Tab Hunter

The Sigh Guy
Cover from Tab Hunter's autobiography, Confidential
Tab Hunter had the kind of clean, cool, uncorrupted good looks a pimple-cream manufacturer dreams of. Blonde, white-toothed, healthily tanned and impressively muscled - in the 1950s, he was a major teen heart throb.

As an adolescent, Hunter was the athletic type, excelling in figure-skating and horseback riding. However, he hadn't enjoyed an easy childhood - born in New York in 1931, his parents divorced early, evidently due to his father's abusive behaviour and his mother was plagued by mental illness, which intensified in later years.

Children's Parties

The Charm of the Old-fashioned Kids Party

Shirley Temple, from The Little Princess.
On the whole, children's parties used to be fairly simple affairs and not too difficult to organize. There was a cake, candles, balloons, party hats, lemonade, treats and party games. At the end of the festivities each child might take home a coloured cardboard lolly bag and a slice of birthday cake, wrapped in a serviette. Of course, sometimes there were stand-out parties, which may have been extra lavish or included something special, such as a theme or a a children's entertainer of some description.

Although the traditional kid's party is still alive and well, there are some differences in the 21st Century...some subtle, some not. Plus not everyone is willing to throw an at-home event for kids. Stressed, usually time-pressed parents, often farm their children's parties out to a third party..most often McDonald's.

Theme parties seem to be popular - from Alice in Wonderland tea parties to Fairy Princess extravaganzas. However it's not really necessary to go overboard with the kids party thing, unless of course, you want to...and really, it's just as easy to throw a simple, old fashioned party at home as it is to launch one at a hamburger chain. In fact, throwing a kids party can be a lot of fun.

Certainly, you'll be confronted with a bunch of excited children to entertain but at the max the average children's party goes for around one and a half to two hours and much of that time can be taken up with organized games. - pass the parcel, pin the tail on the donkey, musical chairs....just to name a few oldies but goodies. The there's the cake cutting and singing 'Happy Birthday', as long as you've paid your copyright fee (just kidding about that one).

Fun and Games
These days it's become common practice to ensure every child at the party receives a prize - I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing. Isn't the point of prizes that not everyone wins? Should there be a present for each child in every layer of pass the parcel? Do you keep playing pin the tail on the donkey 'till each child has nailed it and won something?

Personally think the prizes are more special when they're scarcer. Children do understand this. It's a little like every child at school getting a gold star without having earnt it...not a great lesson for the real world. As long as each child goes home with a balloon, a slice of cake and a small bag of treats, they should be satisfied - and so will you, when the party's over and the last child has returned to his or her home. Hopefully you'll be left with a sense of achievement and a shared, lasting memory for you and your child.

Paper Straws
Old-fashioned Games for Kids

Retro Televisions

Musical Christmas TV.  From Mr. Nostalgia
Novelty TV
I never realised just how many kitsch retro TV products there are out there until I did a casual Amazon search of "retro TVs". True, it's not something I've given much thought to in the past...

Surely these gems will one day be sought-after collectors items? Take, for example, the battery operated "wood, resin and plastic" musical 1960s style TV in the picture at right, which apparently displays an enchanting array of illuminated rotating Christmas scenes, set to classic songs of the season. At $134.99 those scenes would need to be riveting watching, although when I think about it, there's a good chance they're  better than anything on real TV.

TV NeckLace
If that doesn't appeal, how about a retro TV necklace on an 18 inch sterling silver plated chain? This is something I could be tempted to wear...well, probably. I'm impressed by the 70s styling.

TV set Necklace by Sour Cherry

 Anyway, enough of that. Let's get to ...

Real Retro Televisions
Predicta Chalet

Predicta Meteor
If you're looking for real working retro reproduction televisions, take a look at Predicta TV - they have the most amazing looking collection of retro style sets I've ever seen.  I have no idea how they perform on function but for form, it's an A+.

Some of the TVs feature a striking styling that is very retro futuristic, yet they are apparently based on real designs from the mid 20th Century. Predicta was an iconic television made by the Philco company and according to Wikipedia is the one most people think of as  "the classic 1950s TV set", despite the fact that it proved  too radical a design for the domestic market, causing the company to fold in 1960. Of course now, original Philco Predictas are highly collectable.

