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A dissertation presented to the Department of Architecture, Oxford Brookes University in part fulfilment of the regulations for BA Interior Architecture: Design and Practice

Statement of Originality This dissertation is an original piece of work which is made available for copying with permission of the Head of the Department of Architecture



An examination of the gender-specific references that underpin the design, marketing and aestheticisation of the late 1960s hostess trolley as a cultural icon of progression versus exploitation



‘Women are treated not as women, but as commodified images of women, decorative, seductive accoutrements to help sell a product.....I am arguing that in the culture of late capitalism, dominated as it is by patriarchy, women are particularly susceptible to being exploited by the forces of commodification.’ (Leach, 1996 p.195)

Figure 1 1961 This American advertising image demonstrates the aestheticisation of the housewife

In 1960s Britain, the advertising industry over-used images of housewives that unrealistically represented women as beings of personified perfection. The image of the housewife became aestheticised: a process by which the excessive use of often misrepresentative, yet highly regarded aesthetics, resulted in the production of information that contained increasingly little meaning. Appliance adverts, in particular, frequently depicted the role of the housewife as being fictitiously glamorous and desirable, ignoring the true realities of domestic labour. As a result of this aestheticisation, the housewife was expected to achieve and maintain unrealistic standards of idealised domesticity. Since the early 20th century, when the introduction and marketing of the household appliance symbolised, for many, the abolition of drudgery, the widespread distribution of refrigerators, ovens and washing machines revolutionised domestic life. These pioneering appliances positively impacted on labourintensive housework rituals. As Ruth Schwartz Cowan notes, the ‘possession of an electric washing machine meant that a “decent” housewife could do her wash at home and by herself without undue drudgery’ (1983, p.174). It was recommended that the increasing availability of electricity for use within the home facilitated the rise in popularity of the appliance. Electric appliances were widely believed to improve household cleanliness and, hence, ameliorate personal health. There was also evidence to suggest that domestic standards of living were rising, at least for those who could afford to buy and run appliances. At the same time, however, the dwindling presence of the servant in middle-upper class British households meant that many women who were used to living the high life were forced, by changes in economic and social circumstances, to complete household chores. As Adrian Forty describes, women who were now required to complete domestic chores wanted to ‘distinguish housework from a servant’s work in order not to be degraded by it’ (1986, p.209). Appliance marketers demonstrated their understanding of this need by cleverly marketing the electric appliance as the replacement of the domestic servant. The wife, it was advertised, merely orchestrated the performance of chores: whether appliances or servants were used to complete the actual task was of little consequence to the housewife. This particularly persuasive ideal encouraged the belief that all chores previously


completed by servants could be taken over by electricity, an exciting theory that new housewives could use to excuse themselves from a role they considered shameful. Forty (1986, p.209), however, easily recognises the faults of this absurd theory:

‘It hardly needs to be said that appliances and servants are not interchangeable, since a large part of domestic work in cooking, cleaning and childcare consists of tasks that cannot be automated.’

By overlooking and obscuring this obvious truth, misleading advertising imagery presented appliances as clever, robotic machines that could provide total task automation. Women believed what they wanted to believe by listening to the dream-come-true claims made by advertisers and responded by buying into the ideal. The electrification of the household had begun. By the 1960s, manufacturers of standard domestic appliances such as fridges and cookers had begun to realise that the near-saturated market needed a revamp in order to maintain the impressive sales figures recorded in the previous decades. The post-war optimism, affluence, confidence and prosperity that characterised the 1960s encouraged appliance inventors and manufacturers to maintain productivity in order to feed their growing market. The variety and sheer quantity of entrepreneurial kitchen gadgets available on the market increased exponentially as appliance designers expanded their ideas. Often, these new designs wandered into slightly eccentric realms, yet manufacturers continued overleaf

Figure 2 1928 Electricity was promoted as a clean, hygienic fuel


remained confident that the British public would be keen to snap up the latest time-saving gadgets. Fashionable new necessities were advertised and invented for the housewife: small kitchen appliances such as electric carving knives, can openers, toaster ovens and drink mixers. More eclectic items included timercontrolled, foldaway rotisserie ovens, table-top cookers for dining rooms, automatic egg boilers and even automatic tea-makers, appliances that could wake up users, by alarm, to a freshly brewed pot of tea. Housewives’ attraction to owning kitchen gadgets with which they had previously managed without, is explained by image rather than need. Since they were exposed to imagery that aestheticised their own role, housewives, motivated by jealousy and competition, put greater expectations on their own ability to achieve domestic perfection. Women were fooled by advertising strategies that obscured the actualities of domestic life by exaggerating the extent to which the appliance takes over the housework. As a result, many British housewives, under the influence of ad aesthetics, purchased any invention that claimed to boost their success. By buying and using these advertised appliances, women were keen to believe that they had undergone

a transformation from housewife to hostess: an incontrol, immaculately dressed female who, since she no longer had to complete time-consuming and laborious housework, was free to spend her time entertaining. On spotting this emerging trend, appliance advertisers designed the first electrically heated serving trolley, or the ‘hostess trolley’. The hostess trolley allowed for food prepared, boiled, fried or baked in advance to maintain it’s just-cooked quality for hours. It was marketed as an entertaining wife’s accomplice, an electric aid to be use primarily during the hosting of social gatherings. The device responded to a rise in popularity of throwing dinner parties, cocktail parties and lunches, culturally sophisticated events that encouraged social relations between friends, neighbours, family members or colleagues. The dinner party itself, as an event designed to represent and exemplify class, showcased a wife’s poise and elegance as a being of sociality, or a hostess, rather than as a domestic labourer. The nature of the party’s occasion and the numbers and identities of guests all affected the amount of pressure put on the hostess to throw a party that was deemed successful. The significance of the dinner party as a presentation of personal and domestic victory meant that the hostess was subjected to undue scrutiny and overwhelming levels of pressure. It was claimed by manufacturers that the high standards of performance now expected of the hostess could be achieved if a heated serving trolley was used. It was also declared that, with the ownership of a heated trolley, hosting and entertaining would no longer be stressful or nerve-wracking experiences. Advertising argued that, rather than being preoccupied with the catering and other practical issues, wives would be able to participate actively in the dinner party. Advantageously, the trolley provided the hostess with plenty of ‘free’ time in which other chores could be completed before the party commenced.

Figure 3 1968 Warmett advert for it’s basic hostess trolley

Significantly, the hostess trolley provided the housewife with an invitation out of the work environment of the kitchen and into the social realm of the dining room. The trolleys use in the dining room could impress guests by displaying the wife’s serving performance and culinary skill. By being seen to own and use a heated serving trolley, women hoped that they would be perceived by guests not as housewives, but as hostesses. Since designers and advertisers themselves manufactured this desire, it could be

argued that rather than being designed as a truly functional device, the hostess trolley was designed as a gadget that would feed wives’ addiction to appliances and aesthetics.


