while Dior was all about constructing the form with corsets and corselets in the ilk of his feminine ideal.
Who did women of the time really want to be? Did they want to be trying so hard to look like a swan with that serene, slightly disinterested gaze and wistful smile sported so often by the prolific and loved 50s model, Dovima? Or did they want to wake up in the morning, put the coffee on and feel somewhat NORMAL as they grabbed a go to dress that flattered them somewhat as they went through their day trying to sane with life’s demands? Well, as a time poor mummy, I obviously fall into the latter category. I often don’t have time to wear make up at home, I haven’t really done my nails since my son was born but I still enjoy clothes. I need easy wash, easy wear. This was so much of what McCardell was about and it seems her philosophy is still relevant today.
Today’s pattern is Vogue 5044, not a McCardell deisgn but almost identical to a dress that she produced in the 1953 which differed only be the inclusion of slash pockets at the hip (featured on page 110 of Yohannan and Nolf’s book “Claire McCardell: redefining Modernism”. The pattern was produced by Vogue in 1960, by which time McCardell’s designs had obviously had time to gel in the psyche of popular culture. I often thing that pattern companies tend to cater for interests rather than create the demand. But that theme is pretty consistent with other known published thesis on popular culture…
Anyway, enjoy. There is a cake coolling and a little boy who wants to play…!