It may be iconic in the US but I'm unfamiliar with the brand and the 'detached picture tube' style, so for me, it's something of a revelation. Modern Predictas, with vintage styling but modern electronics,  are now made by a Wisconsin company called Telstar Electronics and the attention to detail in the reproductions is reflected in the higher price tag, which according to the FAQ section of the website, is comparable to the average high-end TV.

There are 8 eccentric designs, many with hand crafted timber cabinets and brass fittings -Pedestal, Meteor, Holiday, Princess, Debutante, Corona, Chalet and Danish Modern. Far out. Also mentioned on the website is the fact that some vistors to the site are so astounded by the TVS they wonder whether it might be a fake website. It's not.

Original 1958 Philco Predicta TV. Source

Tab Cola: Elle Macpherson

Tab Cola. For beautiful people.
In the  1980s, one TV ad which was driving the Aussie boys crazy was a beachside promo piece for Tab Cola, the diet soft drink, featuring an 18 year old red bikini clad Elle The Body Macpherson. Tab, which was created in 1963, was the Coca Cola Company's  answer to  the rival Diet Rite, at that time the only sugar-free fizzy drink on the market.

Not surprisingly, being a weight conscious drink, Tab was specifically designed to appeal to women, with it's hot pink can and female oriented Ad campaigns. The Tab ad is Coke's not too subtle way of appealing to a woman's desire to be not only fresh and healthy but sexy to men...

Elle of course, went on to become an International supermodel and business entrepreneur, flogging frilly underwear to the aspirational. Born Eleanor Gow in 1963 (coincidentally, the same year Tab was launched) in the well-heeled Upper North shore suburbs of Sydney, the lanky beauty reputedly has managed to amass a considerable  personal fortune, ranging in the tens of millions. Not just a hot body then..?

Atomic Ranch House

Atomic Ranch by Michelle Gringeri- Brown
In the booming post-war period the American ranch house, with its sprawling dimensions and open plan living, revolutionized domestic living, not just for Americans but for people all over the world.

In her hardcover book Atomic Ranch:Design Ideas for Stylish Ranch Homes,  Michelle Gringeri-Brown explores in detail the rambling features of  US residential architecture from the 40s through to the 70s.

Gringeri-Brown showcases 25 homes through colour photographs and include before and after shots of the homes, a selection of useful design tips and an extensive resource index.

Atomic Ranch has received some seriously good reviews and is $26.40 from the Amazon Bookstore.

The 1950s House

Mr Sheen

Oh Mr. Sheen, Oh Mr. Sheen...
The housewife's Little Helper, the rotund Mr Sheen, was a familiar sight on Australian television in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. The product was first manufactured in the 1950s in Australia by Samuel Taylor Pty. Ltd (bought out later by British firm Reckitt and Coleman) and back in the day, when few people had heard of the ozone layer had the distinction of being the first aerosol product in the country.

I Have Seen a Place Where You have Never Been...
Mr. Sheen's ubiquitous public image was driven by a clever advertising campaign, that featured a short, plump little man who looked and sounded like a British public servant. He had a veneer of respectability and could get into every nook and corner where dust and grit were hiding, leaving a shiny, mirror -like surface.

Like Louie da Fly, the cartoon character was an easy identifiable figure that the consuming public could warm to and remember and paired with a catchy tune, destined to become an icon in advertising folk lore.. Fictional though he was, he was trustworthy, friendly, non-threatening and unlike Louie, clean.The Mr Sheen theme tune was not an original but based on a famous 1920s Vaudeville song, Mister Gallagher and Mister Shean, which became a huge hit, later performed in various forms by a variety of entertainers. The Ad campaign, launched in the late 50s by the Hansen Rubensohn agency, was created by Brian Henderson and Vic Nicholson and the jingle lyrics by Bob Gibson and Jimmy white.

Although he was growing tired by the 1980s, Mr. Sheen was still performing his housekeeping duties on TV during that decade, in an only slightly updated version of the earlier ad in a stagier, 'musical' form.

In 1997 Mr. Sheen was relaunched and vamped up for a new generation of domestic engineers. The cheerful, balding gentleman is the one constant of the product and manufacturers were loathe to part with him. He is, after all, a marketing legend...and what's more, he knows how to treat a housewife. If you want to catch up with him, like any PR conscious celebrity, he's on Facebook.