This dissertation will examine the domestic role of the hostess trolley and it’s position as a cultural icon of progression versus exploitation. It could be argued that the hostess trolley was merely an continued overleaf

Figure 4 1962 An example of an over-exaggerative appliance advert


Figure 5 Ideal Home Magazine Covers 1920-1967

instrument of deception that had been styled to seduce the housewife and distract her from examining the realities of the tasks to be completed. Preparation, cooking and cleaning all surround the act of serving dinner, yet none of these chores are made any easier by using a hostess trolley. The role of the hostess trolley as a device of marketed social and functional advantage will be questioned. The references to gender that underpin the use, design and marketing of the hostess trolley are to be examined against the following criteria: electric culture, domestic settings and ideologies, serving and serve-ware, hosting versus hostessing and entertaining and performance. These criteria will be explored by looking at the initial advertising imagery and text used to describe and sell some of the first hostess trolleys as publicised in the British ‘Ideal Home’magazine between 1967 and 1970. The unwavering popularity of ‘Ideal Home’ magazine amongst British housewives in the 1960s and 1970s marked it’s significance as a culturally influential publication that dictated household trends employed by women in their own ideal homes. Though joined by a ‘plethora of new and expanding women’s and home-oriented magazines’ (Clarke, 1996, p.69), Ideal Home, first published in the 1920s, remained an original, constant source of domestic inspira-

tion for the housewife-come-hostess. Monthly journals and magazines populated the coffee tables of stay-at-home wives and mothers with external publications that featured new influences, ideas and imagery. As a key women’s magazine, Ideal Home had a large role to play in the advertisement of kitchen appliances and the introduction of the hostess trolley to the housewife. Throughout this dissertation, the advertisements for both Ekco and Salton Hotray heated serving trolleys, as published in the late 1960s editions of Ideal Home magazine, will be closely examined. These advertisements will form the basis of the dissertation by providing the key material needed to generate ideas and arguments about the cultural cameo played by the hostess trolley. By analysing the circumstances into which this rather unusual appliance was born, and by aiming to understand the socio-cultural changes it’s introduction may have triggered, this dissertation intends to form new advertising analyses and raise original topics for discussion in the literary forum of gender-based design. Both the so-called appliance boom and, in particular, the successes of the American appliance industry in the 1950s, have been written about at length in relation to design, culture and gender. Conversely, this dissertation focuses on the socio-cultural setting of the late 1960s and 1970s British appliance industry. Assessing the design and advertising techniques used to describe a product that, at first, may seem quite mundane, can provide insightful cultural clues about the characteristics of its target market. The hostess trolley is a good example of product design that responds to cultural ideologies and, therefore, manages to acknowledge and exploit the weaknesses, flaws and strengths of it’s consumers to it’s own advantage. Importantly, this dissertation will provide the first formal

Figure 6 1967 A selection of small appliances

analysis of the hostess trolley as both a cultural icon of domesticity and as a design response to the gender-defined roles enacted by the British public. Throughout the

Figure 7 Advertisements for electricity continued to be published in the 1940s

8 dissertation, the aestheticisation of the hostess and the gender-specific, exploitative nature of the appliance industry and its marketing strategies will be exposed.

Figure 8 1962 Advertisement for a toaster that, rather boldy, claims it can provide for any sized family


Figure 9

1969 Salton Hotray advert

Don’t-Do-It-Yourself In November 1967, ‘Ideal Home’ Magazine first featured an advert for a Salton Hotray, an appliance sold by Salton Incorporated, that claimed to transform the average housewife into the perfect hostess. It was designed to address the timing-related cookery problems that frequently arose whilst hosting dinner parties. The Salton Hotray’s ‘thermostatically controlled radiant heat panel’ (Unknown, 1967) claimed to keep perfectly cooked food in a ‘state of suspended animation’ (Unknown, 1967) and it was joked ‘if that sounds a bit of a mouthful, it’s a whole lot better than a mouthful of ruined food’ (Unknown, 1969c). Using a Salton Hotray meant that the hostess could completely prepare dinner in advance of guests’ arrival and that she need not stress to ensure that every component of the meal was cooked to completion simultaneously. The Hotray’s advantages were deemed ‘apparent to anybody with a wedding or Christmas present problem’ and ‘obvious to anybody whose meat sometimes cooked before the vegetables’, or ‘whose guests aren’t always on time’ (Unknown, 1969c). Other advantages included having more time to dress and to lay the table before guests arrived, and being able to welcome and entertain them sociably when they did.


saving processes. It instead presents itself as a sort of cookery time-machine, where food can hang in the same state of perfection for several hours as if no time had passed at all. Instead of reducing the labour and time involved in the preparation of dinner parties, the Salton Hotray soothed emotional stresses and worries connected with entertaining and could thus improve sociability. The functionality of the Salton Hotray meant that the hostess’s food related worries could be effectively relieved, leaving her free to enjoy hosting the party. The electrically charged jargon used in Salton Hotray ads, when collaborated with colloquially sympathetic, problem-solving persuasions, convinces the reader that a Salton Hotray can dispel worries that a hostess may never have even realised she had. The Salton Hotray was born into a developing culture of domestic reliance on kitchen gadgetry. The essential core of appliance design in the 1960s and continued overleaf

The Salton Hotray seemed to resolve a host of practical, functional and social dilemmas, yet it could be argued that it actually aided the hostess very little in her preparation. The Salton Hotray did not speed up or take over chores and tasks, nor did it reduce cooking time. It’s use simply meant that the cooking could both start and finish earlier on in the day. The Salton Hotray did not help to chop, to mix, to blend, to roast, to present food, to arrange cutlery, to pour drinks, to dish up food or to clean up. Effectively, it did nothing. Even Salton Inc. themselves playfully acknowledge this in one of their adverts: ‘Leave a perfectly cooked meal on a Salton Hotray for an hour or so, and what happens? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.’ (Unknown, 1969c) Whilst ‘nothing’ is the desirable consequence, the admission openly announces the Hotray’s lack of preparative aid, labour-saving functions and time-

Figure 10 1967 Salton Hotray advert


1970s was the cultural motto ‘Don’t-Do-It-Yourself’. The electric automation of chores was a subject popular in many magazines aimed at women at the time, with one such article, ‘Helping Yourself’ published in the January 1967 Ideal Home magazine, introducing to its readers eighteen new appliances available on the market. The article praised this new collection of novel inventions to include the Moulinex motor powered vegetable peeler, the Ronson mains powered shoe polisher and the Moulinex electric mincer/grater. The anonymous author recognised the growing importance of owning fast, accurate and easy to use appliances and thus discouraged readers from purchasing ‘all-in-one’ appliances whose multiple functions could be time consuming or irritating to switch between:

Figure 11 1968 Illustrations of various small kitchen appliances

‘The electric can-opener’s appeal is speed and immediacy: not many can be bothered to change over attachments on a mixer to open just one tin with an opener attachment.’ (Anon., 1967, p.90)

Figure 12 1967 ‘all-in-one’ Westinghouse blender advert

The article’s author does point out that although owning individual appliances ensures that each task can be carried out with optimum ease, the shortage of kitchen sockets in which to plug such devices is ‘hindering (their) popularity’ (Anon., 1967, p.90). The author moans that ‘it is frustrating to have labour-saving aids queuing for a turn at a single socket’ (Anon., 1967, p.90) and names M.E.M, Brydor or Volex multi-socket extension plugs as the must-have gadgets available to solve this dilemma. The article itself is a representation of the nation’s incessant desire for total domestic automation and of the cultural indolence that resulted as a consequence from over-reliance on electric appliances. Another article, ‘Extending Your Kitchen Range’ by Wendy Jones published in the December 1968 issue of Ideal Home magazine, looks at some of the latest electric cookery equipment available in stores. This article compares traditional chore completion procedures with improved electric appliance enabled methods, placing emphasis on new or combined functions and on automation. Although varying in function, each appliance mentioned boasts an electric automation of some kind: electric toasters make turning bread under the grill obsolete, kettles switch themselves off automatically once boiled, blenders could now whisk instead of beat when required and thermostatically controlled plug-in frying pans ensure that fried food is never burnt. The language used to describe the kitchen gadgets is

often technically charged and persuasive, yet Jones still manages to relate to the female readers by punctuating these descriptions, such as that of the infra red grills’ ‘intense black heat’ (Jones, 1968, p.98), with domestic conversational language. By acknowledging that ‘the electric slicing knife looks lethal and needs courage to use’ (Jones, 1968, p.102) and suggesting that readers could ‘budget to add one of the attachments (of expensive food processors) each year’ (Jones, 1968, p.102), the author demonstrates


