From pink to posh: remembering bathrooms past

Although the 1940s did bring us the Frisbee, the Slinky, Tupperware and Velcro, many years were remembered as times of rationing and doing without. Women were asked to donate their used stockings to the war effort to make parachutes and tents. Fabrics were needed for the war efforts too and so changed the way clothes were made. Pockets and cuffs were banned, and much of a ladies wardrobe was worn in brown, green and taupe.

With the turn of the 50s, post-war exuberance could be seen everywhere: Barbie dolls and matchbox cars, auto mobiles and colour TV, roller skating waitresses and drive-in theatres, burgers and shakes, Elvis and Marilyn, and the comeback of colour… especially pink.

From the bedroom to the bathroom, home décor glowed pink. In 1953, Mary Luscher, an interior decorator, said “I never suggest light blue because it’s a cold colour. Yellow makes most women look sallow. And light green is a combination of blue and yellow. But pink is a wonder colour… It’ll remind you how nice it is to be feminine — just like wearing a lacy slip under a tailored suit”.

Oh my, it seems that many agreed with Mary as it’s estimated that there were 5 million pink bathrooms in the US in the 1950s, and they were often paired with pink bathtubs, foot mats and towels. During the mid 1950s, bathrooms became even cheerier as ceramic fish plaques, fuzzy mats, toilet lids covers and toilet roll dolls bloomed in abundance.

Like most fads that seem to appear overnight, multiply en-mass and then disappear almost completely, such was the case with toilet roll dolls. Dressed in crotchet crinolines in baby blue and buttercup yellow, they sat atop cisterns all over Australia. Women in the 40s saved every scrap of yarn they had so that one stitch at a time they could crotchet them into something useful, like a blanket or a jumper. To crotchet for necessity to the frivolity of dressing up a spare toilet roll must have been a joy for post war crafters!

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Some time in the 60s the toilet roll doll was relegated to garage sales and op-shops to make way for the 70s, bringing with it floral wall paper, orange and wall to wall carpet. During the 80s things got glam. Shoulder pads were adjusted as big hair was sprayed in front of a big bathroom mirror flanked with dressing room lighting. The tiles were black, one wall was of stacked glass blocks and in the corner, a party size Jacuzzi bubbled away.

These days many bathrooms are high end and hotel like. Heated floors, heated lights, shower heads the size of dinner plates, stone tiling and retro revival subway tiles, and all in every shade of white or grey on grey. There isn’t a whiff of crotchet, but rather a subtle hint of sandalwood. Memories of playful, pink, fluff and fuzz have been consigned to the archives.

With our desire for clean lines and modern comforts, what do today’s bathrooms say about us today? Or is it all it ever was, a place to shut the door and soak your problems away?


Do you remember the toilet dolls and pink tiles? What did your bathroom look like in the 60s?