My husband, Will Zeilinger and I co-write the Skylar Drake Murder Mystery series, a hardboiled series that takes the reader to 1950s Los Angeles and other areas of the west. Our new book, Slick Deal, begins News Year’s Eve 1956 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, the first murder and clues lead to Avalon, Catalina.
One of the challenges of writing a period piece is finding the right styles to dress our characters to match their personality. The rich matron, Mayme Wright, was a challenge because she was an integral part of the story. She lived in a mansion in Avalon. So I researched the beautiful fur coats I remembered ladies wearing in New York, (I was born in Queen) in the 1950s. The feel and the weight of these coats were etched in my memory.
Fur coats were glamorous and dressier than the everyday coat used by most people, i.e., the shopping, doctor appointments, etc. They were cut in the same shapes as everyday coats of the fifties. Certain furs looked better in certain styles. The box coat and swagger style looked best with thick fox, sable and seal fur. Faux furs were an option for the less affluent as well as the cheaper squirrel and marmot dyed to look like sable.
The sleeves were wide and open and collars were high and closed with a longer hair fur piece trimming the collar. To keep with the polished style of fur coats, closures were two or three buttons or clasps on the upper part of the coat. Some box styles coats had a single clasp at the neckline. Pockets were slash openings on the coat sides. The wealthy woman showcased themselves by the fur and beauty of her 1950s fur coat.
While most fur coats were full length or at least hip length, a few came in shorter waist length styles. The cape coat, popular in the 1940s, remained common into the 1950s. Coats like the short fur Diamond brand coat became increasingly popular in the late ’50s and ’60s when styles changed to the slim sheath dress rather than the full circle dress.
For those who could not afford a full-length coat, fur stoles, muffs and shawls were a popular alternative. Fur trim on short or long jackets also added a touch of richness without the outrageous price tag.
Mayme Wright was wearing her sable full-length coat when she went missing in Avalon.
SLICK DEAL is the fourth in the series and…yes we are still married!
Website: Janet Elizabeth Lynn
Website: Will Zeilinger
Hi Janet and Will, Great info on importance of getting clothing and other detail correct for characters and their time periods. I’m originally from Brooklyn, (live in Macungie, PA now), so I do recall how we all got decked and always “dressed” especially to go
to “the City.” By the way, I’d like to order one of each of those furs you depicted. I wish!