As I mentioned here last month, having already reviewed a couple of titles in the extremely accessible Style Me Vintage book series, I was asked by the publisher if I would like to review a couple more on Rarely Wears Lipstick. Obviously the answer was yes, and the second of the pair – Style Me Vintage: 1940s – arrived in the post last week.
Written by vintage fashion specialist and historian, Liz Tregenza, this book is a beautiful sartorial snapshot of Britain during and after World War II. Beginning with a thoughtful and personal introduction from Liz on the styles, myths and misconceptions surrounding the decade, the book then moves on to cover how to achieve 1940s hair styles, make-up and fashion looks. With fascinating chapters on wartime and post-war clothing styles, accessories, lingerie, swimwear and weddings, this is a wonderfully in-depth look at an extremely interesting and surprisingly varied twentieth century decade.
As one of the authors of Style Me Vintage: Accessories, a collector of vintage clothing and a graduate of the V&A/RCA History of Design programme, Liz Tregenza was always going to be the perfect person to write this book. Her knowledge is presented in an approachable way, so the reader feels like they are getting insider tips from a trusted friend, and this is enhanced by the wonderful original 1940s photographs that Liz’s grandmother, Hazel, provided for the book. It’s really interesting to see how ordinary British women dressed, in comparison to the glamorous shots of movie stars like Betty Grable and Veronica Lake. That’s not to say that Nanna Tregenza and her friends weren’t glamorous – the photo of them in their bathing suits and heels at Clacton in the summer of 1947 is glorious! I can only aspire to those levels of glamour in the summer months.
Despite its friendly format, the book covers a lot of ground in surprising detail, including: Rationing and utility clothing, make-do and mend, how to tie a headscarf (see above), fabrics, brands, how to get the look (both daytime and evening, wartime and post-war), and a wonderful section on women and war work which features some beautiful images of Liz in original WWII uniforms. My favourite chapter, however, is the one on 1940s weddings as this is not something I have seen covered elsewhere. Liz provides us with a bit of history on what people wore to get hitched in the 40s, plus a lot of original photos and even a lovely shot of her wearing a beautiful vintage dress that the original owner wore to her wedding in 1948.
This is a great book for anyone interested in mid-twentieth century history, wartime fashion and how to recreate 40s looks with original and reproduction clothing. It’s a fascinating read and definitely my favourite book of the series so far.
DISCLOSURE: I was sent a copy of Style Me Vintage: 1940s free to review by Pavilion Books.