Typically, this podcast will be about antiques, vintage, & collectibles (with plenty of contextual history & culture commentary), but this second episode has a lot to do with gender, so I am linking it up here. It’s under 3 minutes long, but if you prefer to read it, you can do so here.
Whether or not “you’re with her,” you have to recognize the historical step of Hillary Clinton becoming the first female presumptive presidential nominee for a major U.S. political party. However, she was not the first woman to run for president. Rachel Maddow covered the titillating news (and nervous giggling that ensued) when other women ran for president of the United States of America. Maddow’s coverage includes vintage news clips reporting on Maine Senetor Margaret Chase Smith’s run for the Republican presidential nomination in 1964 and when Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American congresswoman from New York State, ran for Democratic presidential nomination in 1972.
Thankfully, there were no advertisements, real or parody, featuring any of the candidates in their underthings. A sign of minimal respect, perhaps. But then, the Maidenform “I Dreamed I won the election” ad from 1958 must have brought many a chuckle & guffaw. (More on the classic vintage lingerie ad series here & here.)
Americans are obsessed with breasts. Not just looking at them, judging them, but controlling and legislating them. Like the old “children should be seen and not heard,” there are rules about just how, when, and why breasts are exposed. In public and in private. Even if those breasts are doing the most natural thing in the world: feeding babies. According to the “seen but not heard” societal law, the sucking sounds of an infant clearly ought to be held against the child — except that mothers are blamed for everything, including the soft but necessary noises of a nursing infant.
But we all know it’s not the noises thing that bothers people so. It’s the sight of a nipple. Even the fear of seeing a nipple outrages folks. Sadly, we are not winning this fight for the right to bare our breasts. But Robyn and Michelle Lytle, a Chicago-based couple, are on a mission to fight it. In a not-so-subtle way. They are the women behind The TaTa Top Shop, which sells TaTa Tops: bikini tops in various flesh shades — complete with nipples.
Now, before you think this is some sort of gag gift thing, like those t-shirts ; it’s not. “The TaTa Top was created in response to current censorship issues regarding women’s bodies.”
Always one to push boundaries and challenge authority, Michelle decided that The TaTa Top was the perfect way to stir things up and get people questioning the current law.
The TaTa Top is far more than nipples on a bikini top. As a brand we work to promote questioning the social norm and digging deeper when it comes to society’s expectations.
…From the very beginning, we knew we wanted to use a sense of humor to shed light on some serious issues while simultaneously raising funds for two areas we are extremely passionate about: breast cancer awareness and women’s rights. It’s great to create a product that makes people laugh, but it’s even better to be able to do something very serious with that success. For each TaTa Top sold, $5 goes directly towards supporting one of our partnered organizations, and this is what it’s all about!
But the couple isn’t above selling a few of these bikini tops for bachelorette parties. I doubt they would mind — or could control — selling them for bachelor parties either. (Because nothing is funnier than a man dressed like a woman, right?) At least the Lytle’s and their charities would get some money. Proving that nipples — at least faux nipples — are good for something.
When Jord came to me with the offer to review one of their handmade wooden wristwatches, I took one look at them and I knew that the Koa & Black, from the Dover Series, was special. While the idea of a wooden wristwatch is certainly a novel one, it was the gears that moved me… Usually all glorious gears and stuff that makes a watch tick is usually hidden on a watch. But with this Jord watch, you can see it work!
I knew it would be perfect for my dad. He’s not only one who appreciates craftsmanship but is a craftsman himself. Not only does he make new things, mixing the old with the new, but he’s handcrafted furniture for the house. I just knew he would love the juxtaposition of the smooth wood next to the metal gears as much as I do. (Admittedly, my dad often prefers his gears rusty; but then the timepiece wouldn’t work!)
Just as I’d hoped, my dad did love the watch too.
Since one of the relatively important aspects of a wristwatch is the personal statement it makes, the attention it receives, I asked my dad to wear it when we were selling at the opening weekend of the Elkhorn Antique Flea Market. (Just like hubby and I, my parents are antique dealers.) I just knew the wooden watch would garner the attention of those who appreciate quality timepieces, as well as those who admire craftsmanship — and just plain like cool stuff. In spite of the bad weather, which required us to cover ourselves (and our antiques!) up more, when the watch was visible it received a fair amount of admirers.
But perhaps the most telling compliment came from my nephew, Nicholas, who is the youngest of the grandchildren. Because my dad has made so many things, Nicholas asked if Papa made the watch!
You might have noticed in the photos that my dad wears his wristwatch in an usual manner…
With the face of the watch not centered on the wrist, but rather sitting along the side of his wrist (on the radius, if you want to be technical about it). For as long as I can remember, my dad has worn his watch this way. And there’s a reason for it.
For decades, my dad worked as a salesman selling tools to big companies in what is now known as the Rust Belt. Often in sales meetings, or any meetings at all, there might be a reason the you might want to make note of the time. But being spotted checking your watch communicates all sorts of negative things. While you might merely be wondering if you’re running on time for your next appointment, the client may see your peek at your watch as an indication that they are being rushed — or worse, that they are boring you. What to do?
One of my dad’s first bosses taught my dad a trick: Wear your wristwatch as shown so that you can take a look at the time without the person across the desk from you ever noticing.
Wearing the watch as my dad does allows for a surreptitious look at the time without offending anyone you are trying to impress — be it a buyer or an interviewer.
Honestly, it works without a desk or conference table too.
(I dare suggest that many of the young people rejecting wristwatches are not employed. They don’t yet know the value of being able to reflect your personal style at work — or how important it can be to steal an unnoticed look at the time. Meanwhile, as many younger folks seem to be eschewing watches and clocks, the prices for vintage and collectible timepieces have been soaring. Perhaps it takes a matter of experience to appreciate not just “old” stuff, but the value of timepieces as well.)
But back to the stunning Jord watch…
It’s at once rustic and elegant, combining earthy and tech to make a functional timepiece that’s unique. The wood also works nice with less formal attire, including Casual Friday, hanging out with friends — and, as it must do for any Wisconsinite, looks great with Green Bay Packer gear!
It arrived as expected for a pricey luxury wristwatch, in a nice wooden crate of a box, with all the related info inside. The only bad thing I can find to say about this watch was that the information card included in the box was difficult to read: black text on a busy image-laden background — and slick & shiny with lamination yet. Even for the younger among us with better eyesight. I can understand wanting a “sexy” card. And giving it a protective coating so it can last. But, honestly, the company would be better off going with black text on a white or light background so that it is easy to read.