Phil Lloyd

Comic actor and co-writer of  out-there TV shows, Review with Myles Barlow , At Home with Julia, and (spot the odd one out) Home and Away, Phil Loyd seemingly appeared out of nowhere when he hit our TV screens in the first 2008 ABC series of Myles Barlow. Who was this ultra-conservative looking, blazer and fawn slacks wearer with the 70s 'Andrew Bolt' hair and highly original, satirical wit?

The talented Mr. Loyd
Life Reviews
Phil Lloyd had been plugging away as a scriptwriter with Home and Away, the long-running Australian soapie by the sea series for years before he co-wrote Myles Barlow with with fellow writer, Trent O'Donnel. The premise of the show is ambitious and daring, yet simple in it's conception.

Lloyd, as deadpan fireside host Myles Barlow, reviews aspects of life via a series of sketches and applies star rating to such diverse experiences as murder, divorce, starting a cult, homelessness, freeloading and intergenerational dating. Allegedly Lloyd and O'Donnel got the idea for the show late one night at a party, when they found themselves rating a stain on a bed sheet. It's a clever, highly amusing series that won AFI (Australian Film Institute) Awards for  two years running - Best Performance in a Comedy Series and Best Television Comedy Series.

Hijinks at The Lodge
In 2011, Phil Lloyd took another daring leap into the gluggy mire of television, by co-writing (with Amanda Bishop, Rick Kalowski) and starring in a new four part series about the personal life of Prime Minister Julia Guillard - At Home with Julia. Not an easy project by any stretch but gauranteed to get all eyes on the small screen. As displaced suburban hairdresser and PM's partner Tim Matheison, Loyd projects a funny but  all too human perspective of a man in the shadows. It's a portrait loaded with a creeping pathos that some viewers have found 'over the line'.

Lloyd's edgy comedy has got him noticed. Although he may look like something that  crept out of a conservative think tank, his retro style and quietly effective humour is strangely and refreshingly appealing. Along with that other Australian comedy innovator,  Chris Lilley, there are interesting layers beneath the haha surface of the comedy. There's something going on...something about ourselves. Four Stars.

That 50s Look

Retro Style, paperback by Marion Haslam
The 1950s ushered in the first post-war Great Age of Consumerism. Mass production and modernism meant functional, streamlined products in new materials and innovative designs and there was a kind of optimism about science, technology and the leaping developments of the 20th Century. Everything was boom, boom, boom.

1950s Tulip Chair by Eero Saarinen.
These days there's a lot of interest and nostalgia around the mid-twentieth century period and why not? Some remarkably spiffy designs emerged from that particular era. A 50s inspired chair or table, or even an appliance,  blended into a modern home can capture an aspect of a very special period of design, which, if it's your cup of tea, can be aesthetically uplifting.

Retro Style
Former Habitat buyer Marion Haslam has put together a book that looks at the design elements of the 1950s - anything from toasters to furniture - from a contemporary perspective. Haslam includes some workable projects in Retro Style , some of which seem to have had mixed reviews from customers. Most agree however, that the author provides an interesting text and some inspirational ideas for the 50s enthusiast. The book is now a few years old and out of stock at some online bookstores  but I guess when you're talking about the 50s, it's not like it'll be 'dated'.
The 1950s House
TV Lamps
Black Lady Lamps
Vintage TV Table

Classic Coke Bottle

Classic coke bottle. Source
The shapely contoured bottle patented by the Coca Cola Company in 1916 is a 20th century icon, recognized all over the world. Over the decades it has changed shape a little here and there but retained the basic contoured form, with the vertical ridges for easy gripping. In 1997 a contour can was introduced by Coca Cola but was never widely released.

Coke was first bottled back in 1900, at the initiative of three entrepreneurial attorneys who secured the US bottling rights for the syrupy brown liquid that was proving to be such a hit at the soda fountains.

The first coke bottle was a straight-sided affair that resembled a medicinal bottle but according to the company's website, the bottlers were concerned that he common shape would be too easily 'confused with imitators'. They needed something distinctively coke. Glass manufacturers were asked to submit ideas for an alternative shape and glass designer Earl R Dean from the the Root Bottling Company from Indiana and apparently inspired by the shape of a cocoa pod, came up with the radical new shape that is now so familiar. For his efforts, Dean was offered the choice of a life-time job at the Root company or a $500 bonus. Sensibly, he chose the latter.

