Let’s Read McCall’s, December 1971

McCall’s: you know it as a sewing pattern company today, but for over a century it was considered one of the most influential and important women’s magazines on the market. It also happened to make bank on sewing patterns that were included in most of the magazine issues. There’s a ton of fun history in its Wikipedia article, but I’m just going to quote this part because it’s great:

In 1928, the 23-year-old associate editor, Otis Wiese, was promoted to editor. He believed “women were ready for more significant fiction than Gene Stratton-Porter” and suggested that McCall’s sell Burton’s acquisitions of popular fiction to Ladies Home Journal and Woman’s Home Companion. Such radical ideas caused Wiese to be fired at least six times within his first year as editor, but he was always rehired because, as he put it, “there was no one else around the place with ideas.”

Thanks Otis, you little scamp, for striving for better. And as you can see from this month’s cover alone, the magazine featured some of the best fiction and writers of the day.

Fast forward to 2000 or so, when Rosie O’Donnell buys the magazine and turns it into Rosie. It’s terrible, there’s an avalanche of bad publicity, and the magazine folds for good in 2002. I don’t think Rosie was entirely to blame here, as she most likely bought a property that was already in flames and found herself unable to turn it around. But things being as they are, the McCall’s brand lives on as a sewing pattern giant.

Thanks to The Gamera Eye for pointing out last week that this cover model is almost assuredly the actress Veronica Hamel, who hasn’t been in all that much lately but was big in the 70s and 80s. She was a few years shy of her big acting break at this time and getting steady work as a model, which would fit the timeline perfectly. Oh, and did that amazing disco fabulous rainbow witch cloak distract you from this being a holiday issue? Because we’ve got lots of horrifying 70’s food photography inside to get you in the Christmas spirit!

Viceroy Longs: sucking all the color that isn’t mauve or periwinkle blue out of your life. Sure makes things easier to coordinate!

Who besides serial killers talks like that? Who would ever give someone a perfume called Eau de Love? Why are all the animals just staring at them like that? Run, woman! Run!

Not much to comment on the TOC when all I can see is the Rice-a-Roni meatballs recipe to the side. Which is actually one of the least terrible recipes in this issue.

Oh, that second glass isn’t for him. He can get his own damn champagne. But seriously, what a cruel ad!

Witness the birth of the Jell-O shot!

The Buckleys referred to here are the family of conservative writer William F. Buckley, and well, don’t they just seem like lovely people. I’m also appreciating the sassiness of the women who responded to an article about being “middle aged”.

Oh, and yes, Lysette is deodorant that you spray on your lady parts because you are a filthy woman stank-beast.

I love everything about this.

A really cool advice column from the wife and daughter of Richard Rodgers (of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame). I really like seeing the perspectives of two different generations in response to questions like the still-controversial “do we have to sleep in separate rooms when visiting my parents?” question (mom says hell yes, daughter says hell no). The response to the question about hosting guests who drink in a non-drinking household is certainly something from a different time. BYOB was definitely not a thing. Mom: Just set out some whiskey and they’ll do the rest. Daughter: you should keep at the bare minimum five different kinds of spirits and mixers in your house at all times, otherwise they’ll feel unwelcome. As an alternative, the daughter suggests that your guests start drinking at their own place before coming to your house – which is a GREAT idea, right?

Maybe its just me, but…some of this stuff, like the “centuries old, one of a kind” statue of a saint from the Philippines kinda feels like stuff that Mrs. Bob McWhitebread of Nowhereville Wisconsin has no business purchasing and/or giving as a gift.


Beauty tech of 1971! In which we learn that a blow dryer in the 1970s was literally a hot air hose attachment, and electric set rollers haven’t changed one bit from the beginning of time. My favorite part of this ad is the frowny woman on the far left, who despite all of these advances in gadgetry still has appallingly flat hair. Maybe the detail shot of the curls on the far right side is her after using the curlers and hot air dryer, and she’s just being eaten alive by her new bouncy hair.

They still make bras that look exactly like this, down to the horrible thick seam in the middle of the cups (so discreet!) and the polyester lace. Just looking at it gives me the itches.

“Only one girl in a thousand is perfect” — Bureau of Underwire Bra Research Statistics, 1970

Holy moly, it’s a woman of color! Not being a servant!

