Hollandaise, Halibut and High Heel Hijinks


Music – “High Heel Shoe” from Bluegrass Guitar by Bryan Sutton. Released: 2007

What do Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver), Harriet Nelson and Donna Reed have in common?  1950’s sitcom wives?  Sure.  All were predominately featured in their busy kitchens, wearing sleek, tailored dresses protected by pretty organdy aprons, with a string of pearls around their dainty necks.  But, like their peers in advertisements for kitchen appliances in women’s magazines at the time, they shared another common element:  high heels in the kitchen!

Harriet Nelson, resting her feet, while the boys take over cooking duties (Photo Credit: http://www.au. pinterest. com)






I think there was a (probably male) conspiracy in the 1950’s, which dictated that women, while cooking, had to wear high heels to do so.  No matter that the shoes were uncomfortable (and still are), but were dangerous to be teetering around in carrying a pot of boiling water to the sink.  They wreaked havoc with your back and bones, but somehow, the myth that it was simply “de rigueur” for women to cook wearing high heels persisted. From steaming a halibut to whipping up hollandaise, the 1950’s woman in the kitchen did it all in high heels.

“I know your dogs are barking, June, but get back in the kitchen!” (Photo Credit: http://www.huffington post.com)

“I just love my new garbage shredder. How I’d love to toss these high heels into it!” (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest. com)


“Gee, Mom….6 pies and all made, while you were wearing high heels!” (Photo Credit: American Graphics    Systems Collection)



“I just flit around the kitchen in my toga style high heels!” (Photo Credit: Alvarado Historic Collection)

“Cooking is a whiz, when I’m dancing in my high heels!” (Photo Credit: American Graphics Systems Collection)








“Gee…I’m so classy, I not only go grocery shopping in hat and white gloves, but when I get home, I’ll still be wearing my high heels to cook the halibut!” (Photo Credit: http://www.theglamorous housewife. wordpress. com)

“Thanks for helping, Tommy. Mom’s feet are SO tired!” (Photo Credit:  Alvarado Historic Collection)




“Well, Harry, I wouldn’t have dropped all of the dishes if I hadn’t been wearing these d**n high heels!” (Photo Credit: http://www.the1950s kitchen. blogspot.com)




“Future schmuture. In my future kitchen, NO high heels will be allowed!” (Photo      Credit: http://www.digital     trends.com)





In an article about the trend, written by Mary Schmich in 1994 for the Chicago Tribune, she notes that “If my back and feet did not scream for mercy, I would cook in high heels. Kitchen counters were made for women 5-foot-5, not 5-foot-2. Short women know the thrill of the extra inch or 3 that lets them bear down on a knife or sponge with the right amount of leverage“.  Now, I admit that I never considered the leverage power of wearing high heels, while cooking, but she may have a point.  On the other hand, wouldn’t it be less painful and less risky to prep, while sitting on a high stool near the kitchen counter?

“These high heels are just the right height for cooking in” (Photo Credit: http://www.glamour daze.com)






“I wear my high heels around the house to do everything…mopping…..” (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.           com)





“…vacuuming…” (Photo Credit: http://www.the idealinthehouse          wife. wordpress.         com)

“…polishing the hardwood floors…” (Photo Credit: http://www.jalopy journal.com)







“…even doing the laundry in my state of the art washing machine!”  (Photo Credit: http://www.   pinterest.com)





Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant for the National Women’s History Museum, on “ThrowbackThursday:  In Defense of June Cleaver“, tells us that initially, Barbara Billingsley wore flats during the taping of the TV series, “Leave it to Beaver“, however, as “Beaver” and “Wally” grew taller over the six seasons of the show,  she started wearing high heels in order to look taller than the boys.  According to Blattman, June Cleaver was still the parent and had to appear larger than life, so to speak.

But in the 1950’s and even earlier, women wearing high heels were featured in endless advertisements from manufacturers of everything from cake mixes to vacuum cleaners.  The 1950’s housewife portrayed in television, film and in advertisements featured glamorous, sophisticated women tending to their households, flitting around the house in high heels, while cooking, dusting, mopping, vacuuming, bathing the baby, doing laundry and just about every other household chore.

“I never load my good crystal in the dishwasher….I’m afraid I’ll turn my ankle in these high heels and break everything!”  (Photo Credit: Alvarado   Historic Collection)


“Yes, I even bathe the baby, while I’m wearing high heels. I just put a quarter in this slot….” (Photo Credit: http://www.return  ofkings.com)


“Dusting, while wearing high heels  is definitely classy” (Photo Credit: http://www.magnolia box.com)




She was cool, beautiful and every boy’s idea of what a mother should be.  Even up to her elbows in rubber gloves, on hands and knees scraping gooey messes from the oven, she was still dressed to the nines and still had on those perpetual high heels.

Thankfully, the era of high heels in the kitchen has (hopefully) died a natural (and long overdue) death.  I wonder how many 1950’s women later suffered from back and foot disorders from years of hobbling around on those treacherous shoes.  At least, in America, we didn’t practice the ancient Chinese custom of female foot-binding.  Now, that’s gotta be not only painful but incapacitating!  Here’s to flats in the kitchen!

“Why, of course I’m wearing my high heels in the kitchen. I’d feel positively naked without them!” (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.    com)


“I use my high heels for everything in the kitchen…from pitting cherries to kicking the garbage can lid close” (Photo Credit: http://www.pinterest.           com)

My EatYourBooks cookbook collection

About vintagecookbookery

Cookbook lover and collector with a burgeoning collection of cookbooks. Reading and researching food trends, history of cooking techniques and technological advances in cooking, what we eat and why and cookbooks as reflectors of cultures is a fascination for me. As of November 7th, 2013, I hold the current Guinness World Record title for the largest collection of cookbooks: 2,970 at the official count on July 14th, 2013 (applaud now, thank you very much!) The current (unofficial) number is now 6,500. What next? More shelves?
This entry was posted in Collecting, Collections, Comfort Food, Cookbooks, Cooking, Cooking and Social History, Cooking Technology, Food Trends, Guinness World Records, Uncategorized, Vintage Cookbooks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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