Monday, 2 March 2015

Fashion on the Ration

On the 5th of March, IWM London opens a brand new, (and very exciting!) exhibition - Fashion on the Ration

If you collect or wear vintage clothing from the 40s and 50s, then you will be well aware of the value that the little CC41 label can add. Fashion on the Ration explores the history behind the Utility scheme and the effect it had on the British public. Themes explored include how people adapted to austerity measures and the results of their ingenuity in tough times, the introduction of uniform for the massses, new 'functional fashion' styles, and how this all surprisingly allowed fashion to flourish in the most pleasing of ways.


 The exhibition brings together 300 exhibits including clothing, accessories, photographs and film, official documents and publications, artworks, wartime letters, interviews and ephemera, some of which have never been on display before, Fashion on the Ration presents a sense of what life was like on the home front for men and women during wartime Britain. 

Fashion on the Ration is divided into 6 sections and here's a little bit about what you can expect to see in each section:

Into Uniform looks at the effect of the sudden swathes of uniform clad guys and gals seen on the streets of Britain, what the most and least popular styles were; so the darlings of the armed forces in the RAF aka 'Brylcreem Boys' and the jealousies of the boys of the Army, and how military uniform came to influence civilian clothing

Functional Fashion explores the influence of wartime measures on everyday life such as siren suits, blackout buttons and gas mask handbags

Luminous flowers to wear in the blackout - just one of the ways that functional fashion had commercial value

Beauty as Duty, one of my favourite wartime sayings, looks at the way in which so many women felt it their job to maintain their personal appearance as a small part to play in boosting morale on the home front. This section also explores the lengths women were forced to go to to do so in the face of shortages of cosmetics and the introduction of politics in the women's daily routine such as slogan printed headscarfs and advertising campaigns such as 'lips in uniform'

One of the beautifully decorated propaganda scarfs that can be seen in the exhibition

Rationing and Make do and Mend Shortages of fabrics and rationing of clothing meant that people were forced to make clothes last longer by mending, knitting and transforming old clothing. This section uses the great example of a men's suit, adapted and changed into a women's skirt suit. The introduction of rationing in 1941 changed the nation's shopping habits and forced people to be more creative with their wardrobes


Utility Clothing Although CC41 has now become extremely collectable amongst vintage enthusiasts, during the war the idea of 'Utility' clothing was not greeted with such enthusiasm. This section of the exhibition has a beautiful and somewhat surprising collection of colourful clothing all made to Utility regulations, and explores what that actually meant for clothing manufacturers at the time. 

Peace and a new look? This section looks at how the end of the war impacted upon fashion, and considers the long-term impact. On display will be a ‘VE’ print dress worn by the comedienne Jenny Hayes to celebrate the end of the war - which I am very excited about, and an example of the ubiquitous demob-suit, issued to men leaving the military services. In 1947, the launch of Christian Dior’s ostentatious ‘New Look’ shook the fashion world desperate for something new after years of pared down wartime fashion.

Sneak peek!!

Here's the surprise - not so much of a surpise if you know me - I work at IWM London, so you maybe that makes me a bit biased. At the time of writing this, I havent actually seen the finished exhibition yet, so only have the press release to go on and the information from my passionate and hard working colleagues! However, even if I didnt work there I would be as equally excited about this and think its a great time to have such an exhibition on in London. As some of you may know, not long after this opens, across town in South Kensington, the V&A also have the much anticipated Alexander McQueen exhibition opening. I think its wonderful to see two of London's leading museums have 2 major fashion exhibitions at the same time - one depicting an important and influential name in modern British fashion, and one looking back at an incredibly important time in British fashion history, and making us reflect on the influence that the style of the time has on our fashion industry now.

There is also book to accompany the exhibition - Fashion on the Ration by Julie Summers. This gives a thoughtful and in depth look into the main themes of the exhibition. Its on sale here for a special exhibition price.

Tickets to Fashion on the Ration are £10 and there are concession prices to - you can book them here

The museum's cafe are also running a group package where you can book tickets to the exhibition and enjoy an afternoon tea. Tickets available here

One last thing you might enjoy! If you follow Imperial War Museums on Twitter they are running a lovely campaign user the hashtag #whatmyfamilywore where you can share photos of your family in the 1940s. There are some wonderful pictures that have already been shared!

