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Mar 29, 2011

The Photo Album



I don't know what came over me, readers.  At the flea market on Sunday I did something unprecedented and wholly in conflict with my new decluttering rules.  I purchased somebody's lost/discarded photo album.  And what an album it is!

It's not like I don't have family photo albums of my own; I do -- but they're nothing like this.  No, friends, this was the family album I wish I had, full of beautiful people living the high life with fabulous personal style.  I simply had to have it. 

I put the time around 1962; there are a lot of blanks (obviously).  Perhaps we can fill them in together.



Look at these women.  Look at those clothes, that pool, that house.  These are not models, my friends, they are real people.  Or the cast of The Graduate.
 
They played tennis at the club.



They had a maid straight out of Central Casting.



Beautiful dresses and plenty of cocktail parties.  When I was growing up we threw no cocktail parties, though there might have been the odd Jello mold buffet.  We owned no poodles.



They traveled to exotic places.



They lay about on the beach.





And they drank...



and drank...



and drank!



Who are these people and whatever became of them?  How did this most personal of possessions, the family photo album, end up on a grimy flea market table surrounded by piles of old brassieres (I resisted), moldy lavender sachets, and yellowed Playboy magazines?

There's more here, and I'll take better photos at some later date; this album merits more than one blog post, don't you think?

NOTE: If this is your family's album please email me directly along with some identifying information -- what is Aunt Gladys wearing poolside on Page 3 and what is she drinking? -- and I will see it gets to you, C.O.D.

Meanwhile, back in reality (or its MPB equivalent) my fifties Simplicity cocktail dress is coming along swimmingly.

I finished the skirt and most of the bodice yesterday and just need to attach them.  Then I'll start the matching jacket.  I am loving this dress.









Little mistake with the serger knife there; cost me a good hour and a half.  Whoops!



In closing friends, did you have cocktail parties growing up?  Did your entire family wear coordinating pastels?  Can somebody fix me a Vodka Stinger?

Have a great day everybody!

50 comments:

  1. So Mad-Men-esque! What a great find, truth is truer than fiction I guess...I can say with a certainty that it's definitely not my family, sadly. I love your blog, you are hysterical.

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this- its a treasure. Wow. Aside from anything else, it's great primary source material.

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  3. Oh, the new dress is looking gorgeous! It scares me to think about my family's photo album ending up at the flea market-yikes! My parents had parties, for sure, but no classy cocktail types for them! It was usually costume, with lots of drinking, and the pictures somewhat incriminating...My siblings and I always loved the morning after these parties. Lots of odd things around the house-finders, keepers!
    I am still coveting those lovely vintage shoes. If you run across any in a size 6, you will buy them for me, right???

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  4. My mother did. And my brother and I had to dutifully wait upstairs in our Sound of Music pajamas so that we could come down hand in hand and entertain the guest for exactly 15 minutes. Mommie even did my hair for the event. Then we had to go back upstairs, take off the pjs/nightgown fold them up put on our regular bed clothes and go to sleep. And ONLY come downstairs if something caught fire. And don't think nothing ever did. I was a budding pyromaniac as a child. If the party was in the summer when we were out of school, my brother and I would come downstairs afterward (Mommie cleaned up in the mornings) and drink the wine left in the glasses!

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  5. Oooh, definitely not my family either. :-) I had a similar episode with my mom's serger knife once. Maybe that explains why I don't have one.

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  6. My family definitely did not have parties, nor did they drink, or travel. Very bah humbug. Seeing someone throw away their family's memories is sad. Jello mold stuff at my house too. Mom would have been the maid when she was young.

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  7. BTW love the red flowers on black print, and yes I have done the serger blade thing too. Ugh.

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  8. Love the photos. I like that each picture captures the subjects going about their daily lives quite leisurely and not lined up against a wall waiting to say, "Cheese."

    I purchased a 1950s photo album at an estate sale because it bothered me that estranged family members had abandoned it. I also purchased a nicely framed print of flowers in a vase at the sale. In one photo in the album, the framed print can be seen hanging on a wall.

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  9. My goodness, what a nostalgic find! I don't think I would have been able to resist it and I could spend hours pouring over it and wondering about the people and where they are now! Fabulous!

    Your dress is looking great too...you make it look so easy to put together!!!

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  10. I'm always amazed when I read books written at a similar time frame, how much they drank back then! All the Agatha Christies and Perry Masons say so!

    Love your new dress, Cathy will look lovely in it-as she always does.

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  11. How utterly fabulous is that album?! I can understand the motivation to rescue that poor discarded family as my mother is driven by the same instinct (although sadly it hasn't produced anything quite so glamorous or wonderfully representative of its time yet...). I've scoffed at her doing so in the past but had I come across this I'd have been hard pushed to resist it myself!