Original design drawing for the Coke 'contour' bottle by Earl R Dean. Source

The Reptilian Brain
The trademark bottle was a huge success, partly because it was instantly recognizable as belonging to Coca Cola but why did the coke drinking public find the shape so appealing? Could it have something to do with our reptilian brain?

According to NeuroMarketers (those canny ad men who use brain science to reach deep  into the desires and wishes of the consuming public) the brain can be divided into three basic parts:
Human - the highly developed, most recent part of the brain, housing the cortex and responsible for such "human" as logic, reason, learning, rational thought and personality.
Mammalian - the 'limbic', middle part of the brain dealing with memory, emotion, moods and hormones.
Reptilian - this is most ancient part of the brain that controls basic survival and imperatives like breathing, hunger, thirst, the avoidance of danger, flight or fight and general instinctive behaviour. Also know as the R complex.
It's believed the ancient reptilian brain rules when it comes to  those quick decision making responses to advertising -overriding the 'logic and reason' part nearly every time. This is because the reptilian brain operates on a kind of auto-pilot, responding to sensory stimuli and triggering an unconscious emotional response. It's also believed to be the the part responsible for addiction and may explain help explain why some people continue to engage in dangerous drug taking, even when they know rationally, it will have negative effects.

Anyhow, back to the classic coke bottle, which has remained in production for almost a hundred years.  The softly rounded form of the glass has a sensual, organic, almost womanly look and feel to it - it can be held and caressed...fondled even, in a way a big old plastic bottle or aluminium can can't. It's sexier.

Retro Leather Travel Case

Andrew Marc men's travel case.
The beauty of leather is that it improves with age, not to mention the fact that it just feels, smells and looks better than its vinyl subsitutes.

Of course, one of the chief  disadvantages of leather is the price tag. Leather is no longer the standard material for bags and cases. It's a luxury item and at $125, the Andrew Marc's distressed retro calf leather travel case at right is pretty darn pricey, especially for what is essentially, a toiletry bag..

Still, cheap travel cases come and go but one like this will outlast the others by years, has a macho charm and will feel terrific every time you use it.

Men in Suspenders

Man in suspenders. Source
Never was a fashion accessory so diverse in its application as suspenders. True, ostensibly suspenders were made for the single purpose of holding up a mans pants but over the decades they've been worn as an emblem by such varied cultural groups as Neo-Nazis, the gentle Amish, alternative, hippy types and ferocious stock market players.

When I think Gordon Ghekko, the fictional ruthless financial entrepreneur of  the 80s film, Wall St, who's name is now synonymous with greed - I'm  reminded of wide braces over striped silk shirts and will probably forever associate that particular men's accessory with avaricious opportunism. It's an inescapable connection, particularly since my son's ludicrously paid orthodontist is fond of wearing the same style of suspender.

Yet when I see a skinhead in a pair of bother boots and a swastika tattoo or an Amish farmer riding to town peacefully in his black buggy,  new connections form. As a sub-culture, skinhead's have their own complex rules and regulations regarding clothes, which are more uniform than fashion. The width of the braces is   important, (3/4" and 1" in width, being the standard size), as is colour and height and position. Evidently there is some political significance to the suspenders being worn on the shoulders or down around the waist.

Dark and threatening. Still from Romper Stomper
For the Amish, of course, suspenders are a practical item as well as a symbol of the value of tradition and pre-modernism. They are still a statement however, as much as they are for the skinheads - just a different kind of statement.

 My Suspenders Define Me
King of suspenders, Larry King
Apart from skinheads, farmers and wall street types, suspenders also conjure images of grumpy old men (see Larry King photo) who give the impression they probably came out of the womb in suspenders. For these men, such an accessory is an immutable habit and they carry with them a kind of : "I've always worn suspenders and I always will " attitude.

It was a man called Albert Thurstan who invented the modern version of men's suspenders, in 1822, so they've been around for a while. Over the years they've shifted in and out of popularity, depending  on pants style and whatever happens to be flavour of the month fashion-wise.

