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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"Teenagers Have Taken Over the House": Print Marketing, Teenage Girls, and the Representation, Decoration, and Design of the Postwar Home, c. 1945-1965
by Lichtman, Sarah A., Ph.D., The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, 2014, 465; 3577907
Abstract (Summary)

The rapid development of consumer culture during the two decades after World War II, coupled with the rise of the teenager, resulted in a powerful cultural and socioeconomic shift that marketers exploited to sell goods and ideas. In this dissertation, I analyze particular spaces and objects marketed to teenagers, particularly teenage girls, for use in the postwar home, both real and imagined. I highlight the ways in which age, gender, privacy, personal identity, parental concerns, and familial relationships intersected with the design and use of specific spaces, interior decoration, and selected objects. I examine the recreation room and family room, the teenage bedroom, the dressing table, the telephone, and what I call the "teenage trousseau" as examples of interiors and objects marketed to reflect heteronormative and gendered expectations. I also consider the ways in which teenage girls derived pleasure from and expressed agency through consuming, creating, and envisioning domestic space. The increased prominence of teenage girls embodied this tension, which was at once bound to the social pleasures found in feminine culture and to the influence of marketers responding to postwar affluence.

At this time, magazines such as Seventeen, a publication marketed expressly to teenage girls, forged a symbiotic relationship with commercial interests. Consequently, household furnishings and objects figured prominently in editorial and advertising discourse, providing a rich source of information concerning the cultural attitudes and expectations relating to middle-class teenage girls at that time. A paradoxical space, the postwar home was at once a place of containment as well as one of autonomy and power, where teenage girls could socialize, experiment, and assume different identities and roles. The consistent emphasis on consumption and its relation to domesticity makes the study of representations of teenage girls particularly integral to the analysis of the interpretation, decoration, and design of the postwar home.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kirkman, Pat
School: The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 75/04(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, Design, Gender studies
Publication Number: 3577907
ISBN: 978-1-303-65765-8
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