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Mid-Century Home Ec Teachers vs. Modern French Chic Advice

MidCentury Advice ModernRetroWoman.com
Woman with apron source; Kangol advertisement source

The other day I started laughing out loud.  And it wasn’t because of the serious medication I’ve been on to help me recover from my shoulder/arm injury.  When I wasn’t sleeping these past couple of weeks, I was reading one of my favorite genres: Advice books.  Now, as you know, I have quite a collection of mid-century advice books. But it seems like there has been a proliferation of books and blogs in the past few years advising women on how they can be more like those perfectly chic French women. 

My laugh out loud moment happened as I was reading Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris by Jennifer L. Scott* (a fun little book based upon her popular blog).  As I was reading it, I was struck by the fact that what Ms. Scott and other authors are writing about are the same things that Home Ec teachers were teaching in the mid-century (at least, the textbooks and advice books I have from that time period say the same things):

  • Make mealtimes special
  • Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Go for quality, not quantity
  • Spend money wisely
  • Always look your best
  • Good grooming matters
  • Create a capsule wardrobe instead of being a victim to fashion fads
  • And so on and so forth…

[Tweet “We dismiss advice from 1950s Home Ec teachers but devour that same advice from chic French women. “]

Now, I think it is great that the advice has proven to be timeless.  But I have to laugh because I know I’m not the only one who has been asked for advice only to have it ignored or dismissed but when someone else gave the exact same advice, the person excitedly shares how much the advice helped her (it happens to me at work all.the.time *laugh*).

Our culture is quick to dismiss the advice of the mid-century Home Ec teachers as being old-fashioned and restrictive while embracing that same transformative advice from those chic French women. 

But, in the end, in doesn’t matter who is giving the advice, does it?  The only thing that matters is that the advice it helping women become the kind of person they want to be.

*This is an affiliate link.  If you click on the link and decide to buy the book, Amazon will pay me a small referral fee.  Thank you for supporting ModernRetroWoman.com!

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  1. How right you are, Dr. Julie-Ann! I subscribe to Jennifer L. Scott’s blog also, and recent topics have included: dress shields; slips and half-slips; and how important it is to wear an apron to protect your clothing while doing housework. Yes, these are all subjects my wonderful home economics teacher addressed about 50 years ago!

  2. I’m glad that this “old fashioned” advice is getting out there! Last month, one of my colleagues was horrified to learn that I wear slips (I sat down and the lace of the slip peeked out from under my skirt). But they all think I’m a bit weird and dismiss me as that crazy Californian *chuckle*

  3. I think things do come back around, look at the popularity of Mad Men. Also, now the popularity of corsets and Spanx not very different from the “foundational garments” that were a crucial part of women’s wardrobes in the past. Proper undergarments can really improve the look of even an everyday wardrobe. It is interestng that women would disregard the advice of older American women from the 50’s being dismissive of them as 50s housewives but embrace the same advice from “Chic” French women.

  4. It is probably the same reason that my students in the “how to be successful in college class” don’t believe what I tell them during the first few weeks of class until they encounter their own frustrations. I mean, what do I know? I’m just an old professor! *laugh* Most of the time I just hand them the tissues and give them words of encouragement when they tell me that they should have listened to me in the first place.

    But it isn’t anything new. The Mister and I were watching an episode of Leave It To Beaver last night and Wally didn’t listen to the advice his father had given to him.

    I guess it is just natural that we don’t listen to the wisdom of the people we’re used to because we know they aren’t perfect but we listen to the people we we think have it all together.

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