In the 1920s they were particularly popular but waned in the 30s due to the abandonment of waistcoats -at that time suspenders were considered more underwear than outer wear. They had a brief return to popularity with the baggier trousers of the 1940s but all in all, in the battle between belt and braces, the belt has won hands down.

Are suspenders and sexiness incompatible..? Not necessarily, though much depends on the style and era. After all, Daniel Craig wore them to effect as James Bond, supposedly one of the sexiest men in fiction and they do look pretty good on 1920s men. The biggest non-no is to be caught wearing suspenders and a belt -that's just trying to have it both ways.

As always, what's important is the man inside the clothes...

Hitler's Hair
Cravats for men

Red High Heeled Shoes

Nine West Flax Pump
Not sure if Freud had something to say about this but there's something about a red high-heeled shoe that is very, very sexy. Perhaps because it's a blend of red; the traditional colour of passion and the general sex-appeal of heels....or maybe something else.

According to a study by psychologist's at the University of Rochester,  "the color red makes men feel more amorous toward women", although the men themselves may not be conscious of it. And it's not just human males that are affected, as non-human male primates also respond amorously to red. There seems to be some sort of deep-rooted biological imperative going on there.

The Colour Red Attracts Men to Women

An Excitable Colour
Sexier version of Dorothy's shoes by Leg Avenue
The colour red and it's connections with femininity has featured significantly in Western culture - it's the hue of the scarlet woman, the Jezebel, who likes to be noticed and admired. It's the colour of Valentine's Day - symbolic of love and desire.

Red lips are associated with heightened sexuality (the result of a rush of blood to the area)..a fact that didn't escape the attention of the lipstick manufacturers. Traditionally, when women want to look attractive they colour their lips and cheeks  red.

Red shoes too, appear in our stories and fairytales...

Red is the colour of Dorothy's shoes in the Wizard of Oz, which, when clicked, spirit her away to the safety and reassurance of home in Kansas.

Unstoppable Shoes
Poster for The Archers 1948 film, The Red Shoes
In the mid 19th century, Hans Christian Anderson wrote a fairytale about a young peasant girl whose vanity leads her to obsess over a pair of red shoes "fit for a Princess". The girl wears the shoes everywhere, even to church, where the holy images seem to frown in disapproval.

A soldier makes a  remark about her beautiful dancing shoes and she begins to dance..and dance and dance, to the point where she cannot stop. The shoes assume a life-force of their own and the poor exhausted girl is forced to dance everywhere - over hills, down dales and through meadows and towns.

At one point an angel appears and informs her she will have to keep dancing even after she dies, as a warning to other girls who may be inclined toward the same sort of vanity. Finally the girl begs an executioner to sever her feet from her body, which he does but the shoes continue to dance with her severed feet inside, barring her way when she tries to enter a church. When she tries again the following week, she is again barred by the shoes. Desolate in her home, she prays sincerely to God and redeems herself to the angel, who relents and offers her a spray of roses.

So what is the moral here? Beware of funky red shoes in shop windows? Hmmm...

Dolce Vita rosetta pumps

Retro Ice Bag

Problem with puffy eyes...? Try a retro ice bag which will not only reduce puffiness but make you feel like a vintage Hollywood diva at the same time. Smaller than it looks, the Hollywood ice bag can be slipped into a handbag for portability. - also  good for for lumps, bumps, tiredness, headaches, cramps, bruises and various other ailments. May be used hot or cold, depending on what you wish to use it for.

What Causes Puffy Eyes? 
Apart from lack of sleep, eye puffiness may be caused by stress, crying, allergy, irritation or infection (which should be treated). Basically the puffiness is a result of excess fluid accumulating in the soft tissue that surrounds the eye. A cold compress can smooth down the area and help disperse the swelling.

It's worth noting, that in addition to common, relative harmless causes, there are some rare but serious conditions that may cause persistent puffiness, particularly if accompanied by facial swelling, so do check with a doctor if if you are unsure.

The Dead End Kids

Such naughtiness. Some of The Dead End Kids
In depression-era America, the Dead End Kids were a popular cinema attraction, reflecting as they did, the chutzpah and wisecracking humour-in the-face-of-adversity of New York kids who were doing it tough in the slum tenements of the 1930s.

