Golden days – summer in the ’50s and ’60s
What better way to celebrate summer than through the lens of the golden days of the 1950s and ’60s? Bronwyn Labrum, author of Real Modern and devoted lover of all things summery, shares from her book some of her favourite images of glorious summers past.
Find out more about Real Modern: Everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s (Te Papa Press, 2015).
Visit Te Papa’s Collections Online to see more objects featured in Real Modern.
Scorching Bay, Wellington – soaking up the sun
Friends gather at Wellington’s Scorching Bay in 1960 to sunbathe, lounge and catch up on the latest goings on. Seeing and being seen, rather than swimming and sport, were the priorities at this urban beach. Car boots and bumpers provided handy hooks for towels and togs.
Bathing outfits – stylish swimwear
These are some of the delightful bathing outfits featured in Real Modern. The pink 1950s one (left) is really a play suit and was not meant to be worn in the water. It reflects the influence of Californian styling and Hollywood glamour on leisurewear. The poncho reflects the loosening of styles in the 1960s, as do the striped 1960s men’s togs, which were worn lower on the hips than in the previous decade.
Seed packets – a taste of summer
Sunflowers snaking up the wooden fence, corn growing in straight lines to attention and an over-abundance of tomatoes, with surplus for bottling ... Such images are conjured up by these colourful seed packet designs by Bernard Roundhill. His artwork was part of a wholesale redesign for the Yates company in 1956.
Woman in vegetable garden – bountiful greens
The bounty of a typically well-stocked backyard vegetable garden is celebrated in this domestic scene. Is this woman the proud gardener? And are her striking summer frock and white high heels her habitual gardening gear?
Cricket in the Domain – the summer game
Family groups ring the Auckland Domain on a Saturday afternoon in 1960 as they watch the most popular sport of the summer, the local cricket match. Even little ones had something to amuse them – in this case, shaking out the picnic rug.
Girl’s dresses – pocket-sized perfection
These summer dresses were worn by Shelley O’Brien at school in rural Tinui in the Wairarapa. Each year, her grandmother, Winnie O’Hara, made a ‘town’ dress and a ‘school’ dress for Shelley and her sister, Maureen. The red dress was worn with a cardigan and red shoes or sandals. The large square pockets sewn to the front of the other dress were made for carrying handkerchiefs to school.
Dressed for summer - young couple window shopping in Rotorua
Getting dressed to go up town shopping on a Friday night was a weekly ritual in the 1950s and ’60s. Here a smart young family are wandering past the enticing windows in Rotorua’s main street. What is the mother thinking? Is she dreaming of a new summer dress, I wonder?
Dresses – fabulous summer frocks
Summer in the 1950s meant brightly patterned frocks with nipped in waists and detailing around the neckline. These examples include (from left) a striped, silk French-made number, a nylon floral frock and a pretty two-toned dress from the very popular English Horrockses brand (whose garments, like many at the time, were made under licence in New Zealand).
Summer accessories – lovely in lemon
This trio of matching summer accessories was made in England and purchased in Palmerston North’s CM Ross Department Store. The hat is in the Princess style that was very popular in the early 1950s, while the handbag and gloves (mandatory wear for the respectable woman, even in the heat of summer) are made of kidskin.
Hats off to summer!
Two lovely fresh examples of 1950s summer hats. The jaunty yellow and white model is handmade from felt, satin and synthetic fibre with a wide brim and flower sprigs to recreate a sense of summer gardens. The tomato red model is sleeker and would be worn closer to the head with its wide bow centred on the forehead.
Boutique brochure – 'In Love with Summer?'
Fashionable women flocked to the new boutiques that sprang up in suburban areas in the late 1960s. This brochure advertises the ‘New, new, 1967 look’ at the Maison Noisette in Paraparaumu, including garments from Christian Dior and the latest looks in synthetic fabrics, such as crimpilene. Alongside the drawings of smartly tailored clothing, the design of the brochure emphasises the growing influence of fashions for young people and the trend for psychedelia.
Programme cover – romantic ideals
Despite the fact that New Zealand is closer to the Pacific than the United States, American views of the Pacific islands, linking them with exotic summers and dusky romances, infused popular New Zealand culture. The cover of this programme for the highly successful South Pacific stage musical, which toured New Zealand in the early 1950s, reflects these rather fanciful ideas.
Visit Te Papa Press to find out more about Real Modern: Everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s by Bronwyn Labrum (2015).