April 25, 2012Dining Mad Men Style – A Guest Post On Mad Men Dinnerware
Everyone give a nice warm welcome to Deva Mirel, who was nice enough to write a guest post for us today about one of her favorite topics: Vintage Dinnerware. When Deva told me that she would love to talk about the dishware from Mad Men with all of us, I was so excited. So, without further yammering by me, here’s Deva’s excellent post!
For vintage fans, each episode of Mad Men offers an opportunity to gaze into the past and absorb the acute accuracy of the mise-en-scène directed by creator Matthew Weiner. For those vintage fans obsessed with housewares, the aqua snowflake Pyrex casserole presented a more memorable impression than Peggy’s boyfriend in season 4. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one watching Peggy drink coffee from a minty Jadeite mug with bated breath–afraid, in the back of my mind, that the scene would take a turn for the violent or the clumsy, sending the collectible crashing to pieces. And then there are the Dorothy Thorpe Roly Poly glasses that follow Don from his old office at Sterling Cooper to the new digs of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. These designs are iconic, recognizable, and fairly easy to locate on Etsy or identify in the wild at thrift shops.
As a student of vintage dinnerware, I also get excited over the dishes. Two china sets really stand out in the Mad Men series and, like every other set design detail, enhance the accuracy of the show.
Betty’s Everyday Dishes
Season 1 is the best for spotting Betty’s everyday dishes. Betty and Francine hang in the Draper kitchen, smoking cigarettes and sipping coffee and these are some of the best shots of the family’s everyday dishes. The design is Raffia (1953-1954), nearly identical to Barkwood (1953-1958). Both were manufactured by California pottery brand Metlox. Barkwood is straight up brown and cream while the Draper’s Raffia design has some green in it.
I find the selection of the Raffia design intriguing. Personally, I don’t find the pattern very appetizing. But I do see how it compliments the knotty pine kitchen and definitely has an everyday feel to it.
The Metlox line of dinnerware was sold in department stores and became popular with brides registering. Obviously it is not a coincidence that Don and Betty married in May of 1953, the same year this china pattern was made available. This detail adds authenticity to the story line and also speaks to the middle class aspirations as well as the family’s keen design style. The Metlox dishes were American made, hand painted, and tended toward a modern design. My aunt and uncle had this Green Rooster design, put out in 1956, for their everyday dishes. Eventually, Metlox–along with many other domestic dish imprints, shut down production in the 80’s as dishes made in Japan took over the market.
Trudy Campbell’s Amber Glo
Undoubtedly, Trudy Campbell’s Park Avenue apartment is a beautiful example of Mid-Century style. From the color scheme to the wall art, Trudy gets it right.
Trudy and Pete marry in 1960 and their china pattern, Stangl Pottery’s Amber Glo, went into production in 1954 and continued through 1978–the year Stangl closed its doors. The Amber Glo pattern came in various shades of oranges and gray, depicting a symmetrical hand painted teardrop design complimenting the color scheme of the apartment as well as the clean lines of the couple’s Danish modern decor. According to the Stangl website, the pattern was designed by Kay Hackett, and was originally conceived “as a Scandinavian-inspired turquoise, blue and yellow gas flame motif.” Unlike the Drapers, who appear to have separate dishes for formal dining, the Campbell’s singular china set reflects the modern, streamlined aesthetic of this young couple.
As a born and bred Jersey Girl, research into Trenton-based Stangl Pottery sheds some light on one of the great mysteries of my Jersey upbringing: the slogan “Trenton Makes The World Takes.” Anyone who’s visited Trenton sees that the lettering hanging off the bridge is ironic amidst the current state of the city. Yet, it can also be viewed sentimentally reminiscent of a time when American craftsmanship and manufacturing was prosperous.
Onto Season 5?
I admit, I am a late comer to the Mad Men phenomena. Yes, I am watching the series on Netflix. No, I have not seen any of season 5. I’ve read about new bright sets to go with the changing times. So, have any of you spotted vintage housewares that grabbed your collector’s eye? Are there any dinner or serveware that’s grabbed your attention?
Deva Mirel is a fan of No Pattern Required as well as the owner/curator of Fresh Pastry Stand, an Etsy shop specializing in creating mod-tastic pastry stands from reclaimed vintage estate dishes.