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Category Archives: Fashion

Fifth Avenue Fashions 1940

Fabulous fashions photographed New York in March 1940 – 

  
   

Diamonds, not only a girls best friend in WWII

Imagine inheriting diamond jewellery – a lot of diamond jewellery….and during WWII. Would you keep it or turn it over to the war effort?

  the duchess of kents inherits diamonds and jewells in 1940  

As a royal I suppose you’d need to keep a few, and anyway personally owned diamonds could not be taken by London’s Diamond Comittee during the War, according to this article from February 1940.

 

And from March 1940-
  

Of course Holland was invaded two months later, in May 1940, so let’s hope the diamonds did travel to England the the US.

This article from October 1938 shows that some smart (and obviously rich) people were already thinking ahead about war and investing in diamonds. There are interesting comments about Jewish people too, and how diamonds were easily transported across “unfriendly borders”.  londons rich investing in diamonds 1938 

Unfortunaltely diamonds did not save many, if any, Jews from persecution and execution. Many had sewn their diamonds and other jewels into their clothing, and these were routinely removed from clothing after the Jews were murdered at the concentration camps.  There are accounts of diamonds being moved to a vault in banks in France in order to provide “rainy day” money for nazi officials to make new lives for themselves after the war.

Of course this article could have been just part of  De Beers 1938 American marketing campaign encouraging people to by diamond engagement rings – a campaign that was obviously extremely sucessful, with a jump in US diamond sales of 55% in the four years between 1938 and 1941 – but then again I haven’t actually been able to find any Debeers ads from before 1948, so maybe it was the war……

I did find this ad from 1938 for an Australian Jeweller, which advertises diamond rings, and watches, as anniversay gifts rather than engagement rings. 

 diamond ring ad 1938 
I now work in a an antique jewellery store and find it interesting that many couples are now buying diamond bands for their wedding bands, as well as diamond engagement rings.  Debeers really did well…..

Read more about diamonds in WWII here.

Fashions of February 1939

Continuing on from my post Fashions of January 1939, today a look at fashion from February 1939, the last month of Summer in Australia.

 

Illustration by Virgil, 1939

Illustration by Virgil, 1939

  

Suit ideas from London

  

Light weight wool is a popular Autumn and Spring fabric

  

I love the high waisted genie pants!

  

Why don't you wear Schiaparelli's adorable black seal skin topper?Hmmm...

Why don’t you wear Schiaparelli’s adorable black seal skin topper?Hmmm…

 

Simple swing skirts

 
 

Long gathered skirts for evening wear – what a lot of fabric!

  

Imagine the blackout curtains you could make from that velvet dress..

 

And let’s not forget the foundation garments!

  

Any favourites?

Sewing Bees in Wartime

We hear a lot about ‘Make do and Mend’ during Wartime, especially when clothing rationing was in effect,  but maybe you haven’t heard about sewing bees. Quilting Bees were popular in America in the early 1800’s, as a way for women to meet others and tackle large quilts that would be cumbersome by themselves. They provided socialization, friendship, wisdom and sharing of supplies and tools,  and basically involved a group of women getting together and sewing.

The first mention I have found of a wartime Sewing Bee is in this article from December 1939 –

dec39

30 December 1939 Australian Woman’s Weekly

Red Cross Sewing Bees see to become popular in Australia.

bee27april1940

27 April 1940  Australian Woman’s Weekly

Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) was probably the one who began to make Sewing Bees popular in England and Australia during the War, forming a Red Cross Sewing Bee for the women of the royal household at the palace each week from as early as November 1939.

queenbee

15 June 1940 Australian Women’s Weekly

You can also watch a little video her Great Sewing Bee of 1939 here.

This article from the American Woman’s Weekly in March 1942 is a little different, as rationing is not really mentioned, and the ladies are sewing more for themselves than the troops, but it is interesting to ‘see’ these ladies in action at their sewing bee.

sew1.1

sew2

sew3

Sewing Bees are obviously meant to be a cooperative event. There is a recent British TV show called ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ which is a reality TV contest type show, which to me loses the point of sewing bees, but you can watch it here.

Have you joined a Sewing Bee or thought of doing so? Tips for joining an online sewing bee can be found here.

Fashions for January 1940

More January fashions, this time from 1940, and Summer in Australia.  The war had only been going a few months at this stage and long  and full skirts are still popular. 

rice starch ad1940

Rice starch, an essential fashion tool

  
Beach fashions 1940

Beach fashions 1940

 

vintage 1940s fashion

  

vintage fashion 1940

 Fasjion patterns are still being sold for the making of new garments, still using quite a bit of fabric. I love the school tunics! fashion patterns 1940 Frocks for maids (teenagers) and children – love the check playsuit grace brothers ad 1940   

Fashions for January 1939

I always think it’s interesting to get an idea of what fashions were like before the war to see how they changed, and to see what women may have already had in their closets.  So today, some prewar fashions from January 1939 and advice on how to dress.