That said, we obviously figured out how to work it. And, yes, this beauty works. In fact, with the visible gears, this wristwatch is really cool to watch. If you aren’t a fan of the gears, there are other styles as well — and, yes, there are women’s watches as well.
Watches Made From Wood
Official review disclaimer: While I did receive the wristwatch from Jord for review purposes, it did not sway my opinion in any way. It never does.
Straight out of the creepy files, dads are viewing their daughters as their own property — property which can be defended like some backward “stand your ground” law. The following exhibits were all found at Etsy.
Likely these protective fathers have spent too much time at these “dating sites” and assume all boys are as bad as they were.
I’m also insulted for our sons. Not all of them are predators, worthy of violent disposal at the mere idea of offending some twisted notion of “protective paternity.” Nor are boys completely free of hurt from girls either.
Holy crap! Yesterday, I published an article about journalist Edward R. Murrow; and just now I published one about fashion designer Sophie Gimbel. In looking for images for that last article, I found this: a photo of Edward R. Murrow with Sophie Gimbel! I love, love, love this sort of circular serendipity of context! (That’s Sophie’s husband, Adam Gimbel, on the stairs; photo circa 1955.)
At the Mall Of America, in a shop called Rainbow, I spotted this tee-shirt for girls, sized 7 – 16, which features a bar-code graphic and says, “Check Me Out”. As if our girls need to be further scrutinized and evaluated as commodities. See Also: Remembering Retro Risque T-Shirt Iron-Ons.
Normally, we see the pin-up version of women working in WWII. Like this image of dancers at London’s Windmill Theatre practicing their routine while wearing gas masks and hard-hats with their costumes. (January, 1940.) Or we find articles focusing more on the figures of women, in service or not.
But hard hats were more than de rigueur for cute images of women on the homefront during those war years. In fact, there were many promotional campaigns advising women on how to dress for their new world of physical labor and factory work. This one didn’t emphasize hard hats; but clearly the focus is safely, not being fashionable.
Mrs. Arlene Corbin (right), time checker in a Richmond, California shipyard brings two-and-a-half-year-old Arlene to a nursery school every morning before going home to sleep. Mrs. Corbin works on the midnight to 7:30 a.m. shift and relies upon the school to keep her daughter busy and happy during the day.
The hardhat belonged to a female employee who worked for Kaiser Steel in Fontana, CA during 1942-45. It may be more difficult to appear beautiful in a hardhat (even Rosie the Riveter’s bandana is pretty rockin’), but hard hats were the realities in hard times like war. And hats like this are a part of women’s history that shouldn’t be shunned for the pretty pinup version.
The prototype contains removable sensors that monitor heart and skin activity to provide an indication of mood levels.
The aim was to find out if wearable technology could help prevent stress-related over-eating.
Mood data was provided to the wearer via a smartphone app in order to highlight when “emotional eating” was likely to occur.
A team from Microsoft’s visualisation and interaction research group embedded an electrocardiogram and electro-dermal activities sensors as well as a gyroscope and accelerometer in the bra.
In their paper, the researchers say using a bra “was ideal because it allowed us to collect EKG [electrocardiogram] near the heart”.
As if women don’t hear enough messages about our moods, behaviors, and weight; we now must hear directly from our clothing. And not just when they tighten around us.
Once you spend the time necessary for the equipment to learn all about you and your emotional eating habits, find correlations between your heart and skin activity, and you take the time to participate in the food & mood logging, the premise is rather simple. The sensors, custom boards called GRASP for Genitic Remote Access Sensing Platform (That name was by design?!), will then transmit the mood data to a mobile phone application using Bluetooth — then the messages from the “EmoTree” will begin to “suggest interventions” — i.e. nag the crap out of you.
One such intervention is to remind you to relax by taking some deep breaths — instructing you to tap on the little bird on the screen with every slow breath you take. Sounds a lot like it’s going to turn into Angry Birds, right? I can only imagine how stressed me would like to tap the hell out of some bird willing to tweet, however politely and privately, that Fatty-McFat-Face-me had better concentrate on her breathing & stay away from the fridge.
There are also plans for the bra & app combo to offer other “distracting interventions”, whatever those are. What could be more distracting than your cell phone telling you to calm the hell down and not to eat? …Maybe it will play a humorous video clip or something nice. Or maybe it will be something more shaming. Like maybe it will it communicate with your friends and suggest they provide a personal intervention: “Jackie, your fat friend Deanna is stressed and heading for the ice cream again! Wouldn’t it be nice if you called her and listened to her bitch about her mother for awhile?”
What obviously springs to mind with this whole thing is the butt-load, err, bra-load of potential uses and abuses. What about hacks? Will there be bras to assess and monitor our other moods? Like one to tell us about our sexual arousal — with an app to alert our partners, of course. Perhaps it will even be like those hook-up apps, telling any stranger who signs up (or hacks into the program) that a randy dame is nearby. “Your honor, she was asking for it — she was wearing that bra app!” Whatever info is collected, maybe the NSA will need that data dump too.
The researchers don’t want us to think this whole idea is sexist. They noted that “efforts to create a similar piece of underwear for men worked less well, largely because the sensors were located too far away from the heart.” Well, jeeze, scientists, don’t fat men have those man-boobs? They surely could benefit from a bro, no? And don’t men wear something else everyday — something above the waist, like, I don’t know, a shirt?
Naw, that wouldn’t make any sense; we must focus on how women look because that’s what they are here for. And notice, there’s no mention or suggestion regarding anorexia or other health disorders. Fat — women’s fat — is the health issue to focus on.
The good news here is that this mood-bra isn’t ready for market just yet; users in the study found the device “tedious” as the GRASP boards had to be recharged every 3-4 hours.
Then again, that’s about how long some of us can bear to wear our bras.
As for me, if I’m going to invest in any new tech bras, it might be the bra that can detect cancer. Let’s see if that one actually makes it to market.
To modern eyes, this is surprising. “Pink is a girls’ color,” we think. This association has become so firmly entrenched in our cultural imagination that people are flabbergasted to learn that until the 1950s, pink was often considered a strong color and, therefore, was associated with boys.
