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I am a very bad ’50s housewife. You can tell because, at 8:55 p.m., on the coldest night of fall so far, I am frantically running through the streets of my neighborhood in a cocktail dress, a winter coat, and rain boots, trying to get to a grocery store that closes at 9 because I need to buy all of the ingredients to make a pumpkin pie right now. I am running because I thought the store closed at 10…and also because I had spent the past hour-and-a-half on Twitter, eating Tostitos, and Google image-searching ”Michael Stipe hats” and had lost track of the time. Told you I was a bad ’50s housewife.

Whenever I’d imagined myself in the ’50s, it was always as more of a Holly Golightly type — free-wheeling, mysterious, possibly a prostitute — than a Donna Reed type. So when my editor approached me to try out a ’50s lifestyle for a week, I was incredulous. I’m 32, unmarried, childless, living in sin with my boyfriend, and am obsessed with my career, fart jokes, and podcasts about murder. I’m also a bad cook, mouthy, and disorganized. In the actual ’50s, I probably would have been burned at the stake, or at the very least, prescribed some very fun pills.

But my editor wasn’t offering me any fun pills (as usual). So what the hell could someone like me get from living like a ’50s housewife for a week? In the interest of history/sociology/a good joke, I dug into some advice texts from the ’50s and decided to find out.


In my quest for ’50s-ification, it seemed easiest to start with the surface — a line of thinking for which the ’50s were renowned. The 1950s were an era when people dressed up to ride airplanes and have dinner in their own home; could the era’s fashion tips lead me to a higher plane of style?

I took as my fashion guide Anne Fogarty’s 1959 book, How to Be a Well-Dressed Wife.And how does one become a well-dressed wife?

Discipline is the secret of good grooming, well-cared for clothes, and an organized household. It helps you decide which style is right for you — and what does not suit.

Fogarty also thinks you shouldn’t have too many accessories, you should wear a lot of tasteful perfume, and that you should throw away worn-out shoes — advice that is not hopelessly out of date at all.

So how would I dress with discipline? Well, dipping into my collection of rarely worn party dresses seemed like a good start.

As a single lady, I had a million adorable dresses that I wore regularly. After I settled down with my boyfriend for a while, I gained some weight and couldn’t fit into half of my cute outfits, which depressed me so much, I decided to wear none of my cute outfits — which is how I became the lightly disheveled Garth Algar type that you see before you.

So, trying to tap into some of Fogarty’s fashion discipline, I dug into my closet, slapped on some mascara and eyeliner, and came out with this:

Not terribly different, and yet…I did feel a little more disciplined and a little more together.

I put on a fancy dress and makeup first thing in the morning every day of this experiment (before I even had my coffee, as this guide for ’50s brides suggests, and it instantly made me feel like I was ready for action.

And seeing me going about my day dressed up, just as winter was getting real, seemed to make people who saw me on the street happy. Strangers thought that I just had such a strong sense of myself and what I wanted to look like that I made it work, even on the coldest day of the year. And that seemed to buoy people’s spirits — I was the only person who got told, “Have a nice day, beautiful!” by the (female) barista at my coffee shop. It helped me remember why I had once been so invested in buying nice dresses in the first place.

Conclusion: Dressing up did actually make me feel more focused and disciplined than when I spend three days straight wearing a Snuggie as a dress. Read more here:SheinDress prom dresses 2014

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