    I notice that all the photos are in colour. Would this have been commonplace in the US at the time, or is it another indication of the family's affluence? In Europe in the 60s most family photos would have still been in b/w.

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  12. Nathalie, yes and yes. My family was not affluent in the least but started using color Kodachrome in the early 60s. This family is obviously well-to-do. There are a few b&w photos in the album but most are color and all are well-preserved.

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  13. There is no way you could have passed on this. What a great find. So inspiring!

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  14. The clothes are swell but the furniture is horrifying!

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  15. Agreed, but I do love the George Nelson hanging bubble lamp.

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  16. Kudos to you for that rescue! Once upon a time I stumbled upon a website dedicated to posting mislaid pictures of people's relatives in the hopes of finding out more about them or possibly even finding the actual relatives/descendants, but it was years back and I don't remember the name. My mother does something similar, although her focus is older.

    We had no such parties, although my parents did host the occasional department barbecue, with plenty of beer obligatory. Serenity's comment makes me a little glad of that, I must admit... ;)

    I find the colour photo thing interesting. My mom's family snapshots from that era are a mix... But my mom did her own photo developing after college, so a large proportion of my childhood photos (from the 80s) are B&W as well...

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  17. What an amazing find; I would have totally snapped up that photo album. It's the best kind of research material and just plain fun to look at.

    Sadly, I too have done the serger knife snafu -- on a dress I was making for my mother for her 45th high school reunion. It was a tragic scene and sent me back to the fabric store for more fabric...which, thank the gods, they still had. Now I only serge seam allowances before constructing if I can at all help it.

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  18. I go to cocktail parties now. Monthly a friend hosts the 'Church of Frank Sinatra' where we all get gussied up in vintage cocktail attire and being that there are loads of bartenders in attendance, get great drinks and often some education on said spirits.

    Been doing it for a few years now, great fun.

    As far as growing up, we didn't need the excuse of a party to drink in my house. :)

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  19. Do you wonder who's doing all the photo-taking of the well-to-do drinking family?

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  20. The album is fabulous and the dress even more so. My parents had cocktail parties in the 1960's and photos may have looked similar, if ONLY my parents ever took photos. I just made a snide remark to my mother yesterday about our lack of photos.

    I'd say someone out in Westchester County is missing this book. I found a whole box full of letters dated from the 1940's and early 50's, written to a young girl in boarding school and college. I have tried to find her through ancestry.com but have not been able to yet. It is fun to voyeur into someones life.

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  21. that white eyelet two piece (picture #7 in the album) - i never knew how badly i needed one of those until just now.

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  22. Not my family, but it could have been. Minus the tennis. And add a few more "and drank, and drank's" to it. ;-) I have my grandfather's tuxedo (look here to see my son wearing it) and there's also a white dinner jacket as part of the ensemble. I always think about those cocktail party days when I look at it. No one wears those anymore.

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  23. Are you sure those aren't my in-laws? They threw cocktail parties, wore chic clothes AND had poodles.

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  24. Fun find! I love the picture with them standing by the pool. Though I couldn't help thinking as I looked at these that I hope my photo albums are never sold at a flea market.

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  25. I recommend distributing your most treasured possessions while you are still alive.

    And ALWAYS pay your storage locker rental on time!

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  26. Well, we did have help in the house once a week, and we did have a silver poodle, well 2 of them, and my mom did have a purse that looked like one of those straw deals. But we didnt' belong to any clubs except the YMCA and I didn't take any beach vacations until I was out of high school and able to drive myself there. As for cocktail parties, my grandmother thought a cocktail was something made of fruit that came from a can. So much for that idea.

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  27. Love, love, the photos but wait....in the middle of the 'and drank' section...is that a giant tarantula in the window?

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  28. What a find! I would definitely not have been able to walk away from that photo album. Glad you bought it and shared it with us. No cocktail parties at my house back in the 70s either. My Mum had a white blouse with lace strips sewn in half way down each sleeve, which she teamed with a pair of flares - this was her one and only going out outfit - Mum and Dad went out about once a year! I wonder if she still has that blouse... Love the blog. x

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  29. I have a question: how did you correct the mistake with the serger?? Did you have enough fabric to cut another piece or you had seam allowances to spare???? I've done the same thing over and over again...
    any tips? ahhh and this is not my family, sorry.

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  30. WOW! What great pictures! I would write a story for each one. The dress is coming along fabulously as well.

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  31. Thanks for all the comments, guys!

    Valerie, I believe that's my reflection in the photo but it DOES look like something big and hairy; I'm neither.

    Raquel, it was a skirt panel (1/4 of the total) and I had to cut the whole panel out and cut another. I think the lesson is to serge seam allowances first, as Richard mentioned above, or overcast instead of serging.