I had to check the Ladies’ Home Journal 1975 thread from a few weeks back to see if these were the same models modeling the same ugly poofy white blouses and, somewhat disappointingly, they were not. Fun fact: this polyester is the same resin compound used in the manufacture of plastic water bottles! Feel the luxury!

You know it’s a party when this lady shows up with a bottle of Party Tyme.


Probably the only time you will ever see a straight-faced, perfectly earnest and sincere recipe for fruitcake. Those emerald-green candied cherries are a must – and oh my, look at how sherry is just listed as just “however much you damn well feel like”.

Silly 2017 me initially assumed that this article would be something like stress management techniques for getting through the holiday season – nope! It’s about making sure you eat your carrot sticks and crash diet before Thanksgiving so that you can keep your trim figure!

The ad copy for this popcorn maker is making me really uncomfortable.


Welcome to an age where decorating your house for Christmas had the serious potential to kill you and your family. Did you know that there’s a formula for putting lights up on a tree where (W * H) * 3 = amount of bulbs?


Um…wow. I have so many thoughts about this.

  • If you’re unclear on what mansplaining is, this is about as perfect an example as it gets.
  • Men really really latched on to that “the caveman did the hunting while the women cleaned the cave” bullshit, didn’t they?
  • If a woman’s entire self worth is dependent on the cleanliness of her floor, THIS IS NOT SOMETHING TO BE UPHELD AS A TENET OF SOCIETY.

Well, there goes my ever eating a salad again.

Women’s lib in action – “work that garden, boy”.

Adorkable, 1971 style.

Something about this just screams “get rid of all the crap you’ve had sitting in your pantry for two years and put some sprinkles on it, serve it to people you don’t like”

Occasionally an ad will come along where I remember to be thankful for things I take for granted today, such as “deodorant that doesn’t burn the skin off your armpits”.

I think they still make some of these toys today, or at least up to the 80s, since I had a blue and yellow version of the airplane. That record player looks super cool.


God knows I can’t resist an editorial that invokes the “glamorous bitch with a fluffy cat sidekick” fantasy. Because this is McCall’s, these are all clothes that you can make from McCall’s patterns, which is pretty cool.

“Makeup is bold for the first time since the 1940s!” right, because the 50s and 60s were so…subdued.

Holiday food in the 70s looked very…slimy. The crystal bell looks rather sinister, doesn’t it? Like it was knocked over by a frantic arm as the dinner party writhed around on the table in the throes of arsenic poisoning.

Just throw some random curtain tassels on your head! Why not wear one like a necktie? It’s so Picasso! So Japanese! Extraavagaaaanza!

I don’t know what this style of illustration is called, or if there was one artist who pioneered it, but I love it.

Fruitcake and crackers with squeezey cheese, for all your key parties!

You know you’ve been looking at too many vintage magazines when the ads for precooked sausages are virtually indistinguishable from cigarette ads.

The dead eyes of the watchful child demand more things embellished with green cherries.

Apologies for the blurriness, but I think her expression is more than clear here as to the subtext. God damn, do I need to track down “Man-pleasing Recipes” or what?

Thanks for putting up with me, honey, here’s some scotch to drown out reminders of my existence.

It’s a good thing that polyester is flame resistant!

Writing from M.F.K. Fisher and some truly hideous shoes, both of which soothe my soul in these worrying times.

From a piece by the fabulous Cecil Beaton on his relationship with Greta Garbo. This needs to be read in a dressing room off stage somewhere, with a long cigarette holder in one hand and an ever-swirling wine glass in the other, by someone in a marabou-trimmed bathrobe.

Zest claimed that it wasn’t soap because it didn’t leave behind soap scum. Get over yourself, Zest. Leave the divatude to Cecil and Greta up there. You’re soap.

Gwendolyn Brooks! Featuring a not exclusively white perspective on something for once!

The willingness of this magazine to both feature articles about how a woman’s essential duty is to be a housewife AND run advertisements for birth control creams leaves me very confused.

Diamonds, mink earrings, and toilets! All these things can be yours in the McCall’s Mail-Away Shop!

What’s your favorite? I’m a “Round-The-Clock” girl.

Whatever Mommy Wants.

For once, not a feminine hygiene product.


Happy holidays, everyone! Next week I’m wrapping up The Cosmopolitan from 1900 to usher in the new year, featuring ads for Victorian opium and morphine rehab and some completely incomprehensible political cartoons!