Figure 13 1962 Appliance illustrations from a Ladies’ Home Journal feature

her understanding of women’s needs and concerns. These articles, mimicking common appliance advertisements, sell a dream that for any domestic problem, be it functional or social, an electric gadget of some kind will no doubt be available to solve

it. The Salton Hotray builds further evidence in the case for this marketed ‘Don’t-Do-It-Yourself’ ideal. Perhaps though, the ideal itself is merely a dream. continued overleaf


It could be argued that the over-aestheticised imagery and the exciting buzzwords featured in appliance advertisements often completely exaggerate the extent to which an electric device can take over and complete chores. The truths associated with using electric appliances can be revealed when this aestheticised surface is scratched away. On closer inspection, these appliances might be expensive to purchase, maintain or run. They may require a complex set up procedure or an extensive read of instruction manuals before use. Appliances might require other chores, such as cutting or peeling food, to be completed prior to use. Appliances may also be tricky or time consuming to clean and they may become easily stuck, blocked or broken. Appliances such as electric knives and hot plates may even be hazardous to use. Unsurprisingly, such details fail to get a mention in appliance advertisements. It might even be found that by the time the appliance is purchased, set up, understood, used, washed and put away, it may have just been quicker to peel the potatoes or to carve the meat by hand. Advertisements often boasted that appliances would reduce the time it takes to complete a chore and repeatedly sold the idea that electric gadgets ‘could turn housework from laborious drudgery into a few minutes’ pleasure’ (Forty, 1986, p.208). In his text ‘Objects of Desire: Design and Society 1750-1980’ Adrian Forty writes:

‘The willingness of rational people to believe that appliances could remove work from the home was made possible only through a whole set of ideologies about housework, and to a large extent it was domestic appliance design that was responsible for making housework seem what it was said to be.’

More aesthetically pleasing ornaments than revoFigure 14

1967 Rotisserie oven and grill

Figure 15

Peugeot can opener

lutionarily useful products, electric appliances managed to disguise themselves as replacements for domestic servants. Perceived time and labour savings made in the home by using appliances and machines encouraged heightened expectations and a rise in household standards. The housewife still had to complete the same chores as before but, presumably, she could work with greater ease, speed and accuracy. Washer -dryers meant that bed clothes could be changed and washed much more frequently, carpets could be vacuumed everyday and more complex meals could now be served not just on special occasions, but throughout the week too. Huge pressures were placed on women to achieve domestically. With hostess trolleys and heated side trays such as the Salton Hotray, even the simple serving of food could effectively become error and stress-free. In fact, it was often found that time-saving devices (should they actually produce any savings of time) only freed up extra time in which the housewife could complete more chores. Despite advertisers claims of automation for household devices in the 1960s and 1970s, the slogan at the core of product design, ‘Don’t-Do-It-Yourself’, manages to misrepresent the domestic lifestyle of the housewife. The over-optimistic expectation that such products would automatically improve standards of living meant that women were, rather disadvantageously, required to live and work in a ‘Do-It-(All)-Yourself’ manner.

Electrified Utopias


‘I am prepared for a total debacle. I am convinced that (a) the guests will have forgotten the night or will, conversely, all arrive before I am dressed; (b) people will hate one another on sight; .... (d) the mousse will be a failure; (e) i must have been out of my mind ever to issue invitations in the first place’ (McGinley, 1962, p.30)

In April 1969, British ‘Ideal Home’ magazine first featured an advert for a heated serving trolley, the Ekco Hostess Royale, an electric life-saver for the stressed dinner party hostess. The ad accurately describes the Hostess Royale’s ‘rich dark-bronze cabinet’, it’s ‘afrormosia handles’, it’s ‘4 two-pint dishes’ and it’s ‘smooth running castors (Unknown, 1969a). However, the Hostess Royale had more to offer than a tidy aesthetic and functional design: it had a social role to play in the release of the housewife from the bounds of

Figure 16

the kitchen. The functionality of the trolley as a ‘freezetime’ device meant that culinary preparation could take place hours before the serving of dinner, ‘leaving you free to entertain your guests’ (Unknown,1969a). The hostess no longer had to spend the evening dashing from the dining room to the kitchen to check that the pie hadn’t burnt or to discover that the vegetables had overcooked whilst she had continued overleaf

It was claimed that hostess trolleys enabled women to spend more time in the dining room with guests


Figure 17

1969 Ekco Hostess Royale advert

fixed drinks for guests. The hostess could simply relax and enjoy her visitors’ company knowing that dinner was piping hot and ready to serve when she so desired. The Hostess Royale provided the housewife with an invitation to her own party by allowing her to concentrate on entertaining guests rather than concentrating on the cooking. When the hostess was ready to serve dinner, she could simply produce dinner plates and each course of the meal from a different compartment of the heated trolley. The Hostess Royale allowed the housewife to fully prepare dinner for eight people up to four hours in advance, during which time she would be able to clean the kitchen, tidy the house and dress beautifully for dinner. It could be argued that, like many electric appliances before it, the hostess trolley raised the expected standards of culinary skill, of domestic cleanliness and of the housewife’s own appearance. Owning a Hostess Royale benefited not only the housewife, but her husband too. The hostess was now free to relieve her husband of his dinner time duties of hosting conversation and serving drinks, leaving him free to sit back and enjoy the evening. Husbands of Hostess-Royale-owning wives would also receive other benefits: Ekco advertisements encouraged female readers, ‘you’ll use it every day to entertain your husband as you would your guests’ (Unknown, 1969a). The Ekco model was deemed ‘perfect for busy husbands with uncertain mealtimes’ (Unknown, 1969a) and so gave men the freedom to stay out as late as they liked without ever having to return home to a ruined meal. Importantly, hostess trolleys did not only represent freedoms of a specifically social nature for housewives and husbands. Optimistically designed as electrical warriors in the battle against drudgery, household appliances also represented an escape from manual labour for the British housewife. Previously, vacuum cleaners had freed homeowners from living on dusty and unhealthy carpets and washing machines had freed women from manually washing clothes in dirty suds. The heated serving trolley removed the worries of the hostess by relaxing the pressures of entertaining and, as an added bonus, freed her husband from having to return home at a precise time for dinner. Even small, novel kitchen appliances such as drink stirrers represented the provision of some miniature freedom. Reyner Banham, in his text ‘Household Godjets’ argues that domestic appliances are merely

‘abstract sculptures symbolizing the abolition of household drudgery’ (1970, p.164). He goes on to say:


‘Mechanically idle for most of their life, domestic appliances must, of necessity, be more symbolic than anything else. What they symbolize is a kind of mastery (tut! mistressy) over the domestic environment...’ (Banham, 1970, p.165) Banham, arguably correctly, believes that appliances represent, rather than provide, freedom from drudgery. Owning domestic appliances indicates the development of ‘mistressy’ (Banham, 1970, p.165) over the orchestration of housework, rather than the abolition of housework altogether. Like other electric aids, the hostess trolley provides for it’s owners a convincing aesthetic symbol of the escape from drudgery. Since the hostess trolley allowed for food to be cooked well in advance of the their arrival, guests would not be aware of any of the meal’s preparation taking place. For the guests, the only evidence that any continued overleaf Figure 18 Woman serving guests at her dinner party