I don’t quite know how it happened or when but far too many women around me seem to want to look like a porn actress these days. Or why else would they wax off their pubes, slather themselves in Fakebake and state Page Three Girl in their career goals? There is something about the passivity of this particular idea of femininity – there to be stared at, cum onto – that I find deeply infuriating. It’s just sad that we’re all meant to look like little plastic sex dolls – fake eyelashes, fake hair, fake tan, fake boobs.
To my relief (no really, it is!) there is a great big social group of women out there who don’t buy into this image – the vintage girls. Although the vintage scene is splintered into smaller subfractions of particular decades, musical styles, dances and activities, the one thing all these vintage-loving women have in common is their embrace of an altogether different femininity, one that’s individual, one that harks back to a time when glamour was exotic and empowering.
At Retro Chick, Gemma Seager responds with something I was eager to point out:
It’s easy to say that this isn’t new, 1950s Pin Ups weren’t exactly sold on their educational qualifications, and the idea of a woman whose goal was to marry a rich man and live happily ever after is hardly a new concept either. That’s why we had the “bra burning” feminists of the 60s and 70s. They stood up for the rights of women to be whatever they wanted to be.
But then Seager heads right down Weber’s path:
In the last 2 decades the internet has seen a progressive pornification of culture till it seems that women now feel that they can’t assert their own sexual independence, that they have no choice but to buy into this porn star, brainless ideal of female beauty and passive sexuality. They are modern day Stepford Wives, emotionally passive and sexually compliant. Brainwashed by television, magazines and the internet into thinking they can’t make emotional demands and that sexual liberation means always wanting to have sex.
Maybe it’s because I am (I’m pretty sure) at least a decade older than these women, or maybe it’s because I am a history nut who gets obsessed with research, but I’m thinking that these two women (and the majority of those who have commented at their sites) are missing something quite important from all of this. And that something is context.
If we look at “today” and compare it to the past, yes, women’s fashions seem to be much more skimpy. [Until, at least, you notice how a New Look wiggle dress is as fitted as any spandex dress — and realize that beneath that vintage wiggle dress or pencil skirt there’s a whole lot of foundation garments making sure the female figure is as hourglass, smooth, and popping (eye-popping and fabric-testing), and as it can be. More on that later.]
Every generation has declared the next one will be the ruin of fashion, morals, and even civilization. In fact, every decade and fashion trend has resulted in criticism — often for the wearer too. Hemlines went up and dared to show ankles — so women could dare to ride bikes! That may seem antiquated to us now, so let’s look at the styles and decades that most vintage fashionistas wear, such as New Look and Mod.
The New Look promoted a vision of femininity, epitomized in a full-bosom-and-curvaceously-hipped hourglass figure, dressed in lace, fur, and diamonds. Despite the patronage of large New York and San Francisco department stores, it’s reception by the American public was far from unanimous fascination and acceptance.
Some found the look too decadent to be seemly. Some were incensed that Dior’s New Look would require them to be padded. Others found the below-the-knee hemlines frumpy. (Images from a 1948 magazine via.)
The point is, with every hemline, waistline, and neckline movement tongues go a-waggin’.
Today, Bettie Page is held up as a prime example of a cheeky risque pinup to be emulated and adored. She is such an icon for vintage fashion lovers, that many stores, designers, brands, websites, and events use the name Bettie to garner attention. But she’s The Notorious Bettie Page for a reason — her pinup photos were the subject of censorship and she herself was a target of a US Senate pornography investigation. The adoration of Bettie Page as “cute” and “classy” raises the ire of many, including sex workers — many of whom already feel shunned by feminism. To many, this co-opting of Page for “good girls” is a theft they won’t stand for.
Which brings us to the matter of vintage glamour being “exotic and empowering”…
Those are the very words many use to describe their sex work and to defend a sex positive or even “pornified” culture. In many ways, today’s sex workers and pornified pop culture icons control their bodies far more than the women of decades ago. The 1950’s woman put on an exaggerated-hourglass Dior dress to lure in Mr. Right for marriage. Once she “caught” her man, she put on a golden wiggle dress to serve cocktails to her husband’s boss; a pretty little prop in her husband’s life. When The Little Woman needed to be medicated in order to endure her life, her doctor talked to her husband-daddy, so he could make the decisions for her — as if she were a child. Does that seem glamorous, exotic, or empowering?
Wearing vintage fashions may be moving the hemlines, waistlines, and necklines back in time, but does that move women forward towards equality?
Yes, fashion sends messages about who we are — at least at that moment. But, ultimately, what defines a person is their actions. And if we start labeling and denigrating people for what they are wearing, then we are on a very slippery slope . This is especially true for women because of that whole “what she’s wearing is asking for rape” thing. Not to mention that whole “what does a feminist look like” argument that no body wins.
Our bodies belong to ourselves. We’ll dress them ourselves, to please ourselves, and we’ll be the kind of person we wish to be.
There obviously some errors in the text — the misspelling of Bettie Page as “Betty Page” and frankly, I am completely lost in the description of this paper doll for playboys…
However, this post is not about the text or even the fact that you almost expect one of the options to be a smooth Barbie-doll-esque image to make Bettie go bottomless; it’s about the art of Lou Magila.
Jim Linderman of Vintage Sleazedoesn’t like this artist — or at least the guys’ works. But I have to vehemently disagree.
As a woman, I often find the most real thing about a man’s fantasy is the image of a pinup or media babe inserted into some sketchy scenario. Like the pornos with the world’s luckiest pizza delivery dudes, the scene isn’t as important as just getting to the babe.
Yes, a lot of attention is being brought to the fact that the women in the photos do not even look like the women who posed for them; but the only thing faker than the photoshoped objects of desire are the scenes and situations in which men place the perfected images of women. Is there anything wrong with that? No; they are fantasies after all. (Expecting them to be real is another matter entirely, and one at the very definition of “sanity”.)
So what’s wrong with cartoons, illustrations, comics that capture that luscious and ludicrous point of view? There’s something rather charming about the obviously juvenile approach to just sticking the woman into the simple bare lines. It makes me feel like the artist was aware of how simplistic fantasies are. I don’t know Magila; maybe he was self aware, maybe not. But like a lot of art, you just look at it and get impressions. My impression is that this artist was aware.