If you do go and visit the exhibition, please let me know what you thought - and if you see me in the museum, be sure to say a cheery hello! ;-)

Saturday, 21 February 2015

She's wearing my dress!

A while ago I stumbled upon this picture of Magda Gabor wearing this pretty dress. It's a bad quality image and I've scoured the internet trying to find another version of it to no avail. As soon as I saw the picture I gasped 'that's my dress!' Well.... I have what I believe, is exactly the same dress. I so wish the picture of Magda was in colour so I could see if it matches exactly! 

Here's me in the dress, snapped a couple of months ago at Christmas. Don't you just love it when that happens in the vintage world? Its up there with finding an old advert for an item of clothing you own or seeing someone you know online on the other side of the world has an identical item of vintage as you.

I bought mine about 5 years ago from Beyond Retro on Cheshire Street for £75.00. Red velvet Anne Fogarty's don't seem to be particularly rare, as I've seen a few in different styles before. A quick internet search brought up these below, however she is still a sought after vintage designer who was known for making great quality clothing at affordable prices.


Anyone else had a similar experience with discovering an item of clothing in an old photograph matching something that you own?

Saturday, 14 February 2015

To dye for

This week I had my first experience with hand dying clothes!

I bought this knit dress last Autumn at a vintage fair for the grand sum of £15.00. Although I really like the dress itself, I found the cream colour quite difficult to wear - especially in Winter. Well....last week I found a box of black dye lying around in a drawer of odds and sods and thought 'hmmm, what I can use this for?' I rifled through the wardrobe until said dress appeared, and then I proceeded to get really excited about the prospect of having a new dress that I will actually wear!

I followed the instructions carefully but wasn't sure what kind of results to expect. I know there are lots of variables when it comes to dying clothes, but as long as the colour was even all over, I was going to be happy, if it turned grey rather than black.

In progress.........
The actual results couldnt have been less black, yet I am super happy with how its turned out! Goodness knows why its gone this lovely greeny/bluey/sea foam shade, but I really like it, and it is a flattering colour on me. What do you think!!??

Dress from Pickering//Headscarf from Beyond Retro//Lipstick MAC Ruby Woo  

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Horst, Adelaide and Me

A little while before Christmas, I stumbled upon the Instagram account of Tanith Rowan. Tanith designs and makes beautiful hats, and decided to launch a most exciting project - The Sisterhood of the Hat! The idea is that one of her lovely designs would wing its way around the world, landing on the doorsteps of bloggers, vintage fashioistas and just plain hat lovers from all over the globe. I was lucky enough to be the first stop on Adelaide's journey (yes the hat now has a lovely name).

Having a photographer for my other half means that I get to come up with fun ideas and he can help make them reality. For Adelaide's visit to London we decided to do a shoot inspired by Horst P.Horst, the famous fashion photographer whose work we had recently seen at a wonderful V&A exhibition.

His colour work includes some of my favourite fashion photography EVER. Just breathtaking


He also uses hands to become an almost sculptural feature of the image. Such as this one

So, as an ode to Horst, and very much inspired by his use of colour we decided to shoot lovely Adelaide atop my head in 'Horst fashion'. Apologies of you have seen these on Instagram already :-)

Photography by Hanson Leatherby

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Back to Business with a Valentine's Bang!

Ok, so that was probably my longest blog break ever. I'll be honest, I was seriosuly considering getting rid of the old girl....hitting Delete, and saying bye bye to blogging. But I had a change of heart. So I'm back, and I'm here to stay...for now! I've actually got the *MOST* exciting year coming up, I can't tell you about it now, but it will all become clear in time....

First on the list of excitements is the Ric Rac Club! The Vintage Mafia's lovely club night is re-launching after a break at the most beautiful new venue in town, Fontaines. What an absolute art deco dream the lovely Manageress, Ruby, has created. Even if you can't make it along to the Ric Rac Club you should definitely try to pop along and sample a Fontaine's cocktail at some point!

We are hosting a Valentine's special with superb Canape's and a Cocktail included in the ticket price of £15, or if you just want to come and dance later on downstairs in the Bamboo Lounge where DJ Ginger Fizz will be spinning her stax o' wax, then tickets for after 10pm are £8. Both tickets are available here and the FB event page is here

The dress code is 'Something Red' and here is a little peek back at our last Valentine's Ric Rac Club 2 years ago....