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  32. Love the pool photo!
    I remember putting an empty bottle of gin next to Mum's chair when she was sleeping in it one afternoon, and taking a photo - I better make sure that never ends up in the flea market!

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  33. "I think the lesson is to serge seam allowances first,"

    Where's the challenge in THAT?

    Seriously, it happens to us all but it just makes you pay better attention so it's a one-time deal.

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  34. The album is great, Peter! But how said that a family has lost precious memories. I have several such albums.

    I just love the fabric in that new dress you're making!

    Gail D.

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  35. I'll have to suggest to my family that we wear coordinating pastels! ha! I think they would get a kick out of that!!

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  36. That is the type of thing I collect, vintage photographs. I am always amazed at how families either lose or discard of albums.

    I like the ones with family names that way I can do family history on that particular family. Thanks for sharing that album. I would claim it as my family and make up some story about our exotic lifestyle.

    I have a glamor shot of someone, who looks like a film star, and has signed her name, but I have never heard of her, and can't find any information about her. I am sure she must of been someones sweetheart.

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  37. Totally Fabulous. And coloured photos for that era. They are so posh.

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  38. Great find! I have 2 albums of my grandparents' photos that were wasting away in storage before I rescued them and they're my treasures. Photos go back 100 years and I had my dad help me identify people/places. My favorite things at flea markets are old photos, especially ones with writing on the back like "This is what I wear when I get home from work." Photos special to someone at some time, only to end up in a bin at a flea market -- kind of like you said!

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  39. It's really sad, I think, that these beautiful photos (and people) could have ended up at a flea market for sale. I mean, I love that you've purchased it and that you care, but what about the family??

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  40. Just found your blog and love it. After feeling a bit down all day you have made me giggle!

    As for the album, it's not my family but it certainly looks like their clothes. My mother had those sheaths and big skirts in pastels - not to mention the bathing suit and sunglasses. And the drinks ... Gin and tonic, scotch and ginger, dubonnet, etc

    The exotic vacation shot is definitely Bermuda, the playground of the country club/preppy set.

    Very cool!

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  41. I forgot to mention, just within the past two days I found a family on ancestry.com, and I had a portrait from the 1800's of one of their relatives. I bought it off Ebay, they have loads of vintage photographs.

    I will be sending it to them. That is why I love doing family history. I have a few more that I believe I might have a connect with. Family photos belong with family.

    Oh, and I absolutely love that dress and the colors.

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  42. having been down too, this has really helped. Peter, you are too funny. The dress you are making is lovely!!!!! I was born in 1949, and attended many cocktail parties, even with dimplomats at them, as a child waitress (?????). I often remember the dresses, and am inspired to re-create similar, with my vintage patterns, and vintage fabrics, from charity shops. I also love to look at old photos. Cathie, in Quebec.

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  43. poodles?!
    no fair! they had poodles?
    I want me a poodle.

    great find.

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  44. What an amazing find! I'm pretty much drooling over some of their dresses. I'm always surprised what I see for sale at antiques shows and flea markets--I've been hounding various family members for years about getting some family photos. So to me they're quite special and not at all worthy of liquidation at a flea market (though lucky for you and us!).

    The dress is looking gorg too! Make me a matching one?! ;) hehe!

    ♥ Casey

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  45. That photo album is fantastic! Thank goodness for the eager photographer who was always on hand to capture those moments. You could spend hours speculating on who they were and what their life was like. Pure awesome.

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  46. What amazes me, Katie, is that they were SOBER enough to take the picture! ;)

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  47. Peter, re the serger accident - don't give up. Serging seams saves so much time. It's worth learning to check how you are holding and feeding the material through every single time you use the machine. Pretty soon it's only on the tricky bits that you have to do a straight stitch seam first.

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  48. It was totally my fault: it was a narrow seam allowance to begin with and the fabric is a little slippery and before you knew it...!

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  49. The photo album was great! I have bought old pictures at flea markets if they have any identifying information on them and through the magic of the internet managed to return them to a family member. Also an old bible with lots of family info. I saw you at the 2009 Novi Michigan show and was duly inpressed(except for that shirt in your blogger picture made out of that '60s sheet) but I am even more impressed by what you have done in the past 18 months or so. Keep up the good work. Even those of us with 50+ years of experience make those serger mistakes, you live and learn. And if you want any more of those sheets, my mother has an entire linen closet full. Let me know.....

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  50. Oh I love vintage photo albums! I've never been able to find one of my own yet though I've kept my eyes peeled. I'm too young for that era, so all I've got are photos of my aunts and uncles from the 1970s at their mom's restaurant in Florida. The only good set was from a halloween party! That grandma's family was really into society/debutante life but she hated it so none of that for us!

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