Figure 19 Hostess clearing her guests’ plates


culinary preparation had taken place at all would be the presentation of a perfectly cooked meal, served, as if by magic, from the compartments of the hostess trolley. The ownership of a hostess trolley also managed to trigger a slight progressive social shift in the role women played in the hosting of household entertainment. During a dinner party, the trolley allows the housewife to play the role of the ‘entertainer’ and the role of the ‘hostess’, instead of the more traditionally played roles of the ‘cook’ and the ‘waitress’. These glamorous new positions not only invite the housewife to participate in the conversation of the party but seem to heighten her social status. By owning an electrically heated serving trolley, the housewife can become a sociable and elegant hostess who is completely in control of the party. This image provides a stark contrast to the common dinner parties that McGinley describes as ‘crowded, noisy and frenetic, they spoil your appetite for dinner, strain your larynx, and hide you from your hostess’ (1962, p.72). It would seem then, that it is of the utmost importance that the hostess is entirely present at her own party in order to control the order and the ambience, and to converse with those whom she has invited. Since the hostess-trolley-owning wife has no need to base herself in the kitchen during the party, it can be assumed that she will be available to entertain her visitors accordingly, thus satisfying her own needs and the needs of her dinner guests. Despite the new-found freedoms and social benefits gained from the it’s use, the hostess trolley managed to represent a progression of exploitative sorts. The well publicised advantages associated with the use of the heated appliance overshadowed the realities of the overwhelming pressure now faced by the hostess. The hostess trolley had been introduced to the housewife as the final piece of the electric-kitchen-appliance puzzle: she no longer had any excuses for culinary failure. Heightened expectations of the hostess’s ability to serve a delicious meal meant that any imperfections in the food, or the way in which it was served, would be noted. Despite being the sole operator of the hostess trolley, the housewife did not dictate the working effects it had on her household, the domestic ideology to which it gave expectation, or any sociocultural transformations it symbolised. The housewife did not control, but rather was controlled by, the domestic aesthetic of her very own electrified utopia.

Figure 20 It was claimed that women would spend less time in the kitchen

Figure 21 1970 Ekco heated serving tray, another product in the Hostess range

The Housetess


‘By the 1940s the notion of the ‘hostess’, rather than the mere housewife or homemaker, transformed the definitions of women’s domestic labor. The term ‘hostess’ inferred entertainment, conviviality, and increased consumption...The hostess replaced the ideal of the thrifty housewife...with a glamorous but equally resourceful woman geared to home entertainment and fashionable but informal gestures of hospitality’ (Clarke, 1999, p.68)

Both the overwhelming domestic pressures and the ‘Do-It-(All)-Yourself’ situations faced by the British housewife in the 1960s, only mirrored those that had confronted the American housewife since the post-war Depression. Clarke points out that the term ‘hostess’ was invented to satisfy the increasingly apparent need to manufacture a new, fashionable role for the lady of the home. But, while many housewives aspired to adopt this glamorous new identity, the floors still had to be mopped, the bathroom still had to be cleaned and lunches and dinners still had to be prepared. The role of the hostess was only a replacement for that of the housewife when considered aesthetically: women were to complete tasks associated with both roles simultaneously, whilst presenting themselves as fashionable hostesses. Although widely advertised to provide a take-over of domestic chores, the extent to which the electric appliance managed this, and therefore it’s ability to replace the housewife, is arguable. As a result, women were expected to manage both the role of the housewife and the role of the hostess collaboratively, undergoing a transformation from ‘housewife’ to ‘housetess’. By undertaking the role of the ‘housetess’, women had to cope with double the work and double the pressure, yet had only half the time they once had to spend with their husbands and families. As can be seen in the Hostess Royale heated serving trolley advertisement published in the November 1969 edition of ‘Ideal Home’ magazine, this realisation was used to the advantage of Ekco-Hawkins Limited. Although published in a magazine predominantly read by women, the advertisement was written for a male audience. The ad was presumably designed to be read by women and then

left to be seen by their husbands, a helpful and hopeful hint in the run-up to Christmas. Any husband that happened to notice this would first read the hook ‘A free wife with every hostess’ (Unknown, 1969b), continued overleaf Figure 22 1962 An elegant hostess happily serving food


before learning that the purchase of a Hostess Royale would enable his wife to spend more time with him. The homonymous nature of the word ‘free’ can be interpreted to describe the wife as either being excused from her former duties or as a complimentary extra included with the purchase. By treating the roles of the ‘hostess’ and the ‘wife’ separately, Ekco-Hawkins Ltd. have further demonstrated their ability to manipulate language to their own advantage. By using the term ‘Hostess’ to personify the trolley rather than describe the wife, Ekco-Hawkins Ltd. imply that duties associated with hosting can now be the responsibility of the Hostess Royale. The advertisement assigns the role of the ‘hostess’ to the Hostess Royale, enabling the wife to play the role of the ‘housewife’. Inaccurately representative and over-exaggerative of the trolleys ability to fulfil the role, the ad’s implied personification of the Hostess Royale suggests it’s likeness to a domestic servant. The reality of the situation is revealed when the actual benefits gained from using a hostess trolley are considered. Since it has been suggested that the hostess trolley symbolised, rather than provided domestic freedoms and eased emotional tension rather than aided preparation, it can surely be suggested that the advertised claim for the ‘free wife’ (1969b) made by Ekco-Hawkins Ltd. was indeed false. The characterisation of the female hostess and her optimistic and sociable personality appealed to advertisers. Influentially, American and later British appliance advertisements, replaced the ideal of the frugal housewife with that of the charismatic hostess. The hostess was an attractive, cordial wife, an economical cook, a successful party-giver and an intelligent customer: for marketers she was ideal as the new face of consumerism. Although many brands used the aesthetic of a hostess to advertise their products, the ‘Tupperware’ brand took this marketing strategy to a whole new level.

Figure 23 1969 Ekco advert

Clarke explains that Tupperware was famed for it’s production of a ‘genuinely unique, and innovative alternative to traditional methods of food storage and presentation’ (1999, p.54). Despite being on sale in America throughout the 1940s, it wasn’t until 1951 that Tupperware finally realised it’s full potential as a functional, practical household necessity and as an aesthetic icon of domesticity for the mid-1900’s. Previously available ‘off-the-shelf’ or to order from catalogues, the 1951 Tupperware

Party Plan Scheme revolutionised the way in which Tupperware was advertised and sold to real people. The Tupperware Party Plan Scheme sought out the real-life hostess, instead of using a fictitious character, and ‘proved the ideal vehicle for introducing unfamiliar products to the cautious homemaker’ (Clarke, 1999, p.82) The scheme saw women throwing parties, to which they would invite their own neighbours and friends, in order to offer guests the chance to purchase the very vessels from which their sandwiches and drinks had been served. A spokesperson from Tupperware would be present to demonstrate the practicality of the products to those invited, and the hostess would receive free gifts based on the number of sales made. Importantly, the Tupperware party showcased the products being used in a real-life, social setting, a strategy that proved most cost-effective and successful. It was it’s method of distribution and the style of interpersonal marketing tactics that finally made Tupperware a household name in the U.S.A., and later, in the United Kingdom. Sociologist Rex Taylor, however, describes Tupperware’s sales strategy as ‘a form of organizational parasitism’ (1978, p.574) that exploited women by taking advantage of their social circles and domestic situation in order to sell their products. Whilst Taylor’s argument could be seen to contain

Figure 24 1958 Tupperware promotion


some element of the truth, the ability of the Party Plan Scheme to infiltrate the domestic environment and directly empathise with the needs of the reallife hostess meant that Tupperware presented itself not as an exploitative company, but as a friendly ally. Expanding this notion, Clarke argues that:

‘Tupperware corporate culture offered an alternative to the patriarchal structure of conventional sales structures, which many women, completely alienated from the conventional workplace, wholeheartedly embraced’ (1999, p.5)

Since it’s word was primarily, and voluntarily, spread by female members of social networks, Tupperware appeared to put women in control. Female customers who decided to host Tupperware parties could provide a real-life advertisement for the brand and an authentication of it’s claims, both of which would help to earn the consumers’ trust. Unlike the formal marketing strategies used by the advertisers of hostess trolleys, the Party Plan Scheme enabled Tupperware to relate to the consumer at a personal level and in real terms. Learning when and where the invite-only Tupperware parties were taking place continued overleaf

