Glory days part 1: 5 awesome things about the 40s and 50s

I’m definitely a retro lover, as you’ve probably already realised. History interests and excites me, and I have made love for a lot of things about the past.

A lot of things. But not all the things.

Recently I got myself a couple of issues of a vintage and retro magazine called Glory Days. It’s a very good read. But I have a problem with the title, and with the attitude that’s so frequently expressed of “[historical era of choice] is amazing, I wish I was back there!”

Do you? Do you really?

Yes, there are wonderful things about past times. But there are also plenty of things that make me *very* glad I live now, not then. Today, I wanted to look at the good things. Next time, we’ll look at the bad.

The Good:

1) Make do and mend. 

Clothes have gotten much cheaper over the years, but only financially. The cost to underpaid workers in other countries, to child labourers, to people living in de facto slavery, is very high. They pay with their lives.

When clothes were more expensive, and fabric harder to come by, people took better care of their clothes. You didn’t just throw things out if they got a hole. You mended them. You made them last.

I’m not a fan of disposable fashion, because it encourages corporations who believe that people are disposable. Less clothes, better cared for and made ethically- it’s pretty straightforward. It doesn’t just benefit the people making them. It benefits us. More space in the wardrobe. More money in the bank because we’re not spending it all on things we don’t need, that won’t last. But it requires us ALL to learn how to make do and mend.

It also gives you a reason to save up a bit more money, and buy investment pieces- clothes you know you’ll be wearing for a long time to come.

2) Actual, useful skills taught in school.

Cooking. Sewing. Mental arithmetic (not going through your maths class with a calculator permanently attached to your hand). Even PE (Phys Ed, for US readers) is on its way out. Now admittedly, cooking and sewing were girls’ subjects (and we’ll come on to that issue in part 2), but teaching young people how to cook proper meals, how to mend (see above) their clothes, and make their OWN clothes, how to do the maths they will use all the time as an adult (because we all have to manage money)- these are things that would stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

3) No credit cards.

Yes, I know, I know. Credit cards have their place. If you are in a position to pay them off in full every month, and stay within the limits of what you can pay for, they’re great. But for my grandparents, if you couldn’t afford something, you didn’t buy it until you could. Or you just didn’t buy it at all. Now, you buy it on your credit card and the bank (or the credit card company) gets rich. This idea that we have a right to have things immediately, that we shouldn’t wait, is dangerous. There are many, many people drowning in credit card and other debt, because of it. What’s wrong with waiting and saving up? The payoff after the anticipation, of finally having the thing you were after, is pretty great.

4) The fashion.

I mean come ON. Clothes designed for women with curves. Underwear designed to make the clothes look amazing. Elegance. Fun. HATS.

5) Readily available yarn and fabric.

It used to be a lot easier to get materials to craft. Wool shops were all over the place. Most big department stores had a fabric department. A big one. As a kid, I remember going into John Lewis with my Mum, and walking through the ground floor, which was almost entirely fabric shop. Nowadays there are only a few chains (only one chain store in New Zealand sells fabric) that sell craft supplies and a few other shops in cities, or in larger towns if you’re lucky, and if you know where to look.

And what crafter wouldn’t want to be able to get their craft on more easily?

Join me next time for a breakdown of some of the stuff that should stay buried.

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