Did Magila rip-off other artists? Maybe he or the publisher paid for the rights; maybe not. Maybe, like the altered artists, digital artists, bloggers,etc. of today, artist and publisher alike just figured if they had their hands on something that meant it was in the public domain. Or perhaps they felt that there were enough changes to defend Maglia’s work as derivative. So far, the answers to those intellectual property rights are as unclear as the artist’s level of awareness of the simplicity of male fantasies.
Collecting vintage smut, as I do, I know who Vikki Dougan is; but I’ve been surprised a number of times by both the lack of recognition this iconic beauty has and the lack of information about her. So, ever obsessed as usual, I set out to correct the situation.
Vikki Dougan: you may not recognize her from the front, but you likely recognize her backside — hence her nickname, “The Back”.
A particular prominence was assigned, for instance, to ads which featured a young actress named Vikki Dougan. In memoirs of the period, individual ads featuring Miss Dougan are traced from house to house in ways that recall the hunt for a respectable provenance which plays so large a part in the authentication of Old Master paintings. Of an Esquire photograph of Miss Dougan, Richard Hamilton remembers: “I first saw it decorating a wall in [Alison and Peter] Smithson’s home. I gained my own copy from a student’s pinboard in the interior-design department of the Royal College of Art. Lawrence Alloway gave me the data on her; the photograph had impressed him sufficiently to make him regard it as a file-worthy document. It turned up again recently as one of a group of pin-ups in a painting by Peter Phillips.”
This biography attempts to fill in some of the blanks about Vikki Dougan.
Before she earned the notorious nickname (and a plethora of puns), Vikki Dougan was born Edith Tooker in New York in 1929, to her parents Wilber and Mary (nee Dougan) Tooker. Legend says that in 1946, at the age of 16, she becomes both a Miss Rheingold finalist (but is disqualified for being underage) and the wife of a William Symons, the owner of a local photo studio.
Vikki’s big break came in 1948, when she (as Vikki Stappers Dougan) won the eighth annual New York Skate Queen competition. In promoting the ninth annual event, the following was mentioned in Billboard (April 2, 1949):
The purpose of the event, a joint promotion of Empire and The New York Journal-American, is to select an ideal girl roller skater and glorify her for a year. Judging will be based on charm, beauty and personality, with no points whatsoever for skating skill. Contestants must only appear on skates. …Professional skaters models and actresses are banned.
(Vikki, as Queen, and finalists followed up in 1949 by heading the “first ever” fashion show, sponsored by the Roller Skating Institute of America (RISA), in which they modeled “30 attractive rink costumes, loaned for he occasion by the Lence Company,” according to Billboard, March 1949.)
Winning the 1948 skating title would launch Vikki’s pretty face and figure into work as a model — and into gossip Walter Winchell‘s gossip columns, linked to DJ Art Ford. Note that in this 1948 “Look Pink” ad for cosmetic company Cutex, she is even credited — but as Vikkie Dougan, “New York model and prize-winning skater”.
In 1949, Vikki Dougan the “’48 Beauty Queen of Figure Skating” is featured in a comic-strip-style ad for Camels cigarettes, meeting Betty Lytle, one of America’s top-ranking women’s roller skaters. (Skates would be sold with Lytle’s name.) This appears to be the last mention of Vikki Dougan the skater; probably to great relief of Lytle, Dougan, and everyone else.
All this attention unsettles her husband, Bill Symons. At some point after their daughter Debbie is born in 1950, he is said to have walked-out on their marriage. Dougan gets a divorce in Mexico and (per Winchell’s column in February of 1952) Vikki establishes residency in Florida while working as a cover girl at Ciro’s, in Miami Beach. Also about this time, she is signed to agent Louis Shurr.
In the October 26, 1953, issue of Life, Dougan appears not only on the cover, but in the feature article Careers Aplenty: Vikki Dougan models, acts, designs, mothers. In this article, Vikki is listed as 21 years old and is accompanied in the photographs by her three year old daughter, Debbie. The Life article lists Vikki as having started in modeling at age 13 (as Deirdre Tooker), studied at Betty Cashman studio, and appeared weekly in Jackie Gleason’s TV show — along with the clothes designing, mothering, etc. Life also mentions that Vikki “once caused a stir in fashion circles by using wigs to change her appearance and help her get more modeling jobs” — something also featured in Life (July 28, 1952).
Vikkie Dougan, the pretty blond model who made such a hit with Frank Sinatra in Florida recently returned to New York to discover that thieves had cleaned out her apartment. They took her dresses, jewelry, mink coat… and black wig!
May 28, 1954, there are the gossip reports that Vikki, “the young model, who made the cover of Life recently” had posed as Miss General Electric earlier that day.
Dougan continues to model (including the 1955 Flexees lingerie ad and on the cover of the George Shearing Quintet’s Velvet Carpet LP), be seen on Gleason’s show — and be mentioned in the gossip columns. In 1956, it was rumored that Gordie Hormel asked her to marry him. She appears as a show girl in Back From Eternity. On April 27, 1956, Winchell On Broadyway reports that Vikki Dugan, “the ‘Away We Go’ gal with the Jackie Gleason show”, signed with MGM. Or did she? On December 21, 1956, Dorothy Kilgallen reports that Dougan “is the first girl to be signed to a Batjac (John Wayne) contract since Anita Ekberg was given her big opportunity.”
In January of 1957, there are reports that Dougan has a role in The Great Man. (She would play Marcia, the new receptionist.)
March 29, 1957, Erskine Johnson‘s Hollywood Today column is titled Vikki Dougan Reverses Trend And Backs Into Film Career:
February 13, 1957, Hedda Hopper reveals that she, Louells Parons, and Hub Keavy are to “pick Miss 8 Ball of 1957. The choice has narrowed to Venita Steenson, Carolyn Jones, Vikki Dougan, Kipp Hamilton, and Adrienne Alison, all beauties. But we’ve go to decide on one, O, dear.” Vikki Is New Ca-rear Girl In Hollywood, by Lee Belser, is so full of puns that they couldn’t publish this on April Fool’s Day and instead published it on April 2, 1957.
Through this time, Vikki “The Back” Dougan makes the rounds in men’s mags, including pictorials in the April 1957 issue of Nugget.
May 7, 1957: Hollywood gossip columnist Harrison Carroll reports that Vikki has been made queen of the California Chiropractic Association’s “Perfect Posture Week.”