Figure 25 1958 Tupperware party


was considered privileged information, passed around like a secret by women in-the-know. Since product demonstrations and ‘try-before-you-buy’ consumer testing could eliminate any apprehensions felt about new, unfamiliar products, hostess trolley manufacturers could have perhaps benefited from implementing a more personal approach to sales. Both the Tupperware range and the hostess trolley managed to appeal to the hostess and the housewife. Whilst the heated trolley’s primary function was to cater for the hostess by providing a platform from which hot, previously prepared food could be served during dinner parties, it could also aid the housewife in the daily serving of meals for her family. For the housewife, Tupperware provided injection moulded, airtight containers that could be used for storing uncooked food or leftovers and for mixing ingredients. The hostess was provided with a variety of fashionable, streamlined containers from which she could serve canapés, salads or even cocktails. It could be argued that the Tupperware brand fully equipped women with the tools needed to fulfil their domestic Figure 26 Smartly dressed 1960s housetesses, stood in an immaculately tidy dining room

responsibilities and thus, further propelled them into their new, all-encompassing roles as housetesses. Both Tupperware and Ekco-Hawkins Ltd. highlighted their products’ potential as gifts and, in particular, emphasised the need for the bride-to-be, or the housetess-to-be, to receive their products as wedding presents. The idea of giving ‘gifts’ that, at best, aid domestic work and, at worst, exploit, control and overwhelm their recipients, clearly demonstrates the attempts made by advertisers to trigger a social strive for domestic perfection, regardless of the emotional consequences this had for women. Since Tupperware products are neither electrically nor mechanically operated domestic machines, they cannot rightfully be called ‘appliances’. Despite this, Tupperware containers, unlike hostess trolleys, have proved their success by demonstrating their staying-power in both the American and the British market. In a period of time that advertised electricity as the ‘fuel of the future’ (Forty, 1986, p.190) it is significant that, regardless of their lack of need for electrical power, Tupperware’s household containers achieved popularity. Tupperware’s eventual success reaffirmed the importance of design simplicity and of the designer’s response to real needs. Tupperware discovered for itself how crucial the use of interpersonal advertising and sales strategies were in gaining the trust of the customer. Many eccentric, electric appliances designed throughout the era proved to be either a novelty or a fad, rather than innovative ‘can’t-live-withoutthem’ kitchen aids. Whereas the hostess trolley, with it’s distinct lack of chore-reducing advantages, perhaps falls into the former category, Tupperware, with it’s ability to solve the real, everyday problems faced by the housetess, certainly belongs in the latter. Ironically, it could be argued that advertis ers’ obsession for promoting electrical power and automation above all else often caused appliance designers to overlook the true needs of the housetess, even though the appliance industry itself had created this new role of enhanced domesticity for women. In the 1960s, British appliance advertisements were unrelenting in their use of the immaculately polished hostess to sell electric household gadgets. Not only did these ads exaggerate the product’s capability of task automation: they also increased societal expectations of women’s achievability, both in terms

of housework and personal beauty. Adrian Forty (1986, p.210) notes on appliance advertisements:

‘the manufacturers’ illustrations of cookers, with ovens brimming with roasts, soufflés and other dishes while smartly dressed women stood idly by, suggested that these were magical cooking machines with the capacity to deliver ready-cooked meals by some process of immaculate conception.’

Due to embroidered advertising, women who were perceived as being well-equipped with electric appliances for their new roles were not provided for as thoroughly as they could have

Figure 27


hoped. Indeed, the ability of the heated serving trolley to aid the housetess in her work is questionable. It could be argued that although Tupperware had an undoubted ability to provide the housetess with a genuinely beneficial invention, the use of their products only expedited her surrender to the role. Alternatively, and perhaps more optimistically, it could be maintained that although women were forced to play this undesirable part, Tupperware provided them with a product that could actually alleviate some of the strain caused by increased workloads. Unfortunately for the housetess, the same sentiments could not realistically be used to describe the circumstances created by the hostess trolley.

New technology: plastics were introduced into the home


Talent Shows In December 1970, ‘Ideal Home’ magazine published another different advertisement for Ekco Hostess Appliances. This time, Ekco-Hawkins Limited describe their heated serving devices as ‘Gifts for an entertaining woman’ (1970), purposely choosing to describe it’s target consumer using a term synonymous with the word ‘hostess’. The desire to entertain was an essential character trait of the hostess as, unlike the traditional housewife, her primary concerns consisted of amusing and delighting her guests, rather than completing laborious domestic tasks. Since the hostess’s social and culinary skills could fall under scrutiny during a dinner party, she had to ensure that the meal was prepared well in advance of the occasion so that her attention could be turned towards her guests. Figure 28 Women could complete chores quickly in order to spend time conversing with guests

Hostess trolleys, it was claimed by Ekco-Hawkins Ltd.’s advertisements, were designed to solve this exact problem. Certainly, the hostess trolley did allow the wife and her culinary skill to become the centre of attention at various points throughout the dinner party. That a steaming hot meal could be served directly from an otherwise inanimate trolley would surely be seen as impressive, or perhaps, even as astonishing to those who had not previously known that such an invention existed. A somewhat eclectic appliance, the hostess trolley’s allowing of hot food to be served from within may have seemed unimaginable to guests unaware of current home fashions, especially if it had been presumed to be some mundane piece of dining room furniture, or had gone entirely unnoticed. The act of pushing the hostess trolley through from the kitchen into the dining room would undoubtedly attract the attention of guests hungrily anticipating the serving of the meal. The serving trolley provided the hostess with a stage upon which she could animate the food and the serving of courses in a novel manner, an act that, in itself, could amuse guests. Free from having to dash to the kitchen to fetch extra plates or helpings, the hostess was also more likely to be able to enjoy the meal herself and participate in the dinner-time conversation. Despite appearing to have fewer tasks to perform during the party, the hostess was undoubtedly still suffering from stress and experiencing what McGinley describes as, ‘nervous breakdowns in the kitchen’ (1962, p.72). The trolley-owning hostess was likely to experience stresses of an emotional sort, stress that related to the overwhelming pressure of entertaining her guests. It is also worth noting that the stress of preparing the party’s feast would not disappear simply because the cooking had taken place prior to the occasion’s commencement. Due to its use in both kitchen and dining areas, the hostess trolley could be described as an intermediary of these domestic spaces. In her thought-provoking essay, ‘Power Tool for the Dining Room: The Electric Carving Knife’, Ellen Lupton (1996, p.42) remarks, in a similar continued overleaf


Figure 29

1970 Ekco advert


way, upon the electric knife’s ability to inhabit space:

‘A transitional object that mediates between the interior, service space of the kitchen and the public, ceremonial space of the dining room, the electric knife belongs to a population of machines that play an ancillary role in the larger architecture of the domestic environment.’

