Studies in Crap Discovers the Birth of Modern Anxiety: Polly Pigtails Magazine
Polly Pigtails Magazine
Date: July, 1947
Discovered at: Antique mall
The Cover Promises: The Germans licked, the boys back home, America invents childhood.
"Do you resemble a Ballooning Betsy, a too-ample sample of a well-rounded personality? If you would keep your chubbiness a secret, stay away from curves and fullness." (page 25)
"To fit into any group, you'll want to share their interests. Irene says that the girl who is left out of things 'should dress more like other girls, talk about things they do, and act interested in the things they say." (page 33).
By 1947, victorious Americans had gotten down to living. Women quit their factory jobs, men went to work or college, and the children of the booming middle class -- many now secluded in those new houses where there used to be country -- were tasked with being innocent and idealized and representing for subsequent generations some pure thing of no clear definition that has since been lost.
No more collecting scrap metal for the war. Instead, as photos from Polly Pigtails attest, this was the time for fun:
Fun included balancing German Shephards on your back.
Americans were encouraged to enlist the beasts of the world to serve them.
Earlier generations dreamed of a chocolate at Christmas or an ice-cube to suck at the sweatshop. Raised on promises (and Polly Pigtails), the new American girl dared to dream bigger:
This was a time of such golden childhood innocence that even weight-obsessed Hollywood encouraged its starlets to subsist entirely on candy.
But there was a darkness growing. As that candy-maker makes clear, advertisers were beginning
to prey on children - and their worries.
"You, too, may have Gingivitis and at first not even suspect it."
In other words, there's things wrong inside you that you can't detect . . . fortunately, there's products to save you!
It's not much of a leap from ads like that to fashion spreads like this:
"Has inflation changed you figure? Do you feel those seams a-poppin'? Don't fret, plumpster . . . just call for chubbies, sized 'specially for you. Left, Cinderella's slimming V-yoke style in printed cotton, about $5. Right, ruffles and embroidered braid trim a Chubbette frock in Steven's chambray, about $6. Where to buy on page 42."
The suburbs have always promised to keep patriotic Americas from having to interact with each other. Perhaps that's why you feel nobody likes you:
What product could possibly help with this thing that's wrong with you?
Boys can be abusive.
First, they peep on you as you change. Then, they ridicule and drown you. Long before women took back the night, their grandmothers had to take back the pond.
The Crap Archivist lives in Kansas City, where he originates his on-line Studies for the Voice's sister paper, The Pitch.