In Clothes Make The Act — And The Actor (Oakland Tribune, May 19, 1957), Lloyd Shearer writes a piece that seems to be tailor made for getting The Back out of negative press. In his article, Shearer begins by discussing this “new trend in show business” whereby talent draws on fashion and “practically any female “name” can earn “5,000 a week and up if her attire clicks with the press.” The piece appropriately finishes with Vikki Dougan & her dresses, stating that it was Milton Weiss (Hollywood publicist who’d worked with Anita Ekberg) who was, umm, behind Dougan’s look.
His first move was to have three expensive dresses made for her — without backs. He then titled his client “The Back” and had her appear at previews and parties in her plunging creations. Soon local photographers zeroed in on Miss Dougan’s bare spinal column, and gagsters began originating such cracks as, “Vikki Dougan makes the best exits in town.”
Finally Vikki was banned from someone else’s preview party because her backless formal was drawing too much attention. The incident received proper press coverage. Today Vikkie — born Edith Tooker in Brooklyn — is riding toward fame on the strength of her clothes, what there is of them. It’s a trend, all right.
You might not want to put too much stock in that story tho; it changes, as you’ll soon see.
As noted in that issue of Playboy, the photo that really started it all was a wirephoto which came from Dougan’s appearance at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s 1957 awards banquet. On July 10th of that year (some Old Guard Hollywood retaliation, perhaps?) Mike Connolly reported in his column, “New Hollywood game called True Or False: Guessing whether Vikkie Dougan got her idea for backless dresses from watching and old Marlon Brando movie…” (In reference to Sophia Loren in A Countess from Hong Kong.)
These photographs (undated, circa 1950s) taken by Life staff photographer Ralph Crane capture America’s love-hate with Vikki Dougan & her notorious backside.
In October of that year, press for Hollywood Queens Of Tomorrow, including an AP photo — in which Vikki is not shown from the back:
Fifteen young actresses for whom stardom is predicted wait to go on stage in Hollywood Friday at the fifth annual Deb Star Ball, sponsored by the Hollywood Make-up and Hair Stylists. Several thousand movie people were in the audience at the Palladium. Left to right: Joan Blackman, Peggy Connolly, Patricia Craig, Vikki Ddougan, Dolores Hart, Diane Jergens, Barbara Lang, Ruta Lee, Jana Lund, Carol Lynley, Erin O’Brien, Joan Tabor, Joyce Taylor, Rebecca Welles and Gloria Winters.
Ten days later, Vikki Backs In, Helps Maxie Promote Ice Cream Breakfast (by George Flowers, Independent-Press-Telegram, October 20, 1957).
On the 21st of that month, Vikki the starlet appears at the annual Publicists’ Association Ballyhoo Ball. This is the famed party where Greta Thyssen had a cheetah on a leash, Joan Bradshaw brought a lion, and Errol Flynn and Maura FitzGibbons were arrested on drunk charges; Vikki “Lady Godiva” Dougan was on an artificial horse.
December 22, 1957, Dougan uses giant scissors for the ribbon-cutting opening of a Safeway Market in Tarzana.
In 1958, Dougan attempts to change her image. It is noted; but still does not please. On March 24, 1958, Harrison Carroll accuses Dougan of wearing “a shapeless sack (looked like a nightgown) over a satin sheath.” On March 27, 1958, Vikki Dougan was reported to be at the Oscar Award Ceremonies — but still not pleasing anyone:
A bizarre note was added by eager starlet Vikki Dougan, who arrived in gaudy makeup and flapper costume.
Poor Vikki can’t win!
In his June 2, 1958, column, Earl Wilson asked Vikki “about the alleged practice of Hollywood gals calling guys for dates.”
“No, but suppose you’re going with an actor and you say after a premiere, ‘I’d like to go to Mocambo’ and he says, ‘But I can’t afford it.’ So you say, ‘I don’t want to embarrass you but couldn’t we go it I paid the bills?'”
It happened to her, she said, “and strangely enough, if men accept it, they resent it.” Vikki said she may be a sexbomb in the papers but she’s had three dates in a year. “The men you go with want to get married,” she added. “The trouble is, they never say when.”
Meanwhile, photos of her continue to circulate in the various men’s mags.
May 23, 1959, Harrison Carroll uncovers Dougan professional and relationship news.
If she listened to Lili St. Cyr‘s estranged husband, Ted Jordan, actress Vikki Dougan soon will be displaying even more epidermis than in those backless gowns that used to make Hollywood night clubbers gasp.
Jordan, who just started to date Vikki, tells me she would be great in a genteel strip act.
“She reminds me so much of Lili,” he says. “They have the same nose and mouth, the same beautifully arched back. Vikki is not quite as tall as Lili, but, otherwise, their measurements are about the same.
“And I heard Vikki sing. She’d really do great in night club work. I know the ropes and I could help her.”
I checked with Vikki. She’s not convinced, but she’s listening.
In October of 1959, “Remember Vikki Dougan?” is the headline. Not only has she fallen out of the press, but apparently work of any kind. She, and her nine year-old daughter, have been living off a $40 weekly unemployment check for the past eight months.
A similar article runs in November of that year, in which Dougan says the reason she wore a backless dress in the first place was to avoid posing “in bikinis and other cheesecake.”
The ever-helpful Erskine Johnson’s got Dougan’s back again at the tail-end of January of 1960, allowing the actress to spin more tales about her notorious backside.
February 22, 1960, Vikki Dougan (misspelled “Vicki Dougan” in the photo caption) is one of the judges for the Miss Pasadena Contest.
But then crickets chirp and Dougan disappears until August 28, 1960. Then photos of Vikki and former Texas Christian football player tuned actor, Jim Sweeney, appear over the AP and are widely picked up — primarily because he places the diamond engagement ring (along with a friendship ring) on the toe of her left foot. Days later, on September 3rd, she (as Edythe A. Tooker) marries James R. Sweeney; he’s 25, she’s 24.
The Pacific Stars & Stripes reports that “Vikki Apparently Needs No Direction” on the set of Peter Gunn (The Candidate episode). (September 16, 1960; photo of Dougan with caption about her appearance on Peter Gunn from San Antonio Light, October 23, 1960.)
