The world loves the 1950s. The recent resurgence in high heels, cocktails and home-baking (think cupcake) has made the 50s a decade synonymous with treats. So if you're struggling with your Christmas shopping, look no further for inspiration:
The 50s comes across as a hard drinking era across the board but it's attitudes that have changed - we actually drink more now. Popular brands of the day included Booth's High and Dry Gin and Johnny Walker. Merchandising was terrific - you can still pick up original Babycham glasses from vintage shops if you'd like to give something a little tongue in cheek (with a bottle or two of Babycham enclosed.) Or go the whole hog with a cocktail kit including a soda siphon. The 50s was all about classic cocktails - martinis, bellinis and gimlets. Remember, alcohol was considered a foodstuff so at Christmas eggnog went down well.
Think Jackson Pollock, early Andy Warhol and Mark Rothko prints (unless you are a chic 1950s-style millionaire) You can pick up prints of early Pop Art from museum and gallery shops. Also worth a look are collectibles from the era - anything from textiles to toys.
3 Vintage Watches
We're all so digital but the 50s was the era of watches you had to wind. When Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit of Everest in 1953, Hillary was equipped with a Rolex Oyster Perpetual. These days a 1950s Oyster costs well north of £1000 but it's worth looking in antique and vintage shops for less celebrated 1950s models. Old straps can be replaced though most old watches don't keep absolutely accurate time, it's worth losing a few minutes a day for the sheer style.
4 The 1950s clutch bag
If you can bear the madness of Oxford Circus Top Shop head for the Etui pop up stall. This clever company produces a fabulous collection of oh so 1950s leather clutch bags in a wide variety of colours, sizes and finishes. For true 1950s chic choose navy or tan alligator (which is simulated by embossing cow leather - don't fret.)
Classic sci-fi of the era is a stylish gift - Ray Bradbury, Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, John Windham and (my favourite) early Robert Sheckley.
It was also an era of mystery so I have to tip Agatha Christie and for that matter Ngaio Marsh alongside American noir writers like Raymond Chandler. When the Windrush generation arrived in Britain this was the era when black writers found their voice - try Sam Selvon. But for sheer 1950s class my go-to writer of choice is Patrick Hamilton. Alongside a cocktail kit (see 1 above) you might include The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe (the novel on which Mad Men is based) Or, if you prefer something by a contemporary writer that is set in the 1950s, I write the Mirabelle Bevan Mysteries (always a good choice, she smiled) or for a male detective, the Grantchester Mysteries by James Runcie.
For blokes, traditional Y-fronts or boxer shorts in white cotton. The word 'metrosexual ' had not yet been invented.
For women an outing to somewhere selling corsetry is a must - Dolci Follie at Spitalfields Market is a good one. Don't forget sheer stockings with a seam up the back - a 1950s necessity.
The Best of Elvis Presley, Doris Day, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Hailey and the Comets, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Frankie Laine all topped the charts in the 50s. Load a playlist of rock 'n' roll royalty. You're spoilt for choice.
8 Old-fashioned sweeties
10 years of sweet rationing ended in 1953 and Britain went crazy for jelly babies and sherbet lemons. Visit a retro sweet shop and buy by the ounce. Gift in paper bags or small glass jars.
The 50s formed a bridge between make-do-and-mend of wartime and the genesis of our consumer age. Many women home-making after the war still made their own clothes. Handknit a scarf and hat or (more 2013) buy something that looks handknitted. There.
10 Make up
The cosmetic industry really took off in the 1950s. Make up went from being considered tarty (no lady would paint her nails) to being a sign that a woman looked after herself. The products were matt and heavy compared to modern sheer formulas but, oh, the flair. Search out 1950s style compacts and lipsticks at Benefit who also have a kit for that classic 1950s sculpted brow. The brands of the era were Estee Lauder, Max Factor and Revlon. Colours were traditional - red lips and nails, pink cheeks and porcelain skin please. That's just the way it was.
Don't forget to wrap 1950s - you can go with masses of tissue, brown paper, string and a handwritten label or buy boxes (you'll need tissue whatever you do), tie with lush ribbon and always enclose a note.