So who were they? Essentially they were a group of actors who played a gang of wayward boys -  wisearse street kids, who oozed a kind of reprobate charm and personality.

The kids began on Broadway in 1935, in a successful play called Dead End and a couple of years later were brought to Hollywood by legendary producer Samuel Goldwyn, who saw the potential appeal of the show for a wider audience.

Real Life Brats
Goldwyn turned the play into a film, hiring an extra eight youths, in addition to the original cast,  to play an array of roles. Legend  has it they were a nightmare on the set - running amok, destroying valuable studio property and generally misbehaving. So much so, that Goldwyn, eager to offload them, sold their contract to Warner Bros. after the film's completion.

They went on to make six films under the name Dead End Kids with Warner, often working with big name stars like Bogart, Cagney, Ronal Regan and Pat O'Brien. In subsequent films, the boys were rechristened the Eastside Kids and in the 1940s, Monogram Films  made another series of films using some original cast members under the name The Bowery Boys.

All in all, the various groups of boys that began with the original concept of the Dead End Kids, made total of 89 films during a period that spanned a long, by Hollywood terms,  21 years. In the 1960s and 70s,  the Eastside Kids and the Bowery Boys films were screened on syndicated television , leading to a new legion of fans.

The Original Dead End Kids
Billy Halop
Bobby Jordan,
Huntz Hall,
Bernard Punsly
Gabriel Dell
Leo and David Gorcey

Owl Rings

Jewel-eyed owl rings from Fashion Bliss
Retro brass owl ring from Treena Bean
Luck and Wisdom...
Traditionally in Western culture, owls are a symbol of wisdom as well as good luck -and don't we all need more of that?

Owl symbols date back to ancient Athens, during an inspiring age of wisdom.The owl appeared on coins and was  the Goddess Athena's (protectress of the city) own symbol.

Some archeologist's also claim the owl symbol dates back to the pre-Indo European Neolithic age, where the bird itself was worshipped as a Goddess.

Or Death and Destruction?
By contrast, the Maya and Aztecs considered the owl a symbol of death and destruction. Mictiantecuhtii, the Aztec God of death was often shown accompanied by owls. (wikipedia)

In Mexico there is an old saying "when the owl cries, the Indian dies". The owl then, has different meanings for different cultures but whatever the symbolism, it seems the owl has a powerful resonance in the human psyche and in recent times, the owl ring has returned as a popular accessory.

The ring above right, from Treena Bean, is nickel and lead free and made from recycled antique brass material.For a quirky owl, the one below is sterling silver and features an unusual setting
Midnight Owl ring from Eve's Addiction
The Chunky Charm Bracelet
Chunky Necklaces

Pears Soap Reproduction Pears soap poster
Reproduction Pear soap poster. Amazon
Pears soap is one of the oldest commercially made cleansers in the world and certainly one of the most familiar, not least because of the company's  famous old-fashioned advertisements which have been widely circulated and re-used over and over.

The story of the translucent soap can be traced back over 220 years, to Oxford Street in London , where farmer's son and trained barber, Andrew Pears, produced and sold his reddish brown see-through soap in 1789...the first of its kind. Pears was also the world's first registered brand and thus, technically, the worlds oldest lasting brand-name.

Selling Purity
Pears' commercial success in an interesting example of successful marketing. In the late 1700s, most soaps contained harsh ingredients such as arsenic and/or lead, ingredients which could themselves be damaging to the skin. Conscious of this, Andrew Pears experimented with natural ingredients and came up with a gentle, glycerin based soap. "Purity' was the selling point and the translucence of the soap helped sell the idea - if customers could see through the soap, they would be more inclined to believe there wasn't anything nasty or harmful lurking in there.

Eorographics Pears print poster
By the 1800s, Pears' Grandson Francis had joined the company and A and F Pears Ltd was formed. Andrew Pears eventually retired and unfortunately did not live to see his soap win a prize medal at the famous Great Exhibition (Crystal Palace Exhibition) of 1851.

Eventually, Francis Pears son-in-law, Thomas J Barratt, generally regarded as an early genius of advertising,was welcomed into  the company fold and it was he who turned Pears soap into one of the most successful consumer products ever to hit the British mass marketplace.