Dougan appears in episodes of Michael Shayne (Murder Is a Fine Art) and Sea Hunt (Amigo) in March of 1961. But it’s rather silent, again, until November 20, 1961, when promo photos and pun-y lines about Dougan doing the twist at New York’s Peppermint Lounge appear.
On November 26, 1961, Walter Winchel reports that Vikki had “told chums she will sue Leo Guild for including her in his soon-due book Hollywood Screwballs which mentions Oscar Levant, Bing Crosby, F. Sinatra, and Jayne Mansfield, who aren’t suing.”
September 9, 1962, columnist Connolly quips, “Vikki Dougan, who used to pose in backless gowns, is slamming out a slim volume of verses to be titled “Purple Mud.” Vikki tells me it will be a backless book.” (If anyone show me a copy — or even prove it wasn’t just a joke, please do!)
January 18, 1963 Vikki appears in Los Angeles court to divorce Sweeney, claiming he deserted her after going through her $10,000 savings. The divorce is granted and she accepts a $1 per month alimony.
On June 3, 1963, Earl Wilson reports that Vikki plans to open up a Hollywood barbershop for men.
“Remember Vikki Dougan, Hollywood’s gift to the world of backless dresses? She just signed for a feature role in Hootenanny at MGM,” reports Connolly on July 22, 1963. (She did appear in 1963’s Hootenanny Hoot.) But that didn’t pay the bills; August 11, 1963, Wilson says, “Backless Vikki Dougan now works for a cosmetic company.”
In its January 1964 issue, Cavalier runs a “The Back Is Back” pictorial which features 12 nude photos of Vikki Dougan. Dougan initiates a lawsuit against publisher Fawcett, stating that she posed nude for photos for Playboy, but later backed-out, and they did not have her permission to publish them.
There are a few scattered gossip “spottings,” but nothing much of note until February 22, 1967, when Harrison Carroll reports:
Despite the fact that she took along four wigs, my scouts spotted actress Vikki Dougan at a Houston prizefight with famed attorney Melvin Belli. And they looked just as affectionate as they did recently at Scandia. Can’t blame Melvin. Vikki is a beauty. Understand the two also were in Chicago together and visited Hugh Hefner.
Also in 1967, she would appear in Hotel. And there were reports Dougan, along Sugar Ray Robinson, was part of the cast of Tony Randall & Mickey Rooney’s Las Vegas rendition of The Odd Couple at Casear’s Palace.
In November of 1969, the Fawcett/Cavalier lawsuit is settled out of court. Vikki says the magazine paid her $75,000 to settle; Fawcett Publications, Inc., says it didn’t pay that much.
March 21, 1974, Earl Wilson’s It Happened Last Night column focused on “Shutterbug Respect” and mentions that Vikki Dougan (still haunted by her notorious back-side views) “has joined the profession.” (The profession of photographers, that is.)
And after that, Vikki Dougan seems lost — save for those who fell in love with her image. Along with inspiring pop art, Vikki and her sexy back would be the inspiration for Jessica Rabbit.
Here’s a 2009 interview with Dougan, in which she dishes about Jessica Rabbit and Sinatra:
I’d love to know more, so, if you know something — if you know Vikki! — please do share.
When reading about the history of fiber art it seems to take on many elements. The history of fiber art incorporates craft, textile and design elements that are not usually explored in regular art history. The use of embroidery and clothing inspired artists such as Sonia Delaunay who had started off as a painter and found new inspirations when she shifted her medium from brush, canvas and oil paint to needle, thread and textile printing. In exploring Sonia’s textile and wearable art works I’d like to explore her success as a woman in the art world.
Anita Ekberg stopped in her tacks, obeying the “Don’t Pass Me By” sign taped to a full-length poster of herself wearing a two-piece leopard print swimsuit. I’m not sure how she managed to obey the ‘Happy Father’s Day’ sign, but I’ll give Ekberg the benefit of my doubt.
Fashion is one of the very few forms of expression in which women have more freedom than men.
And I don’t think it’s an accident that it’s typically seen as shallow, trivial, and vain.
It is the height of irony that women are valued for our looks, encouraged to make ourselves beautiful and ornamental… and are then derided as shallow and vain for doing so. And it’s a subtle but definite form of sexism to take one of the few forms of expression where women have more freedom, and treat it as a form of expression that’s inherently superficial and trivial. Like it or not, fashion and style are primarily a women’s art form. And I think it gets treated as trivial because women get treated as trivial.
What’s more, there’s an interestingly sexist assumption that often gets made about female fashion — namely, that it’s primarily intended to get male attention and male approval.
In my experience, this is very much not the case. Female fashion is often as much about women’s communication with one another as it is about our communication with men. More so, in many ways. When women who clearly care about fashion and style pass each other on the street, there’s often a sort of silent conversation: a moment of acknowledgement, a nod of recognition. (And the conversation isn’t always silent — I’ve been known to go up to totally strange women in bars or on the street and compliment them on their outfits. As other women have with me.) At parties, at conventions, at social and professional gatherings of all sorts, if there’s a decent number of women, there are almost certainly women checking out each other’s styles: appreciatively, competitively, enviously, companionably, subtly jockeying for status, in a spirit of co-operation and camaraderie, and in just about every other angle on human connection you can imagine. And it has little or nothing to do with men.
Now, granted: I’m a dyke, a lesbian-identified bisexual, and as such I have a different angle on this issue than many. I do have some interest in whether men find me attractive, but for the most part it’s only a passing interest, and my sexual self-esteem is only tangentially related to men’s opinions of me. (And my attention to other women is often driven by, shall we say, something other than our silent conversations about style.) But I’ve talked with other non-dyke women who are interested in fashion and style, and they say much the same thing: They dress for other women as much as they dress for men — and in many ways, more so. In particular, they dress for other stylish women. And this assumption that women’s fashion is aimed solely or primarily at men… well, there’s more than a little sexism behind it.
Niftees Nipple Warmers For The Girl Who Has Everything, made by USA Novelty, 1974. Baby, you think it’s cold outside? Wait ’til you see how frigid it gets when you give this gift. (Ugh. I have now just ruined that song — all versions — for myself.)
Thank heavens the “quarter for size comparison” trick was only used by the seller near the closed box!
I don’t agree with Oprah about many things; among them her attitudes about domestic violence (which Alessia articulates so well) and “mom jeans.” So while I was not thrilled only to have copies of People Magazine to flip through while in a waiting room recently, I was thrilled to see female celebrities rocking the “mom jeans.”
