Fabulous fashions photographed New York in March 1940 –
Category Archives: Fashion
Imagine inheriting diamond jewellery – a lot of diamond jewellery….and during WWII. Would you keep it or turn it over to the war effort?
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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 –Red Cross Sewing Bees see to become popular in Australia. 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. 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.
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.
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.Fasjion patterns are still being sold for the making of new garments, still using quite a bit of fabric. I love the school tunics! Frocks for maids (teenagers) and children – love the check playsuit
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 –
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.
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).
Quite a utilitarian suit –
These evening dresses are still quite frivolous too, with long full skirts and frills (as well as the odd midriff!)
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Some glamour girls, such as Ginny Simms and Ann Jeffreys shown below, simply helped out as hostesses in US Service Canteens.
Photos from PIX Magazine, December 5, 1942
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 –