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Posts Tagged ‘1950s Fashion’

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This series of portraits shows members of the rural vocational organisation Muintir na Tíre (People of the Land). Established in 1937, it aimed to counter societal breakdown in rural Ireland. It followed the teaching of the Catholic Church’s encyclical Quadragesimo Anno which hoped to challenge the threat of communism through strong lay and vocational organisation. Eoin Devereux’s 1991 article on Muintir na Tíre noted that it reflected the strong anti-urbanism which prevailed in Ireland during the period and that persists in certain quarters to this day.

The following quotation from the organisation’s 1941 handbook is very revealing: “Country life is not dull. It is the city life that is cheerless and stupid and vapid, degenerate, futile and foreign with its narrow conventions, its artificiality and its purchased amusements.” Despite the organisation’s antagonism towards the urban, Devereux notes that many of its leaders were urban-based professionals.

This accords with the location of the photographer’s studio. J. Dunne worked from 36 Leinster Road in Rathmines, a suburb of Dublin. These portraits are more informal than official passport photographs and more revealing of the sitters’ personalities. From a sartorial point of view their clothes are typical of the 1950s as tweeds and woollens dominate. Tank tops, wide neck ties, thickly framed horn-rimmed glasses were popular with the men. Some wear the pin of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart (PTAA), an Irish organisation for Catholic teetotallers.

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There is more variety in the women’s outfits. One wears a fitted dress with a fur-ruffled collar while another has a broad-shouldered fake fur coat. Tweed is also popular with the ladies as were knitted tops and twin sets. These are adorned with pearls, brooches and lace collars. All wear badges with the organisation’s logo featuring a cross superimposed on a plough, thus linking the rural and the religious.

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The portraits were most likely taken at a function room or in Dunne’s studio in suburban Rathmines where he operated for a short while from 1954. The series is interesting in that it shows a certain cohort of middle-class, respectable, Irish people of a variety of ages. These portraits were instigated, not by the usual familial ties which cause a visit to the photographic studio, but rather by membership of a vocational organisation.JDunne-Portraits-7JDunne-Portraits-9JDunne-Portraits-10 JDunne-Portraits-11 JDunne-Portraits-12

Further reading: Eoin Devereux, ‘Saving rural Ireland – Muintir na Tíre and its Anti-Urbanism, 1931-1958’ in The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, 17, 2 (December 1991): 23-40.

Maurice Curtis, A Challenge to Democracy: Militant Catholicism in Modern Ireland. Dublin: The History Press Ireland, 2010.

Maurice Curtis, “Miraculous Meddlers: The Catholic Action Movement.” History Ireland 18, 5 (2010): 34-37.

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Even though people spend many of their waking hours at work, the office is seldom photographed or shown as clearly as it is in this series of images taken in August 1948. These photographs are of a Dublin clothing wholesalers called Robert P. Shaw and Sons, which was located at 46 South William Street for two years’ between 1948 and 1950. The location was the centre of the ‘rag trade’ in Ireland and an area which up until recently housed many wholesalers and workshops.

The Georgian building was partitioned into many units and street directories show that in 1949 there were at least five other businesses and two residential units at number 46. These included Cunningham & Co., manufacturers, importers and wholesale warehousemen and Farrell & Co., typewriting and duplicating services. I was able to deduce the location by enlarging the address on an envelope resting beside the classic Underwood typewriter. A little card on the noticeboard refers to the tardy closing of the front door and the fact that the staff of Cunningham & Co. vacate the building promptly at 6 o’clock every evening!

The secretary’s office is of particular interest and shows a calendar opened to the weekend of the 21st and 22nd of August. I love her sweater and waved hair which were very typical of the period. The photographs have a formal quality which is rather like the set of a play. There are many details to take in, for example, the beautifully designed advertisements for ranges such as Luxan, Francella and Daphne. The sales room has some chairs which were upholstered in a contemporary fabric and the circular table is complete with an ashtray for the waiting salesmen. Notes on the the photographs refer to the interior features in a manner indicating that the offices had recently undergone a renovation, for example, one caption highlights the ‘effective use of cork tiles.’ By 1951, however, Robert P. Shaw and Sons were gone from the location and the unit was filled by another clothing agent. Perhaps, their line in Shamrock and Britannia unshrinkable all wool underwear was no longer popular!

The photographs were commissioned from Keogh Brothers, a firm who are better known for their images of the aftermath of the 1916 Rising and for several commemorative albums which they created during that period. There is an excellent StoryMap feature on South William Street’s connection with the garment industry and Ruth Griffin’s research into the history of the district provides a great picture of this most interesting street.

Overall, this series of photographs gives us an atmospheric glimpse of mid-twentieth century working life.

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