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Discussion in 'The Powder Room' started by brothelcreeper, Apr 15, 2012.

  1. brothelcreeper

    brothelcreeper Familiar Face

    Afternoon ladies,

    I'm working on a screenplay in which I have what I would call the classic '50s housewife as the central character.

    Basically, I really have no idea what a '50s housewife would have done between waking up and starting cooking breakfast for the family. Shower? Make-up? Would she shower with a shower cap or blow-dry? Did she sleep with rollers in her hair? In what order would she dress, i.e. would she shower and dry, then put on underwear and a slip, proceed to making herself up, then put on a dress and jewellery?

    I have found a few blogs where (brave) women have taken up this lifestyle for a period of time but I haven't found any details on these particulars. Basically I'm looking for an exact path from bedroom to kitchen (as disgustingly patriarchal as that sounds!:eeek:).

    Thanks in advance!

  2. It was more common for women to take baths in the evening than showers in the morning, and hair was usually washed only once or twice a week. Blow dryers existed but were rarely used.

    On awakening, and after shuffling half-asleep to the bathroom to brush her teeth with Pepsodent or Colgate or Ipana, Mrs. Punchclock would wrap herself in a housecoat -- a cross between a housedress and a bathrobe -- and put on a well-worn pair of carpet slippers. She'd lean into the bedroom where Mr. Punchclock was still snoring and she'd yell COME ON GET UP. On the way down the hall she'd slap her hand on the door of the kids' room and yell BREAKFAST IN TEN MINUTES READY OR NOT and then stumble downstairs to the kitchen, possibly tripping over the cat on the way. If it was winter she'd hit the thermostat on the way past it to get some heat in the house. Arriving in the kitchen, she'd reach out the back door and bring in two quarts of milk from the galvanized metal box on the stoop, and if the newspaper hadn't been flung too deep into the bushes she'd bring that in as well. She'd then pull the percolator down out of the cupboard, throw a cup of Maxwell House into its basket, fill it with tap water, and plug it into the outlet on the stove. She'd pull a box of Corn Flakes or Wheaties or Grape Nuts Flakes or some other such cereal out of the cupboard along with a stack of bowls and would lay them out for breakfast, along with one of the bottles of milk. She'd then grab a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter, some cold meat loaf, or whatever else happened to be handy and throw together brown-bag sandwiches for the kids to take to school, wrapped in wax paper, along with an apple. By now the coffee would be perking and she'd pour herself a stiff cup, readying herself for the arrival of the rest of the family. She might, if she was the type to do so, light a Chesterfield and take a long, deep drag.
  3. katiesparkles

    katiesparkles One of the Regulars

    Beautifully written, LizzieMaine!
  4. bellabella327

    bellabella327 One of the Regulars

  5. brothelcreeper

    brothelcreeper Familiar Face

    Thanks LizzieMaine, very helpful.

    So just to clarify, my image that a woman would be dressed completely with make-up and jewellery before her husband rose to find her such wasn't really the case?


  6. Not outside of television and magazine ads, unless she was a newlywed -- as in the first week of marriage -- and was afraid to spoil the illusion. By the time there were kids on the scene, all possible illusions were long gone.
  7. crwritt

    crwritt One Too Many

    I think she would take a few minutes to use the bathroom, wash her face, take the rollers or pins from her hair, and put on housecoat and slippers before waking everyone up and starting breakfast.
    Once everyone was up she might sit with them and have a cup of coffee.
    Once they were fed, organized, and out the door, she would clean up the kitchen, start some laundry, write her shopping list, then finish her hair, powder her face, and get dressed (underwear, slip, stockings, shoes, dress)and go out on her morning errands.

    If she was a newlywed or on vacation, without the burden of chores, she might do her hair and makeup, and put on a dress and jewelry before breakfast.
  8. crwritt

    crwritt One Too Many

    My hairdresser was telling me that her Mother was one not to "spoil the illusion", so she never slept in curlers. As soon as her husband was out the door, she would duck her head under the faucet and wet her hair, then set it and let it dry during the day. Minutes before she expected him home, she would pull out the curlers and style her hair.
  9. kaiser

    kaiser A-List Customer

    This discribes my Mom to a T, this was the mid 1960's for me, but a perfect discription anyway.
  10. SheBear74

    SheBear74 Practically Family

    Now that was a great read!!! :D
  11. And if the kids don't get up when she tells them to, she fills a saucepan with cold water, steps quietly to the wee tykes' bedside, and dumps it over their heads. That'll get them up. (At least that's how my ma did it...)
  12. brothelcreeper

    brothelcreeper Familiar Face

    Thanks everyone for the input.

    As it happens, my protagonist and her husband are without kids so perhaps the 'illusion' may justly be maintained, especially for the illustrative purposes of the film.

    Cheers again!
  13. Katinka von K.

    Katinka von K. A-List Customer

    My mom used a wet cloth once in a while :).
  14. My mom either raised her voice or just changed her 'tone.' Either way, I got up.
  15. Juliet

    Juliet A-List Customer

    Oh, Lizzie, that's just brilliant!

    Scottyrocks, the 'tone' is rather a powerful weapon!
  16. Frenchy56

    Frenchy56 A-List Customer

    This is quite wonderful, LizzieMaine.

    and probably speaks more to the reality of most womens' lives than the poised, glamorous June Cleaver ideal that even the history books seem to insist upon.
  17. Fantastic LizzieMaine.........wonderful to read.
  18. Every once in a while you'll hear some modern housewife complain about the June Cleaver image and how unrealistic it was to expect "real women" to live up to it -- when that happens I always point out that June herself looked the way she did because she spent an hour each day in the Universal Pictures makeup department before reporting to work, and most "real women" in 1957 knew and understood this -- they'd been going to the movies all their lives, after all, and knew very well the difference between Hollywood fantasy and reality.

    Barbara Billingsley, the actress who played June, thought it was ridiculous that the idea of "the fifties housewife vacuuming in pearls and heels" had become such a cliche image. She explained that the producers insisted she wear heels because the actors who played her kids were growing so fast she needed to appear taller. And the pearls were her own choice, to distract the camera from an unflattering hollow on her neck. It didn't become a "definitive image of what women were supposed to be" until critics in the sixties and seventies came up with the idea that was.
  19. It will be interesting to see if future generations look back towards current television shows and think that reflects real life now, especially given the scores of supposed "reality" (highly edited and somewhat scripted) shows. I'd hate anybody to think we all were bachelor contestants or something. :(

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