I volunteered at the American Red Cross fundraiser, Project: Prom Dress, today at the Dancel Family Y in Ellicott City. Situated at the check-out table, I had a great view of the dresses as they made their way back and forth between the boutique area (in the gym) and the dressing room (in the exercise room) to the check-out rack. The dresses were donated, and most were very modern, but I admit to a secret admiration for not-very-trendy pink dresses. One dress (both candy pink and polka dotted) went out late in the day with a young lady who looked far too young to be attending a prom. She explained that the pink dress was going to be a costume in her middle school play because she needed to be dressed in a tacky 80’s style prom dress. Ugh. Yes, my senior high prom gown, lovingly created by my mother (at my request), featured pink, pink, pink with a darker pink lace overskirt.
Only tangentially related, to round out our Presidential Christmas posts, I’d like to highlight Mamie Eisenhower’s trendsetting use of pink in the White House, and, actually, in all of her homes. As the wife of a military officer, she had the opportunity to decorate many homes (over 30 moves during his 37-year military career) and is reported to have carried samples of the pink, green and cream colors that she used in her decorating. In that way, the painters could match the paint to her belongings.
From 1953 – 1961, the Eisenhower White House was called the “Pink Palace.” Although there is no record of pink Christmas trees, there is a sure connection to the skyrocketing rise in pink decorating in the late 1950’s. There are scores of retro websites devoted to the love of pink bathrooms, a decorating fever that started with Mamie’s personal style. This time period is also the advent of the aluminum Christmas tree, with Sears and other department stores featuring the aluminum tree in a number of colors, including silver, orange, and pink. Although our family didn’t have an aluminum tree, the old photographs of children standing next to aluminum trees in the 1960’s look suspiciously like a childhood me.
In A Charlie Brown Christmas (1963), Lucy tells Charlie to get an aluminum tree, perhaps painted pink. The segment of the film featuring the garish aluminum trees is one of my favorites. The ridicule of the aluminum tree and the commercialization of Christmas in that film considered one indicator that aluminum trees were on their way out of style, but they continued to be manufactured into the 1970’s.
A 2004 book, Season’s Gleamings: The Art of the Aluminum Christmas Tree by Lindemann and Shimon, is next on my list of Christmas “must reads.” Appropriately, the cover is pink. Anyone have a copy to lend? (If you don’t want to confess in public, email me.)