Spotlight: Mid-century

I have a feeling a few of you are giddy for this topic just by reading that title. It’s true, today I bring you a super cool and well-loved topic: Mid-century!

[Disclaimer: I’m not an expert. This isn’t my usual go-to era, even though I do love the designs. And, as always, there are exceptions to every rule and things that just don’t always fit. This is a general overlook and should be treated as such!]

If this metal lunchbox doesn’t make you think of the 1960s, I don’t know what will!

What is Mid-century?

The full name of this movement is referred to as Mid-century Modern. Modernism itself began as early as the 1930s, but really picked up steam in the 1950s, and sort of fizzled out by the 1970s. When you think Mid-century, think the 1950s and 1960s (which is quite easy to remember, given its name).

What are the characteristics of Mid-century?

Chances are that if you’re in the vintage business, MC designs are pretty easy to spot. Even if you’re not, there’s a good chance you’ve seen plenty of pieces in movies and on television.

A fairly typical portrayal of the MC color palette. (This is all Melmac!)

MC is colorful – teals, yellows, green, pinks. Usually they’re subdued, pastel. Whereas the ‘70s held your typical earth tones (lots of chocolate browns, mustard oranges, and olive greens), MC is much more upbeat and fun.

Furniture tended to look a little futuristic (though now we see them as “retro” designs). Very sleek and rounded, sophisticated, curvy, and functional. It seems a little silly, but the cartoon The Jetsons blends this futuristic, yet retro feel perfectly (at least in my mind!).

There are also certain patterns that just scream Mid-century. Atomic and starburst designs are probably the epitome of this era. There were a lot of floral designs as well, but don’t think groovy, flower-power that you’d see in the ‘70s. MC flowers were smaller and classier.

Here’s an atomic pattern on a Pyrex teapot.

Why should I care?

Personally, I think all people should care about the history of their country and the world. But besides that, this was an extremely prosperous time for the United States. It was post-WWII and the time of the baby-boomers. Innovations were popping up left and right and life was good.

This era also had a direct influence on architecture, design, and fashion. There are so many iconic figures (think Jackie O) and influential designs that came out of these decades that they left their mark on our history. It’s safe to say that the ‘70s and ‘80s (and ‘90s and 2000s) wouldn’t have been what they are today if it wasn’t for these two decades. Time is a linear progression (as much as my Doctor Who heart disagrees) and if you take away one part of that timeline, everything else will be affected.

Plus, MC will make its way back around. In a lot of ways it already has. Shows like the insanely popular Mad Men have seen to that. I’ve also seen red carpet fashion mimicking ‘50s-style dress. And, hey, those were classy and cool designs, so there’s nothing wrong with that.

Barbies from the 1960s are perfect for looking at trends in fashion!

What cool Mid-century items do you think I should keep an eye out for?

If it has an atomic design, pick it up. Whether it’s a Pyrex coffee pot or a pair of curtains. That design is a staple in an MC home and you will find a buyer for it.

Melmac is also super important. This was huge during the 1950s and the 1960s and it’s still quite collectible today.

Anything with an MC color palette will also be popular. Turquoise is probably the most identifiable one, so look out for that. If you can find Melmac in this color, that’s a double score.

Mid-century jewelry is also nice. Modest hoop earrings or classy pearl designs. Anything in turquoise or pink. Anything that feels reserved, yet beautiful and a little fashion-forward. Retro designs are being made every day, so you don’t necessarily have to go vintage to get the same feel.

Pearls are forever classy, and were definitely a staple in fashion accessories during this time.

Awesome Mid-century blogs that you shouldn’t pass up!

Like I said above, I’m not an expert. I’m interested in this era, but I don’t know everything there is to know. I’ve got the basics down, but there are some people who live this life day in and day out. Three of my favorite bloggers are down below. Please check them out, tell them hi, and soak up the fabulous information they post on their blogs every week. You won’t regret it!

That Mid-century Fella

Mid-century Thrifty Gal

Oh, for the Love of Vintage (Black Dahlia)

For all three of you: thank you for writing about Mid-century, and teaching me more about it every day. If you’ve got other tips or tricks, please feel free to leave them in the comments below (especially if I have something wrong, but I did try to do all my research very carefully!). My circle of blogs is still quite small, so if you know of any other awesome MC blogs, feel free to pass those along as well.

How do you feel about Mid-century designs? Are they cool, or are they too retro for you? Do you own any nifty MC items?

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3 thoughts on “Spotlight: Mid-century

  1. thatmidcenturyfella says:

    Wow, thanks! Living the mid-century life is a blast!

  2. […] It is during this timeframe that you’re probably most familiar with the term art deco. It can be described as elegant, functional, and modern. (“Modern” as seen from the perspective of someone who lived during this time. Now we would refer to this style as retro – that curvy and sleek looking décor that was popular in the Mid-century era.) […]

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