With an eye for commercial aesthetics, Barrett famously employed Pre-Raphealite artist,  Edward John Millais's 1886 painting, Bubbles, to advertise the soap -a campaign which was so successful, it was continued for several decades. Bubbles, with it's strong soap/child association, reflected an image of clean innocence and purity -everything Pears wanted to get across to the purchasing public and it was a theme that Pears would continue to promote via it's advertising campaigns over the generations.

Bubbles by Millais. For commercial purposes,  the painting was overlayed with Pears Soap lettering

Celebrity Endorsement
Lovely Lily Langtry, actress and Pears soap ambassador
Another successful ploy devised by Barratt was to hire the endorsement of popular actress, Lily Langtry, who was famous for her ivory-skinned beauty. It seems an obvious move for a marketer, yet at the time, such a thing was unheard of and indeed, Langtry was the first woman to publicly endorse a commercial product.

The connection of pears soap to children and beauty was further reinforced in the early 20th century, when Miss Pears competitions  were held every year, offering the winner a chance to appear in Pears promotional material.

Pears advertising was ubiquitous in Victorian and Edwardian newspapers, magazines and periodicals -often there were four page inserts. From 1891 to 1925, the company also produced a large Christmas annual, containing stories, advertisements and prints which could be removed and framed.

From one generation to the next, Pears soap was (and still is to some extent) as trusted and comfortably familiar as the family cat. Through careful, clever advertising and the right associations, the company had managed to create a brand loyalty that must have been the envy of every manufacturer in England and probably beyond.

Art Deco Posters

By Anthony Velonis, New York City Federal Art Project, WPA, 1938
Royal mail lines poster. Horace Tyalor,1925
Toward Modernism
The art deco movement of the early 20th century straddled the line between and the traditionally decorative and the harsh assertiveness of modernism and proved to be a transformative period in art and design.  Emerging from Paris in the 1920s, by the 30s, the style was ubiquitous - influencing fashion, jewellery, furniture, appliances, architecture and commercial and industrial design and art.

Defined by its bold lines and geometric planes, art deco rejected the organic elegance of art nouveau, which had dominated the preceding period, in favour of  modernist and futuristic style elements, though it did also draw inspiration from such exotic and ancient sources as Aztec and Egyptian design.
Reproduction of a New York decoscape. Available at Amazon

A Striking Statement
Grand Prix poster. 1937. Amazon
Not least because of its bold design characteristics, the style lent itself particularly well to commercial art and in the 20s and 30s, at the height of art deco's popularity, there were numerous posters depicting anything from tourism to cinema. The posters reflected the eclectic vibrancy of the jazz age and the promise of the modern world, with its rapidly expanding technological wonders.

Although by the close of the 1940s deco had lost ground in the popularity stakes, it was rediscovered in the 1960s and is now recognized as one of the most significant design movements in modern history and still widely popular, with collectors and the general public alike.

The Hoover Building
Art Deco and Modernist Society

Suitcase as ocean liner.Razzia print.  Montepanasse Gallery

Ballerina Music Box

Lenox ballerina jewellry box
Typical mid-century ballerina jewel box
The  ballerina music box is almost an obligatory feature of every little girl's childhood...or rather, it used to be. In the id 20th century, there was a fashion for black lacquered jewellery boxes, decorated in oriental designs.The tiny twirling  ballerina was usually set on a small ledge (stage) in front of a miniature corridor of mirrors. As music boxes go, she's a tradition, the ballerina being among the first figures to be used in music boxes . Sometimes the figure was on her own and sometimes with a male partner in a tuxedo.  With or without a partner, the ballerina danced to the tinkling music every time a child opens the lid and the box itself is a perfect place to put the small treasures of childhood.

Oriental design, typical of music boxes in the 50s/60s.
From a child's perspective, there is something magical and fascinating about ballerina boxes still and they still make an entrancing gift for little girls. Unfortunately, some of the contemporary ones are a little cheap and nasty, with only a triangle mirror and a rough-cast ballerina who looks as though she might  buckle under the pressure of multiple opening and closing.