Since it’s use can subtly determine how it’s user can both move through and utilise space, it could be suggested that the hostess trolley belongs to this group of architectural accessories. Their influential inhabitation of domestic architecture is not the only characteristic shared by the hostess trolley and the electric carving knife: both facilitate the performance of domestic rituals. Whilst the heated serving trolley aids the performance of the wife in her role as the waitress or hostess, the electric knife assists her husband in his ceremonial responsibility of the carving of the meat. Since British appliance advertisers would commonly target women as the primary consumers of kitchen-ware, Lupton points out the significance

of the electric knife as a ‘rare instance of a domestic appliance addressed to male users’ (1996, p.42). On considering the rather masculine knife’s invasion into the domestic realm of the housetess, advertisers suggested suitable uses of the device for women. The electric knife could either be used at the dining table by husbands who could effortlessly perform the carving of the roast turkey, or in the kitchen by women slicing loaves of fresh bread. Customarily, the carving of meat is a male, rather than a female, domestic performance, since it represents the final ‘kill’ of the meat. As traditionally exemplified, men would hunt the pheasant, women would cook the birds and then, by carving the meat, men would proudly demonstrate their ability to provide. In the 1960s however, it would have been more likely that the average British man would be tucking into meat bought (by his wife) from the local butchers or supermarket. Not only has the husband played no part in the obtaining, preparing or cooking of the meat, he now has a fancy, electric knife which can turn the formerly laborious, yet skilled, task of carving meat into a few minutes of fun with his new toy. So what, exactly, does his performance now demonstrate? To echo the words of Salton Incorporated, ‘Nothing. Absolutely nothing.’ (1967)

Figure 30 By using a hostess trolley, women could spend time setting dinner tables in decorative styles

26 The man’s ability to perform the task of carving without an electric device can be questioned in relation to perceived machismo: by turning any man into an expert carver, electric knives provided a cover for ‘weak’ men, whose hand slicing skills left little to be desired. Perhaps the hostess trolley provided similar cover for the weak hostess, whose failure to host successful parties or serve guests unaided could be symbolic of her failure as a female. If men who carve without an electric knife are considered to be more macho, and women who host without a heated trolley are considered to be more feminine, it could be argued that the use of electrical appliances in the home damages the gender-specific reputation of those using them. Lupton describes the electric knife as ‘an appliance whose sheer physical presence - it’s size, it’s weight, and sound - upstages the drama of the task at hand’ (1996, p.48). Indeed, when in use, the knife’s head-turning noise and somewhat dangerous appearance ensure that the performance cannot be missed. It could be argued that the man is well suited to his tool, since the arrogant nature of the electric knife’s carving dramatisation only mirrors that of the male desire to perform the task ceremoniously at the dinner table.

Figure 31 1967 Electric carving knife

In some circumstances, it would be likely that the husband would carve the roast at the same time as the wife would use her hostess trolley to serve potatoes and vegetables onto the plates of dinner guests. On such an occasion, it would be quite likely that the theatrical movement and sound of the electric knife’s pantomime would completely overshadow the performance of the hostess. This upstaging is all the more probable when it is considered that attention is also likely to fall on the husband for his comparatively rare appearance in a domestic role, especially since his duty is to serve the meat, the meal’s main ingredient. In terms of the performance, the relative immobility and silence of the hostess trolley makes it appear lethargic, particularly when compared to the vivacious electric carving knife. In this battle for affection, the hostess trolley is offered little support by it’s rather angular and bulky design aesthetic. With no whirring blades to be seen or buzzing motors to be heard, the hostess trolley’s basic provision of heat is representative of an uncharacteristically mundane design approach taken by appliance manufacturers. It could be claimed

Figure 32 1970s Hostess using her trolley

continued overleaf


that, with its unimaginative design and lacklustre performance, were it not for it’s clumpy furniture, the hostess trolley would, altogether, be entirely invisible. Indeed, the dimensions of the hostess trolley, when compared to those of other domestic appliances designed in the 1960s, were excessively expansive. Despite its relative unimportance in the domestic setting, at approximately 700mm x 700mm x 400mm, the average hostess trolley is of a similar size to large, essential appliances like ovens or refrigerators. The rather grand size of the trolley sets it apart from the other, typically much smaller, superfluous kitchen appliances like blenders, mixers or electric knives. Unlike the hostess trolley, many of these bijou appliances (whether genuinely useful or not) could at least be considered to be charming, tactile devices. Perhaps, in order to produce an appealingly elegant, compact appliance, those involved in the design of the heated serving device should have considered the advice of the expression ‘good things come in small packages’. Culturally, the hostess trolley represents a carving knife for wives: it acts both as an intermediary tool Figure 33 1970s dinner party

Figure 34 1960s Dinner party food

between domestic spaces and as a platform from which to perform and entertain. Aesthetically, however, the hostess trolley’s active performance is not quite as dramatically impressive as that of the electric carving knife. Perhaps it’s vacant silence provides the hostess trolley with one advantage: by sitting inactively rather than demanding attention, the hostess trolley’s aesthetic and functional disappointments could be overlooked.


Figure 35

Although, when in use, the aggressive yet suave nature of the electric knife draws attention to the husband, the drama of the carving ceremony manages to conceal any lack of raw machismo that has resulted from over-reliance on electrical power.

1963 Electric knife advertised by G.E to men

It could be argued that, although, with it’s perceived automation of hosting, the heated trolley manages to provide cover for the amateur hostess, the insipid design of the device both undermines her performance and fails to draw acknowledgement to the tremendous stress associated with the role.



Evidently, the hostess trolley impacted more negatively than positively on the housewife. But, by distractedly gazing at seductive snapshots of aestheticised ad-images of the hostess and her serving trolley, many viewers failed to examine the appliance as a literal object. Since these sorts of aestheticised images distort truths, they cannot be considered factual in terms of content. Leach (1996, p.190), who here cites Gane (1991), details the consequences of object aestheticisation:

‘Objects become detached from their original complex cultural condition, and this condition promotes instead “a gaze which sweeps over objects without seeing in them anything other than their objectiveness”. As a consequence of this new objectivity, notions of depth, perspective and relief... are reduced.’ Leach blames the objectified nature of the gaze as engendering the process of aestheticisation. So, subjective gazes and thorough inspections can, theoretically, uncover the unaestheticised object in it’s true, uncorrupted form. By applying similar reasoning, the little-known realisation that the hostess trolley actually disadvantaged women can be discovered by undressing the appliance from it’s ad-aesthetics. By analysing marketed claims, removing preconceptions and understanding both the culture of domestic Britain and British ad-culture, the naked truths of the hostess trolley have been exposed. It has been revealed that the marketed ‘Don’t-DoIt-Yourself’ culture that, it was claimed, could be achieved by purchasing and using electric appliances in the home, entirely misrepresented the context in which housewives found themselves. Throughout much of the twentieth century, the introduction of appliances often encouraged the rapid and more frequent completion of chores to a high standard. The ‘Don’t-Do-It-Yourself’ attitude sold alongside electric devices aroused suspicions that the work completed by housewives would become excessively easy, a view that was only exacerbated by the belief that

appliances could provide total automation of task. It has also been discovered that the hostess trolley falsely represented itself as an appliance that provided not only an escape from drudgery, but, more specifically, facilitated a woman’s transformation from housewife to hostess. The trolley, in reality, provided the housewife with no more than a symbol of her own personal status, an aestheticised ideal that lacked substance. The aestheticisation of the hostess trolley managed to control the public’s perception that the hostess was an entertaining lady whose social status promoted her above the traditional housewife. The examination of the hostess trolley in Figure 36, 37 1956 Alison and Peter Smithon’s design for the House of the Future for the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition


it’s unaestheticised condition instead tells the story of a multi-tasking woman forced to hide her continued role as a housewife behind an elegantly maintained facade. According to the Collins English Dictionary, the word ‘appliance’ means, simply, ‘device with a specific function’ (2009, p.26). What, then, is the specific function of the hostess trolley? Advertisers would surely have argued that it’s primary function was, either, to keep cooked food hot, or to enable the hostess to be ‘a guest at (her) own dinner party’ (Unknown, 1969). Whilst both of these answers would, aesthetically, be true, it could be argued that the trolley’s unaestheticised, underlying function was to exploit the women who used it. Whilst the hostess trolley was presented as a workable appliance, the socially and culturally expected ideologies that were directly connected (as a result of ad-aesthetics) to it’s use, enabled the trolley and it’s symbolic image to control the working routine of it’s user. By overusing and over-aestheticising appliances in adverts that aimed to characterise both the perfect housewife and, in the case of the heated trolley, the perfect hostess, women wound by being controlled by their own electric environment. In terms of appliance control, then, it surely was lucky for the housewife that the media-inspired, cultural desires for both total domestic automation and the electrification of the home were never realised. The production of further utensils and appliances designed to cater for the needs of the newly created hostess only increased the amount of control that the advertising industry had over women. Regardless of whether such appliances were truly helpful or not, the hostess was perceived as being ‘provided for’ by the appliance and kitchen-ware industries. This perception confirmed her acceptance of the role and, by seemingly being aided in her work, increased the standards of achievability expected of the hostess. Not only was the hostess required to perform her newly acquired tasks of serving and hosting in a perfectly calm, sophisticated manner: she was expected to complete such duties dressed in rather unnecessarily elegant, yet, fashionably alluring attire. Indeed, it could be argued that the introduction of the hostess was influenced by the desires of patriarchal advertising agencies to see the average British female adopt a role of increased sexuality, a role that represented entertainment rather than drudgery.

