What Your Late '50s Fashion & Beauty Routines Would Have Looked Like, According To Katharine Hepburn In 'Desk Set'
Nowadays, our beauty routines are often a little bit lax (just throw that hair up into a bun and go), but your '50s fashion and beauty routine would have been a little different — something that becomes apparent when you watch Katharine Hepburn in Desk Set . When you think of the mid-century era, images of full long skirts with pillbox hats likely come to mind, along with women with perfectly curled hair and rose lipstick. It was a time of constant dress-up and elegance, and there weren't many looks in vogue that let you run your fingers through your hair and be on your way.
In the 1957 film, Hepburn plays Bunny Watson, a library reference clerk in Manhattan who's trying to make her way through a dead-end relationship with a television executive. Things gets disturbed a bit, however, when computer expert Richard Summers comes into the picture. The usual rom-com love affair begins, but while you're falling for Bunny and Richard's playful banter, you also can't help but notice how every woman in Manhattan seems to have her fashion routine on fleek.
From the dresses to the bath robes to the perfectly coiffed hair, Desk Set offers us a glimpse into how different our routines would've been in the late '50s. Let's go on a little journey back in time.
1. If A Man Was Coming Into Your Office, You Woulda Put Your Face On
Granted Bunny Watson had a massive candle burning for Mike Cutler, but if a gentleman decided to pop in on you during office hours, you had to make sure your face was right. I mean, what if your lipstick had worn off during a coffee break?
When Bunny gets a call from Mike's secretary saying he's taking the elevator down to visit her, she goes on a mad dash around her office to find her lipstick. And I mean mad. She pats pockets, shuffles frantic hands across her desk, demands that her friend lets her borrow their own, until, finally, she locates hers and runs to the mirror. Have you ever run across a crush when you think your lip liner is peeking through? Same reaction.
2. You Would've Popped Out During Office Hours To Buy Pretty Dresses
Now, this is something I can get behind. If you happen to take a quick nip out of the office, you should use it as an opportunity to buy yourself something frivolous and pretty. When Bunny went to a presentation earlier that morning, she also happened to pop into a department store on her way back to the office to get herself a knockout of a dress. By her reasoning, she was working until 10 p.m. the evening before, and absolutely deserved it.
3. Fashion Was Always On Your Mind
Another thing you were clearly going to do during office hours was call into boutiques and see if you could haggle down dress prices. Clearly, a gal can never have enough dresses. Ruthie Saylor would sneakily call into little downtown boutiques while she was supposed to be reference checking, seeing if she could nip down the price of a black velvet dress by $10. If a window display caught your eye while on the way to work, it would've been hard to forget it.
4. Your Outerwear Game Was On Fleek
This wasn't the age of puffer coats and fleece jackets. This was when you owned a beautifully tailored jacket with matching gloves because you were a grown adult with grown tastes. Most of the time, you didn't even wear it properly with your arms through the sleeves, draping it all lady-like around your shoulders like a cape instead. How else would people see your outfit if you had that gorgeous coat covering it?
Bunny had a plethora of them throughout the movie, and they always had matching gloves. There seemed to be a knockout coat for each dress, complementing it perfectly, which makes me suspect that you probably owned as many jackets back then as you did frocks.
5. House Coats Would've Been A Real Thing In Your Closet
House coats are no longer dowdy duvet-like robes that your nana wears. No, a proper woman doesn't wear a robe outside of her bathroom. If she'd like to venture out into the living room, she needs to cover up her jammies with a pretty house coat that could honestly work as an outside layer if she felt so bold. When Bunny had unexpected guests pop in on her, she was already wearing her white, ornate one. While she was alone. In her apartment. With no one to impress. Because she's not an animal.
6. Holiday Parties Called For Some Serious Outfits
If your office was throwing a holiday party, you weren't going to show up in jeans and your favorite sweater. You decked out like you were going to a bonafide party with tinsel and champagne and people to impress. The girls came to the office wearing their silkiest, fullest, most colorful dresses, boasting ornate, embroidered flowers and collars that made statements. Suffice it to say, your wardrobe in the '50s would've been stock piled with more than a handful of show stopping dresses.
7. And Your Office Wardrobe Would've Been Just As Enviable
There are no ill-fitting black slacks here, or predictable white collared shirts and trusty black flats. Instead, you would've had a wardrobe that was stylish, well thought-out, and traditionally feminine. The women of the office wore either full, heavy wool skirts or sleek pencil skirt numbers. They had flippy, ankle skimming dresses and killer accessories to match in the form of leather belts, brooches, and gold necklaces.
Clearly, it was a flawless time. Except for, you know, the inherent sexism.
Images: 20th Century FOX (7)