Origin of the Music Box
Music jewel boxes actually have their origins in 18th century musical snuff boxes, which were small enough to fit into a waistcoat pocket. In the 19th century, Swiss manufacturers developed the mechanics and music boxes were made in all shapes and sizes - from the very small to as big as a chest of drawers. It's interesting to consider that at that time, musical boxes were the main form of 'home music' that wasn't played by a human, since there was no such thing as radios or gramophones.

In the technological whirlwind of the 20th century, music boxes remained a popular mainly as a novelty item. The sweet, tinkling tune of a popular 18 note music box has a unique and delicate sound that evokes a kind of wistful nostalgia....

French Stripes

French toy sailor...Sino war uniform,
Coco Chanel's vintage nautical theme
Like the classic beret, French stripes are a wardrobe theme that never seems to go stale. Popularised by Coco Chanel in the early 20th century, they became a particularly hot item in the late 50s and sixties and have made frequent appearances ever since.

Sailor suits, with the traditional large piped  collar,  had been popular in the Edwardian era, especially for children -but not stripes.

Chanel took her inspiration from the French marinière - low ranked, deck-swabbing sailors who traditionally wore a long sleeved, blue and white striped boat neck top.

When it shifted from the deck to the catwalk, it's a look that became eternally chic. Whether it appears in tops, skirts, tees, leggings or something else, the French stripe is casually classy.

The full-blown classic French mariners look is a blue and white striped T- shirt, matched with a navy beret, navy skirt or pants and occasionally...a red scarf tied around the neck, if you want to be obvious.
Jean Seberg in classic French chic
From the Nostalgia Shop

H.E. Homino Emerito striped T
French Connection Toulouse Striped T

Robot Dogs

Adorable wind-up robot dog
Although they may lack the warmth and character of the real thing, robot pets have a few charms of their own and usually require less feeding, watering, walking and vet visits. Plus, robot pets are for Christmas. If you get sick of them, you can let them rot at the back of a cupboard without too much guilt.

There are various "breeds" of robot dog available, from the the old mechanical, wind-up kind to sophisticated, high-tech versions that can walk, jump, bark and roll over on command.

Sony's interactive robot dog, Aibo
Take Sony's Aibo for example, the toy robot dog who offered its owners  a pretty good illusion of spontaneity and personality. Aibo (now discontinued) was the first commercially available product to use  Evolution Robotics' Visual Pattern Recognition technology, which is basically the ability of a robot to "see".

Currently on the market is  WowWee Wrex, the "Frankenstein pooch" and mongrel of the robot dog pack,  made from discarded mechanical and electrical parts. Wrex has three moods - happy, angry and half insane and three desires - hunger, a desire for exercise and call of nature. Apparently, by accessing his back panel, he can also be programmed to act like a cat. No wonder he has moments of insanity.
Wrex, made byWowWee robotics

Megabyte and Tekno
Another couple of relatively inexpensive pups  on the block are the digitally named named Megabyte and Tekno , perfect companions for the tech-head. They can walk talk bark and 'perform amazing tricks'...apparently.
Megabyte...cuter than a kitten in a flowerpot.
Tekno, with his own biscuit.
As Good as the real thing..?
The benefits of pet ownership, particularly for the elderly,  are well documented but I have my doubts a robotic dog could really be a substitute for the living, breathing kind. However, a few years ago, researchers at  Purdue University's Center for the Human-Animal Bond tried to discern just; whether or not a robotic substitute (they used Aibo) could provide the same benefits for  elderly people, who may not be up to the demands and  responsibilities of  real pet dog ownership, that a real dog could.

A study was also conducted on a group of 72 children, who were given both a real Australian collie and Aibo to play with. Not surprisingly, the children were more engaged with the real dog, yet the study revealed that a significant number of children interacted with the robot dog as they would a real one.  Two questions were raised by the research:
First, is it possible that a new technological genre is emerging in HCI that challenges traditional ontological categories (e.g., between animate and inanimate)? Second, are pervasive interactions with a wide array of "robotic others" -- increasingly sophisticated personified computational artifacts that mimic biological forms and pull psychologically in mental, social, and moral ways -- a good thing for human beings.
From Robots as dogs?

It's all a bit reminiscent of that eerie old 70s film Zero Population Growth, where humans in a futuristic world are unable to legally procreate because of massive overpopulation and are given robotic "doll children" to satisfy their nurturing needs. In the film at didn't work.