The Kays catalogues of the 1960s are full of women. There are men in the menswear section, of course, and with the golf clubs, angling equipment and razors, but elsewhere, they are rarely spotted beasts.

Here’s one, partly hidden behind a brightly coloured female:

'Brighten your home with Ashley and Crown quality wallpapers', Autumn/Winter 1964.
‘Brighten your home with Ashley and Crown quality wallpapers’, Autumn/Winter 1964.

In his suit and tie, he looks a little out of place, whilst the woman in the picture gestures happily towards a household scene. The blues, yellows and pinks in the furnishings are a near match for her dress, hair and lipstick. This is where she belongs.

Here’s another woman from the same catalogue. She seems very glad that she owns a pouffe:

Pouffes, Autumn/Winter 1964.
Pouffes, Autumn/Winter 1964.

And here’s a woman from Spring/Summer 1963, looking rather chic to my (admittedly uneducated) eye, ready to serve tea from her two-tier trolley:

'Two-tier trolley. Beautifully finished in walnut colour with contrasting plastic panels.' Spring/Summer 1963.
‘Two-tier trolley. Beautifully finished in walnut colour with contrasting plastic panels.’ Spring/Summer 1963.

Aside from clothing, Kays mainly sold household goods and furnishings, and their catalogues from the 1960s mainly connect the household — or its interior, at least — with femaleness.

The catalogues also do their best to make this connection seem very pleasant from the female perspective. Situated in their lovely homes, fully furnished with Kays catalogue products, Kays catalogue women chat on the phone, relax in bed, drink tea on their nice new sofas and smile because the Kenwood Chef Mixer ‘takes all the drudgery out of food preparation’.

Kenwood Chef mixer, Spring/Summer 1963.
Kenwood Chef mixer, Spring/Summer 1963.

Although electricity’s ‘power for good in the home’ may not have fully taken off in 1955, by the 1960s, going by Kays’ catalogues, modern technology and modern materials were making everything easier. For example, ‘Balawall’ wall-covering meant that you could redecorate your kitchen yourself — which may sound like a bad option, compared to getting someone else to do it, but that’s because you don’t have the Kays Autumn/Winter 1960 catalogue in front of you. The catalogue is certain that Balawall would make things easy. After all, look how much this woman is smiling:

'Balawall easy-fix wall covering', Autumn/Winter 1960.
‘Balawall easy-fix wall covering’, Autumn/Winter 1960.

Which is to say, some extra work may in fact have been created by modern materials. The more tasks like redecorating became achievable and ‘easy’ for someone on their own, without a professional, the more pressure housewives may have felt to take on these tasks in addition to their usual household work.

Still, it’s hard to argue with the spin dryer.

'Kays have just delivered my new spin drier', Autumn/Winter 1960.
‘Kays have just delivered my new spin drier’, Autumn/Winter 1960.

(Look! Another man! Up there in the top right! This time he’s important because he has apparently bought the ‘”Creda” Debonair Spin Dryer’ for his delighted wife/partner/girlfriend/very good friend.)

The alternative to the spin dryer, still also sold by Kays, was the mangle. You’ll notice that although there is a woman in this illustration too, Kays have chosen not to show you her face. Perhaps they thought your suspension of disbelief would be overstrained if she looked cheerful.

Mangle plus headless woman, Autumn/Winter 1960.
Mangle with headless woman, Autumn/Winter 1960.

Here’s another picture with a man in it. He’s lounging about, fully clothed, in the background. In the foreground, a woman in a bikini is making use of an exercise machine. She looks even happier than he does. This was clearly a good time to be female.

Exercise machine, Spring/Summer 1968.
Exercise machine, Spring/Summer 1968.
Advertisements