Five Generations in the Valley Times

Valley Times, 1955, via the Los Angeles Public Library

Have you discovered The Library Book by Susan Orlean?  Ostensibly about the Los Angeles Public Library, it is a love letter to libraries and librarians everywhere. 

One section of the book reminded me that the LA library held digitized photos from the Valley Times, a newspaper showing life in the San Fernando Valley.  Quite distinct from downtown LA or the beach communities, the Valley was initially home to agriculture.  In the years after World War Two, it became part of the sprawling suburban growth of the city, and also the destination for white families eager to leave the urban center than was becoming more black and brown.  The photos show a largely white, happy suburbia, documenting women’s club meetings, garden parties, and family celebrations.

The multi-generational family was a beloved focus of the newspaper.  I love these photos because they show clothing choices by age.  The one above, from 1955, is quite revealing.  The great-great grandmother, at center, wears polka dots, a beloved textile pattern from the 1930s.  Her shirtwaist dress is accessorized with a white jabot, an old fashioned touch. The great grandmother, her daughter, on the left in the back also has on a shirtwaist, although hers has shorter sleeves.  The grandmother in the middle appears to have on a sundress covered up by a short sleeve jacket, a very popular fifties style.  The very young mother wears a sleeveless striped shirt and perhaps pants.

In the 1961 photo above, I see a familiar style contrast between younger and older women of that decade, pitting the more modern sheath against the tried and true shirtwaist.  Here the contrast breaks down neatly by age. The great great grandmother in the middle wears a shirtwaist, and so does the great grandmother to the right. The grandmother in the middle and the mother to the left both wear sheath dresses.  I think the youngest woman’s dress looks the most modern because of its stark simplicity.

I’d love a peak into all of these women’s closets.

This entry was posted in 1950s, 1960s and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Five Generations in the Valley Times

  1. Nann says:

    And now those little tykes are in their 60’s, as old as the great-grandmothers in the photos. [I enjoyed The Library Book immensely. I heard Susan Orlean talk about it at the ALA Annual Conference last year.]

  2. Susan says:

    Serendipity: Allways in Fashion just printed the results of a survey of older women’s clothing preferences.
    On the “Never wear” list: “sleeveless anything.” Your first photo clearly illustrates the “older the arm, the longer the sleeve” choices.

  3. Lizzie says:

    I love the top photo, with its telling progression of sleeves!

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