Figure 38 1970s hostess

This desire possibly offered support to the decision to design and manufacture the hostess trolley, a motionless instrument that cleverly instructed it’s female users to move in seductive ways: leaning, serving, bending, waiting, fetching, touching and passing. However, these compulsory personal actions bore little resemblance to the inanimate stance of the rather more docile hostess trolley. Both the trolley’s passive personality and uninspired appearance fail to arouse any attention to the performance of serving that would not ordinarily be received. Further to this, it has been revealed that the bland, nondescript design aesthetic actually weakens the otherwise impressive act of delivering a perfectly cooked meal to the dining table. When it is time for the main course to be unveiled, the presentation of, perhaps, a roasted joint of meat should signal the climax of the hosting performance. The unenthusiastic nature of the silently stiff hostess trolley manages, instead, to sabotage the act by reducing excitement levels and, thus, rendering the production’s finale an anticlimax. Given the seductive characteristics associated with role of the hostess, the decision of the designers and manufacturers of the heated trolley to continued overleaf


release an appliance so lacking in sensual, desirable qualities could, perhaps, seem unusual. For example, it’s bulky, rectilinear, sharp-edged shape fails to imitate, or even reference, the soft and sultry curves of the human form. The ad-industry’s venereal design of the hostess contrasts explicitly with the appliance industry’s unremarkable, de-sexed design for the aesthetic of the hostess trolley. Arguably, the only elements of the Ekco Hostess Royale that offered any sort of tactile qualities are the arced afrormosia handles. Otherwise, the trolley’s hard and hostile aesthetic could not possibly have left viewers with a desire to touch or use the appliance. The hostess trolley primarily advertised itself, not as an object of aesthetic desirability, but as an appliance that offered valuable functional and social advantages. Despite the trolley’s lack of visual intrigue, the practical attitude embraced by marketing strategists proved sufficiently successful. Perhaps the catalysis of it’s popularity could be attributed to it’s self-presentation as a culturally aestheticised object, an appliance used by aestheticised women who undertook aestheticised roles.

the rather unfortunate longevity of the housewife. On the changing role of the housewife, writer Sue Limb (1992) was cited by Boxshall (1997, p.138) as saying:

Not accidentally, appliance marketers’ immoderate use of ad-aesthetics managed to falsely represent their goods as promoting female independence. The belief that electric kitchen aids could extricate women from their laborious duties was further substantiated by the use of advertisement language that was laced with optimism. This advertised and aestheticised gain of freedom did not, however, take into account the new, unattainable levels of domestic perfection expected of women. By upgrading ideologies and inducing public anticipation of improved standards of living, the appliance industry and it’s electric merchandise failed to generate independence for women. Once extracted from the advertised, aestheticised ideals, the unaestheticised realities of the domestic situation, as determined by the appliance industry, revealed that any free time possessed by the housewife had been unfairly thieved.

The 1960s-founded, ‘Do-It-(All)-Yourself’ role of the ‘housetess’ surely contributed, in some small way, to the cause of the British feminist movement of the 1970s. The Equal Pay Act of 1975 highlighted the need for equal rights for both sexes and prompted greater respect and concern for women, especially those who now were undertaking paid work. Considering the evidence that the electric appliance stifled women’s freedom, it is ironic that, in a time of socio-political reform for the justice of women, Jan Boxshall reported that, ‘the 1970s saw the influx of appliances into the home continue at a steady rate’, (1997, p.97). Compared to the unimpressive staging of the hostess trolley, the excitement surrounding the performance of the man’s electric carving knife provides further indication that the appliance industry failed to reflect society’s progressively changing opinions that concerned women’s prerogatives. Masculine, meal-time shows of talent, aided by such a dramatic prop, managed to spark an atmospheric electricity, a kind of social buzz that the hostess trolley can only have failed to induce. By creating a banal, yet, exploitative device for women’s use, those responsible for the design of the hostess trolley can surely be accused of failing to acknowledge the changing political and societal attitudes towards gender equality and fair rights for women.

Neither the need for the human completion of household tasks, nor the need for the housewife, vanished on the dawn of the appliance era. Although the contemporary hostess appeared to visibly replace the outmoded housewife, it has been revealed that, out of necessity, the housewife persevered behind the scenes. The failure of electric appliances to deliver automation gave rise to

‘A housewife does all the jobs that, 100 years ago, women - middle class women, at least - paid other people to do. That means the work of a cook, parlour maid, upstairs maid, scullery maid, nanny, governess and dairy maid. In many ways, a woman is more weighed down these days.’

By believing that late twentieth century women were loaded with heavier burdens of household labour than those of the early 1900s, Limb unwittingly demonstrates the failure of the electric appliance to positively impact on female domestic rituals. It would seem that Limb, rather than being fooled by the aestheticised appliance ads, realised that gadgets simply could not provide women with the ascendancy over the household environment that their adverts promised.

With the weakening economy and the blurring of gender-specific roles, housewives of the 1970s, concerned about their family’s monetary resources, were increasingly likely to accept paid employment. By having to undertake the role of the housewife, the hostess and the working wife, women would certainly welcome any time-saving, stress-soothing device in their homes with open arms. The frantically busy, wage-earning housetess would probably say that she had been sold on the advertised practicality of the hostess trolley alone, rather than on it’s aesthetic values or associated performance factors. Banham, rather blatantly, points out that the apparent deciding factor of the purchase is irrelevant since, for the design of the appliance, ‘the message is always: ‘Buy me!’.’ (1970, p.168) Instead it could be argued that, in the case of the hostess trolley, the real product aesthetics are actually irrelevant: the misrepresentative adaesthetics and false or over-exaggerated claims make the sale. The public’s objective perception and narrow consideration of the hostess trolley meant that the true mundaneness of the product’s aesthetic went unrecognised and, therefore, failed to hinder it’s popularity. By stripping away unreal aesthetics in order to examine the product’s plain form, it has been revealed that the aestheticisation of both the

Figure 40

32 trolley and it’s hostess managed to arouse a desire in women to own a product that, in reality, was visually dreary, functionally lacking and regressively exploitative.