“Mom jeans,” you may or may not know, are jeans that go up to your waist and, so, actually fit. Some of us have to go out of our way to find these jeans — but if People is any indication, soon we will have them back in ready supply.
No matter what Oprah and others might say, pants that fit your curves, rather than being slung around and beneath them, are sexy. Just not having your unmentionables (or actual body) on display and ready to be discussed is a comfort that adds confidence; am I right, ladies? In fact, one of the best things about these “high-waisted” jeans, is the inability to spot whale-tails. And this also means the so-called mom jeans allow a woman to wear underwear that fits.
The combination of modest in public “mom jeans” and skimpy in private “grannie panties” quite suits the way I prefer to live my life.
The Retro Sheer Panties are made of 100% nylon, come in five colors (Beige, Black, Pink, Red, White) and seven sizes (S,M,L,XL,2X,3X,4X) — and they are only $11.99.
Secrets In Lace also makes other full-cut panties, including sheer ruffled and embroidered varieties, as well as slinky satin ones. Go ahead, get your sexy grannie panties on. And your mom jeans. If you can find them.
I obsess on things; sometimes odd little things. (See my body of work.) Tonight’s obsession was Rachel Maddow‘s belt buckle. In case anyone else has wondered, Maddow wears a belt buckle which reads “Texas Nuclear”. Why? How long has she had it, worn it? That’s all still something I obsess over.
Thanks to this post, I was able to 1), confirm that I’m not the only one interested in Maddow’s fashion accessories, and 2) find the photo. Along the way, however, I also discovered the sadly-not-updated-enough Rachel Maddow “Hey Girl” photo-blog and Commie Pinko Liberal, a Tumblr with some great Rachel Maddow GIFs. You never know when you need a little help from Rachel to communicate for you… You know, for all those times words fail. For example, this is how I imagine Rachel Maddow would feel about my belt buckle need-to-know:
These knit or crocheted caps for infants to wear which make the baby’s head look like a boob — complete with natural yet contrasting areaola and erect nipple — are a rude push-back. They are strictly for shock and humor value and do nothing to move forward the rights of women to breastfeed in public as they reduce breasts to sexual objects and jokes. And when these hats are not just for nursing infants, but for adult men to wear too, they aren’t about raising awareness of breast cancer or breast health either. It’s the sort of silliness which is a giant step backwards.
You (and I) can talk about the difficulty of finding fashions that fit women ’til we’re blue in the face. But if a picture is worth a thousand words, then these vintage Berlei lingerie “Figure Type Indicators” can save us some breath — and thereby our complexions, right?
These “Type Indicators” were like slide rules for the female form, used to assist in the proper fitting of foundation garments. I’ll let the Powerhouse Museum, where I found information in and additional images in their Berlei collection), explain:
It enabled a fitter to determine the client’s precise bust, waist and hip measurements so that she could be fitted with a foundation garment. The chart featured a moveable disc for indicating bust measurement and a moveable pointer for indicating waist measurement. Hip measurement sizes were printed on the border surrounding the moveable disc. An instruction sheet with illustrations was pasted onto the back of the chart and is headed, “How to Use The NEWMAN – BERLEI Type Indicator”.
Overall the chart is very similar to P3645-28/2, Berlei’s first version of The Berlei Type Indicator, with some slight variations. The names for the five body types vary slightly, in this case “Type L.H (Large Hip) Type S.B. (Sway Back) Type L.A. (Large Abdomen) Type A (Average) and Type S.B.W. (Short Below Waist)”, as do the colours for the silhouettes and corresponding areas on the moveable disc. They are pink (Large Hip), green (Sway Back), yellow (Large Abdomen), orange (Average) and grey (Short Below Waist). On the instructions sheet it also states that clients would need to consult the P.N. Fitting Guide.
While the curator at the Powerhouse mentions an earlier version — and by collection artifact number (P3645-28/2), I could not find it on their site. However, I think the point about the complicated nature of fitting the female form has been made. Even if you simplify all women down to five types.
And say what you will about these five types of women’s bodies; they are better than the usual foundation garment fit guides which list us by age and wear, i.e. “matronly.” Should you require proof of that too, let me know and I’ll see if I can stomach scanning those. (Heh, “stomach” a girdle post.)
This four-page vintage advertorial article, War-Time Corsets, in the Picture Post (March 2, 1940), isn’t just more corset history, but rather shows what life was like on another WWII homefront — not the USA, but in Europe.
Below I’ve transcribed the scans from Vintage Chic; the third page was near impossible to read (somehow scanned/posted at a smaller size), but I’ve done the best I could.
In the last war, women came to look less womanly as time went on, In this war, corsets have established themselves early. A token that feminine lines are to be preserved. Or even accentuated.
According to Mr. James Laver, war should cause women to discard their corsets and cut off their curls. That was the way it worked out in the last war. But that was twenty years ago. Whatever else has been lost or gained since then in Europe, women, at least, have gained — they have gained appreciable figures. Gone are the boyish contours of the ’20’s. The modern woman is as feminine as she has ever been in history, and she goes not propose to allow war to deprive her of her figure at this stage. She’s too well trained in figure-culture. She takes her figure seriously, trains it, exercises it, diets it. soothes it with delicate creams and lotions, and corsets it.
The War Office, also, holds a watching brief for the modern woman’s figure. And well it may, since so many women have enrolled for service in the A.T.S., the W.A.A.F., the A.F.S., and the W.R.N.S. “These women,” said the War Office, “must be corseted, and corseted correctly.” They therefore applied to British corset manufacturer Frederick R. Berlei for designs that would preserve the feminine line, and at the same time be practical under a uniform. The problem was to design a style that would control without restricting. It was solved by eliminating bones, and working solely with elastic materials, firm lace and net, satin and baste on the principal of “directional control” — that is, the line and cut of the garment itself gives sufficient control.
But there was more to it than that. A woman commandant pointed out that girls in the Forces can carry no handbag, nor do they feel it safe to carry valuables in their tunic pockets. Often they doff their jackets to do a job. So, taking a hint from grandmother’s corset, one of the features of the new styles is a pocket tucked inside the girdle waist. If you see a member of the A.T.S. discreetly unbuttoning her tunic, you will know that she’s only getting her bus fare from her corset pocket.