Actress Joan Fontaine in ruffled  dress, 1939

Actress Joan Fontaine in ruffled dress, 1939

  

Schiaperlli

Actess Priscilla Lane in a gold evening dress, 1939

Actess Priscilla Lane in a gold evening dress, 1939

 

   

Farmers

  
A stylish hat and gloves change the look of a black dress

A stylish hat and gloves change the look of a black dress

 

 

vintage hats

What ever happened to our love affair with hats?

  

the versitile little black dress, ever popular

Long full dresses for evenin were all the rage in 1939

Long full dresses for evenin were all the rage in 1939

Wool was always a popular fabric in Australia, Simmer and Winter

louise campbell

Full Aline below knee 30s skirt

Shoes for Summer 1939

Shoes for Summer 1939

Black and white vening dresses 1939

Black and white vening dresses 1939

Evening dresses 1939

Evening dresses 1939

Wartime Swimsuits

It’s the first week of Summer here in Australia, and my thoughts have turned to swimsuits. We have a few beaches nearby (which occasionally have crocodiles, sharks and stingers) and a pool (which is currently getting renovated) so we swim every day over Summer.  Usually we even put on swimsuits, although the odd skinny dip is not unknown!  

What style swimsuits would we have been wearing during the war? Let’s have a little look –

1939 jantzen swimsuit ad 1939  

at the beach 1939 

1940

   
 1941

  
 

1942 – clothes ratioing kicks in in Australia, and ads for swimwear are almost non existent.  Elastic used in commercial swimwear would have used rubber, which was needed for the war effort. To keep itself in the public  mind Jantzen cleverly told women how to care for their swimsuits so they would last longer.

 vintage 1940s swimsuit ad 
   
1943 – 

 vintage 1940s swimsuit  bikini 
1944

 vintage 1940s swimsuit  
1945

 

Fashions for October 1939

Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, and by the next day Britain put Air Raid Precautions into effect and school children and pregnant women were being evacuated from London. Great Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September, and Australia followed suit.

By October 1939 American fashions were already seeming a lot more colourful and extravagant compared to English fashions, according to this article (Australian Womans Weekly  8 October 1939).

 american vs englinsh fashions october 1939 
  Some more fashion from the same magazine – this one for easy care sportswear.

vintage wartime fashion ad 1939  

Quite a utilitarian suit –

  

Dresses with pleats, still using quite a lot of fabric, and the length is below knee to almost mid calf- 
calf length pleated dressses october 1939  

These evening dresses are still quite frivolous too, with long full skirts and frills (as well as the odd midriff!)

summer evening dresses october 1939  

And the home pattern service also shows pleats, long  and full skirts and even roomy pajamas. Let’s hope whoever bought the patterns also bought their fabric straight away, before rationing started!
patterns to sew at home october 1939  

To finish are these quite full skirts, in not so practical white. 

  

Fashion was still important during the war, and underwent significant changes. I’ll continue next time with fashions of November 1939, and I’ll move on through the war so we can see the changes as they happen. 

Hollywood’s War Work, 1942

Hollywood did it’s bit during WWII in raising much needed War Bond money.  Hoyts Theatres and Fox films had ‘buy a bond to get in’ film premières, which in November 1942 alone raised three and a half million pounds. Stars such as Gene Tierney, pictured below, sold ‘a billion dollars’ worth of bonds in September 1942, in 300 US Cities.

Image

Other actors helped out in different ways.  In 1942 Hollywood workers themselves contributed 160,000 pounds to the Red Cross, and invested around 80,000 pounds a week in war savings – not bad for a little town of 33,000 people.

Actress Linda Darnell qualified as a nurses aid, and with her friend Ann Miller ran a day-nursery for mothers enaged in war work.  Here is Linda Darnell rolling bandages for the Red Cross.

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More than 2000 of Hollywood’s workers were in the Armed services by the end of 1942, and Hollywood also make training films for Allies, Government propaganda movies and sent copies of movies to troops in remote locations.

Some stars gave their metal jewellery to scrap drives, and others, such as Cobina Wright, pictured below, did their bit for the ‘Dig for Victory ‘ campaign.

Image

As many movie making technicians joined the service, some actors spent their free time learning a trade, in case manpower shortages meant that movies could not be made.  Here is Ann Corcoran using an Acetylene Torch.

anne

Some glamour girls, such as Ginny Simms and Ann Jeffreys shown below,  simply helped out as hostesses in US Service Canteens.

girls42

Photos from PIX Magazine, December 5, 1942

Pep up your Summer Suit, 1940s Style

 

Coco Chanel always believed a suit to be the best investment a woman could make.  I would love a nice suit, but here in North Queensland the jacket is only worn when the air-con is too cold, or in the middle of winter. I am planning a trip down south in Autumn, though, so I may invest!  I am tossing up between a 40s style suit from UK small business HeyDay Vintage, and a 50s style suit from Aussie company Bombshell Vintage (who also does make to order). In the meantime, here is some suit advice from February 1942 –

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