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Valley of the Dolls

Written by American author Jacqueline Susann, and published in 1966, Valley of the Dolls tells the story of women coping with uber-rich-socialite world, trapped in the Feminine Mystique lifestyle of 1945-1960. The women are dealing with the “problem that has no name”, attempting to find meaning through talent and rejecting the lifestyle of a housewife.  The word  “dolls” within the title refers to a slang term for downers and barbiturates used as sleep aids. Highlighting women’s self destructive tendencies, desperation for money, and sexual exploits, the book captures (via setting and scenes) the oeuvre of midcentury modern design perfectly.

Images via Star Pulse and Valley of the Dressing. (Here. & Here.)

Valley of the Dolls is the tale of three young girls who seek to be self-made, and independent. By men, society, betrayals and money, they weave into womanhood scathed by self-destruction and saved by dependence on what are poshly referred to as “dolls”.  My friend Jennell so aptly examines, “these characters ARE what they wear. Like, in an unprecedented way. Neely = Rags to riches and therefore is a bit gaudy.  Jennifer = The hearthrob showgirl exterior, homebody housewife in a nighty interior. Anne = Jackie O.”

Now let’s see what midcentury design is out there to buy in the year 2012 (for relatively cheap). If you have a million dollars to spend casually, I would highly recommend Design Within Reach. Basically everything they sell is innovative, slightly retro, perfection. Midcentury is an architectural, interior and product design field that generally describes mid-20th century advances in modern design, architecture, and urban development from roughly 1933 to 1965.  This genre of design was highly influenced by organic architecture, and the patterns represented often amorphous, almost animalistic shapes. Function was an extremely important aspect when designing the items, as the American family did not have extra income for spending. The aesthetic is greatly influenced by post-war materials, and lifestyle changes. Because of the heavy use of industrialization during the war effort, families sought to return to more individually manufactured and unique home state. Midcentury design can best be described as natural, democratic, and simple. An amazing exhibition about the philosophy of midcentury can be found via The Museum of Arts and Design featuring a forward by the curator, here.

Now put it all together and what do you get:

And just for fun, this “stepford wives chic” style is slipping its way into the 2012 runways ala Oscar de la Renta (whose label was launched in 1965). The collection features rich embroidery, kitten tongue pinks, exaggerated hair teasing, heirloom brooches, icy blues, luxurious textures, opulent fabric, and a youthful glow.
Oscar de la Renta Fall/Winter 2012 Collection at New York Fashion Week. PETER STIGTER PHOTO.
“Tomorrow I start the new collection. Really, it started yesterday when I had to decide the colors of next season,” de la Renta said. “And then this is a memory. I won’t remember this collection. You can ask me in a few days about the blue dress and I’ll ask you, ‘What blue dress?'”

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Keren Veisblatt Toledano is a Senior Strategist at Brooklyn United, a digital agency for bold brands. In her spare time, Keren can usually be found taking photos of old doors, visiting museum, soaking in Epsom salts, admiring copper pots, reading dystopian science fiction or sneaking a slice of lemon into her drinks. Her motto is, “A morning without coffee is sleep.” She lives in a brownstone with her cat, Cagney, husband, Michael, and son, Josiah, in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, NY.

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