15 June 2010

American Fabrics Magazine

(click on images to enlarge)

There was a vacant old house up the hill from my great grandparents farm where I played as a kid. Old magazines were strewn everywhere among feed, rusted tools and other by products of rural NC I was happy to remain ignorant of. I do remember the colors of the 40s magazines and how the 50s issues toned the garish intensity of the prior decade down.

A month ago I found five issues of American Fabrics Magazine in a used NYC bookstore and the colors and design threw me back to that old house. This is the Summer - 1951 issue and while the 40s are hanging on - you see the 50s barreling down the road in clean modern design about to run over the garment trade who were its readers.

Gentry Magazine (Winter '52 to Spring '57) was a men's fashion outgrowth of American Fabrics complete with monotone pictures, blazing color ads and hand glued fabric swatches. In fact, this issue announces Gentry for the first time and offers charter subscriptions of four issues a year for a whopping eight bucks or $70 according to my CPI calculator.

Published by a fascinating Macon, GA native, William Segal, American Fabrics Magazine measures 11" x 14 1/2" and that makes things difficult when your scanner bed is 8 3/4" x 12" hence the two part cover. I did what I could to get you a decent image but like most books the vibrancy of the magazine has to be seen and held for full effect.

Gentry, like most men's fashion ephemera, is a tough find largely because men threw their magazines away (Unlike one man I know who has moved 64 issues of 'M' Magazine nine times). But because women saved their fashion magazines there's ample availability on eBay where they run between $40 to $55 an issue. Get off the beaten path and you should be able to find American Fabrics under $25.


LPC said...

Gorgeous. And I particularly like the type font. I found my mother's original color chart, with fabrics attached, done up in the same font. What it says about days gone by I don't know, but I know how it makes me feel today. Wistful.

Anonymous said...

The trouble with decades is that everyone sees them as cliches. The '50s are either viewed through glasses toned with sock hops, drive-ins and Elvis, or as repressive paternalistic cold war paranoia.

One thing today's designers fortunately do not overlook, though, is the sheer beauty of fabric design - and every other realms of design, for that matter - of that decade, free from the rationing constraints of the previous one. Optimism virtually leapt off the pages. We can't build a new American future on drab! You said it well: clean modern design barreling down the road.

You and I were probably the only young males of our age (and most certainly of our town) who delighted in paging through women's magazines on the rack, all without a hint of insecurity. Back then, we understood our visual present, even if we had no knowledge of our career futures.

That you posted this is testament to the fact that you've not lost it. And good tie-in to the old North Carolina. Love that "fabrics by stafford" horse image.


old polo said...

So Tintin, how much do all those issues of 'M' magazine weigh? Hehehe...

Red said...

I'd have given a left arm to explore that old vacated house...I used to catch "heck" from my grandmother when I stole away to the attic over the garage at the farm...full of bee hives & turn of the century trunks...how could I resist? Anyway, that Hattie Carnegie ad is, in my humble opinion, the epitome of a lady, at least on the outside...

michael said...

The instructions say to click on images to enlarge. I keep clicking on the boobs...but they don't get any bigger?!

That paisley is pretty sweet too.

initials CG said...

I would always look at old magazines and wonder why the women were always more incredibly interesting, feminine and downright sexier that the images today. Even the 70's and early 80's women's fashion carried me away.

I know its a drawing, but the blonde in blue coming down of the plane is pure sex appeal and elegance. Today it's tatoo's and swear words for the girls.

What the hell happened?

Anonymous said...

Dear initials CG,

how true, how true.
We should keep tons of old magazines and pictures, and use them to teach modern women.

I liked your comment also for the correlation between poor aesthetics and rudeness. I'm sure that a good care of appearence can help the behaviour itself.

Thanks to the trad for the post.