For the A.F.S. and ambulance girl, there’s a special design. It’s a pantee-girdle of elastic and satin, with zip fastening, intended for wear under slacks. It gives perfect freedom of movement and — especially important for the ambulance driver — supports against the danger of those spreading hips that may come from long hours of sitting.
So much for the practical side of these new corsets. What of the artistic? Are they feminine? Certainly. Mostly, these garments are two-piece affairs, girdle and brassiere. They are built on the latest lines to give a slight waist, uplifted bust and controlled torso.
Consider, moreover, that corsets designed for off-duty hours or for civilian women. When you are given a day’s leave and get into an evening frock, long and sweeping and off-the-shoulder, you’ll be wearing underneath it an odd little corset that might just as well have been worn by your grandmother at her fist ball. It will be made of taffeta and will be boned and laced. It will give you a 22-inch waist and pronounced bust and hips. According to the designer F.R. Berlei, it’s called “Gone With The Wind,” modeled on the garment worn by Vivien Leigh in the film of that name. You won’t be able to get into it yourself, so, if you can’t afford a lady’s maid — and in price these corsets are intended just as much for those of us who can’t — borrow five minutes from a friend or your husband can lace you up.
[Bottom Caption: JUDGEMENT DAY IN A WEST-END SALON: Fashion Experts Scrutinise a War-time Corset
Pencil in hand, notebook on knee, sit the fashion experts. Their eyes on the model, who is displaying a garment designed to safeguard women’s femininity for the duration. On the left, commentator points out the particular advantages of this style. It’s a decisive moment in the history of the corset.]
[Caption: The Experts Go into Detail: “Just let me see how that diaphragm control is cut”Balancing their teacups on their laps, the fashion ladies make a closer, individual inspection. Control without restriction. Beauty of line, combined with practical usefulness. To attain these objectives, designer F.R. Berlei eliminates bones, uses elastic material with lace, net, satin or baste.]
In present circumstances, the “Gone With The Wind” style is clearly a luxury, to be worn only on those occasions when it is permissible these days to go dressed up for the evening. Had the war not arrived, however, there is the possibility that the hour-glass figure might have come into ordinary everyday use. We had had Victorian hats for quite awhile, and Victorian lines had been creeping in among our dress designs, even to a slight degree into what we traditionally called “classical tailor-mades,” to say nothing of its influence on our jewelry. It was becoming inevitable that figures themselves could not escape altogether. From the flat figures of the ‘twenties had emerged the busts of the ‘thirties. The ‘forties were definitely threatening hips as well. Now we have them — but only as a luxury.
Women have always delighted in constricting their bodies — save for the Grecian women, whose grace and beauty is legendary. So long as shapely lines and slim waists have been admired, there have been corsets of some kind. Time was when they were made of coarse linen, so coarse that we to-day would call it hessian, stretched taut over bands of iron so rigid and so heavy that to bear both weight and restriction of the garment was a physical ordeal only the
strongest could sustain. It was a highly progressive step when whale-bone came to be used in place of metal for stiffening and shaping. Even then, young girls were put into corsets at as early an age as ten because, said the mothers of the day, it was good for their figures and poise.
[Bottom Captions: Safe Pockets in Corsets…
You can’t carry a handbag. Your outside pocket is unsafe. So you have a pocket tucked inside your girdle waist.
…For Smart Girls In Uniform
If you change into overalls, your money is still on your person. And the whole design has the approval of the War Office.]
[Photo Captions: 1 How To Put On A “Gone With The Wind” Corset: Pull Hard 2 Get a Friend, or a Husband, or a Dresser to Tighten You Up… 3 …And Thank Your Lucky Stars That You’re In!
Go and Show Yourself to the Experts…
She is displaying the “Gone With The Wind,” A corset modeled on the garment worn by Vivian Leigh in the film of that name. A smart off-duty corset.
…And See What “Vogue” Thinks
Miss Penrose, editor of “Vogue” (right) and her colleague, Mrs. Pidoux, reserve judgement on the effect that the war has had on corsets.]
Young bodies were sore and bruised by these ugly abominations, but fashion declared that Nature demanded it — regardless of whatever harm might come either to the wearer or to the future generation. Not content with corsets alone, these early eighteenth century Mammas would buy “figure improvers” on their shopping expedition to the nearest town — canvas pads, which they slung around their own and their daughters’ hips over the firm [?] of corset. The sole object was to emphasise the smallness of the waist and all dresses were designed to the same end.
When we first felt ourselves emancipated after the French Revolution, we at once dropped the heavily corseted styles of the Louis XVI era for the straight line of the Directorie mode. A century later, when we had apparently lost our freedom to the bearded and dignified fathers and husbands who ruled our Victorian households, we found ourselves encased in corsets once more, the only difference from the old corset being that the new one held us stiff and straight all down the front and stuck us out in bustle-like indulgence behind. We were shedding these contraptions in the early years of the present century,
even before the Great War was thought of. It only took the conflagration to make us throw them off completely.
Now we are getting back to shapely corsets again. Are we, therefore, less emancipated? Not a bit. But this time, after all our experience throughout history, we are trying to combine feminine freedom and feminine beauty. We are trying to be practical and artistic. That is the point of our latest corset styles. It won’t be long before they are on sale in the shops. They have already been displayed at a private showing for London’s fashion experts. In a graceful West End salon, these well-dressed women gathered in an atmosphere of warmth and perfume. Clad in fox and ermine, they arrayed themselves on spindly gilt chairs and settled to an afternoon’s concentration of “figure foundations,” as many of them prefer to call corsets. A commentator described each model, pointing out its special features. The mannequin paraded between the chairs, stopping here and there to answer spectators’ questions. For an hour, the study continued, till there wasn’t a question unanswered, and the fashion experts’ notebooks were full. It had been an afternoon of work for these women. Even when the hosts served tea, a few had still not finished inspecting and questioning. But others, for the moment regardless of figures, indulged like schoolgirls in chocolate cake. The fashion experts liked these new corsets. So will you. So will the people who see you wearing them.
As noted at Vintage Chic, the war would restrict non-war use of elastics and thus constrict corsets and lingerie manufacture, advertisement, and sales. Which explains this vintage girdle ad promoting the “new line for ’49” and boasting of an “end to figure austerity!”