Figure 39

1952 advert featuring a housewife

1962 Ten years later, the housetess has replaced the housewife in adverts


Bibliography ANON., (1967). Helping Yourself. Ideal Home Magazine, Jan. p88-90 BANHAM, R. (1970). Household Godjets. Arts in Society, London: Fontana Original p.164-170 BLACK, D. and MCKEOWN, C. (2009). Collins English Dictionary, Glasgow: HarperCollins Publishers p.26 BOXSHALL, J. (1997). Every Home Should Have One: Seventy-Five Years of Change in the Home, London: Ebury Press CLARKE, A. (1999). Tupperware: The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America, Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press FORTY, A. (1986). Objects of Desire: Design and Society 1750 - 1980, London: Thames & Hudson Ltd IPC Media Website (2010) Ideal Home magazine brand profile. [Online] Available at [Accessed 14/01/10] JONES, W. (1968). Extending Your Kitchen Range. Ideal Home Magazine, Dec. p.98-102 LEACH, N. (1996). Architectural Models. Desiring Practices: Architecture, Gender and the Interdisciplinary, London: Black Dog Publishing Ltd. p.186-205 LUPTON, E. (1996). Power Tool for the Dining Room: The Electric Carving Knife. Stud: Architectures of Masculinity, New York: Princeton Architectural Press p.42-53 MCGINLEY, P. (1962). Profession: Housewife. Ladies’ Home Journal, Dec. p.30 and 72-73 SCHWARTZ COWAN, R. (1983). More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave, New York: Basic Books, Inc. TAYLOR, R. (1978). Marilyn’s Friends and Rita’s Customers: A Study of Party Selling as Play and Work. Sociological Review 3, no. 26 p.574 UNKNOWN (1970). Ekco-Hawkins Ltd. Hostess Appliances Advert. Ideal Home Magazine, Dec. UNKNOWN (1967). Ekco-Hawkins Ltd. Hostess Royale Advert. Ideal Home Magazine, Nov. UNKNOWN (1969). Ekco-Hawkins Ltd. Hostess Royale Advert. Ideal Home Magazine, Apr. UNKNOWN (1967). Salton Inc. Hotray Advert. Ideal Home Magazine, Nov. UNKNOWN (1969). Salton Inc. Hotray Advert. Ideal Home Magazine, Nov.

Figure References


Cover Image Flickr Website (2010) 1955 Blue Dream Kitchen [Online] Available at: stream/ [Accessed 20/01/10] Cover Image (Inset) UNKNOWN (1970). Ekco-Hawkins Ltd. Hostess Appliances Advert. Ideal Home Magazine, Dec

Figure 1 FORTY, A. (1986). 1961 American publicity photograph from Objects of Desire: Design and Society 1750 - 1980, London: Thames & Hudson Ltd p.211 Figure 2 FORTY, A. (1986). 1928 EDA publicity poster from Objects of Desire: Design and Society 1750 - 1980, London: Thames & Hudson Ltd p.207 Figure 3 UNKNOWN (1968). Warmett Advert. Ideal Home Magazine, Dec. Figure 4 UNKNOWN (1962) Caloric Gas Advert. Ladies’ Home Journal, Dec. p.92 Figure 5 Ebay (2010) 1920-1967 Various Ideal Home Magazine Covers [Online] Available at: nkw=ideal+home+magazine&_sacat=See-All-Categories#item1c0f611eb5 [Accessed 19/01/10] Figure 6 LUPTON, E. (1996). 1967 Sunbeam Advert from Power Tool for the Dining Room: The Electric Carving Knife. Stud: Architectures of Masculinity, New York: Princeton Architectural Press p.44 Figure 7 BOXSHALL, J. (1997). 1940s Electricity Publicity Poster from Every Home Should Have One: Seventy-Five Years of Change in the Home, London: Ebury Press p.64 Figure 8 UNKNOWN (1962) Toastmaster Advert. Ladies’ Home Journal, Dec. p.34 Figure 9 UNKNOWN (1969c). Salton Hotray Advert. Ideal Home Magazine, Nov. Figure 10 UNKNOWN (1967). Salton Hotray Advert. Ideal Home Magazine, Nov. Figure 11 JONES, W. (1968). Various Appliance Illustrations from Extending Your Kitchen Range. Ideal Home Magazine, Dec. p.98


Figure 12 Ad Classix Website (2010) 1867 Westinghouse Blender Advert [Online] Available at: [Accessed 19/01/10] Figure 13 UNKNOWN (1962) Cook’s Companion article illustrations. Ladies’ Home Journal, Dec. p.89 Figure 14 ANON., (1967). Rotisserie oven and grill from Helping Yourself. Ideal Home Magazine, Jan. p88 Figure 15 ANON., (1967). Peugeot can opener from Helping Yourself. Ideal Home Magazine, Jan. p88 Figure 16 Suntimes Media Website (2010) Scene from ‘Mad Men’ dinner party [Online] Available at: [Accessed 19/01/10] Figure 17 UNKNOWN (1969a). Ekco-Hawkins Ltd. Hostess Royale Advert. Ideal Home Magazine, Apr. Figure 18 Celebrations Party Website (2010) Scene from ‘Mad Men’ dinner party [Online] Available at: menparty2.jpg [Accessed 20/01/10] Figure 19 BOXSHALL, J. (1997). 1950s Image from Dishmaster Advert from Every Home Should Have One: Seventy-Five Years of Change in the Home, London: Ebury Press p.76 Figure 20 BOXSHALL, J. (1997). 1940s Image from Vim Advert from Every Home Should Have One: Seventy-Five Years of Change in the Home, London: Ebury Press p.69 Figure 21 BOXSHALL, J. (1997). 1970s Ekco Hostess Advert from Every Home Should Have One: Seventy-Five Years of Change in the Home, London: Ebury Press p.95 Figure 22 UNKNOWN (1962) Swift’s Premium Ham Advert. Ladies’ Home Journal, Dec. p.18 Figure 23 UNKNOWN (1969b). Ekco-Hawkins Ltd. Hostess Royale Advert. Ideal Home Magazine, Nov. Figure 24 CLARKE, A. (1999). 1958 Tupperware Poster. Tupperware: The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America, Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press p.113 Figure 25 CLARKE, A. (1999). 1958 Tupperware party image. Tupperware: The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America, Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution Press p.102 Figure 26 Otago Daily Times website (2010) The women from ‘Mad Men’ [Online] Available at: left_elisabeth_moss_janu_488d6d7609.jpg [Accessed 19/01/10]

Figure 27 BOXSHALL, J. (1997). 1960s Plastic Advert from Every Home Should Have One: Seventy-Five Years of Change in the Home, London: Ebury Press p.86


Figure 28 UNKNOWN (1952) Nescafe Advert. Picture Post, Feb. p.58 Figure 29 UNKNOWN (1970). Ekco-Hawkins Ltd. Hostess Appliances Advert. Ideal Home Magazine, Dec. Figure 30 UNKNOWN (1962) Decorative table displays. Ladies’ Home Journal, Dec. p.43 Figure 31 ANON., (1967). Carving knife image from Helping Yourself. Ideal Home Magazine, Jan. p89 Figure 32 Advertising Archives Website (2010) 1972 Ekco Advert [Online] Available at: [Accessed 19/01/10] Figure 33 Flickr Website (2010) 1970s Dinner Party Image [Online] Available at: [Accessed 19/01/10] Figure 34 UNKNOWN (1962) Underwood Advert. Ladies’ Home Journal, Dec. p.82 Figure 35 LUPTON, E. (1996). 1963 General Electric Advert from Power Tool for the Dining Room: The Electric Carving Knife. Stud: Architectures of Masculinity, New York: Princeton Architectural Press p.43 Figure 36 Paleo-Future Blogspot (2010) 1956 ‘House of the Future’ designed by Alison and Peter Smithson for the Daily Mail Idea Home Exhibition Available at: AAAAAAAAA4w/4LIgmKFdLVY/s400/1956+Daily+Mail+House+of+Future+pt2.jpg [Accessed 20/01/10] Figure 37 Design Museum Website (2010) 1956 ‘House of the Future’ designed by Alison and Peter Smithson for the Daily Mail Idea Home Exhibition Available at: [Accessed 20/01/10] Figure 38 Emily Smile Blogspot (2010) 1970s hostess Available at : images/18dresscurtains.jpg [Accessed 20/01/10] Figure 39 UNKNOWN (1952) Hoover Advert. Picture Post, Feb. p.5 Figure 40 UNKNOWN (1962) Polly-Flex Advert. Ladies’ Home Journal, Dec. p.96

Rebecca J Woods



January 2010

Eccentric Electric: The Hostess Trolley  

A dissertation presented to Oxford Brookes University as part of my degree qualification for BA (Hons.) Interior Architecture.

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