Sunday, 8 November 2015

1950s bohemian London in Here Be Dragons by Stella Gibbons

“Nell studied Davina’s long and voluminous black skirt, dusty black sweater with a high neck, and the various huge pieces of metal hanging from her wrists, ears and throat, and remembered seeing Gardis similarly festooned. Evidently this was Fashion.”

Stella Gibbons’ Here Be Dragons was published in 1956 and, like all my favourite books, offers a visual snapshot of the time in which it was written. Here we are in 1950s London bohemia. Teenage rebellion is begin to stir, but the movement is fuelled by coffee shops and jazz, rather than the imminent rock n roll explosion.

A change in family circumstance takes Nell from her sleepy village and thrusts her into the heart of Hampstead. Although Gibbons is most famous for Cold Comfort Farm, many more of her books are set in Hampstead, where Gibbons lived for many years. In the 1950s, it seems, it was facing an invasion of the bohemians:

“Hampstead showed increasing signs of being given over to Bohemia; the pavement echoed with flapping sandals and the clapping of Continental clogs there were tights and striped blue and white jeans to be seen loitering around the Underground station.”

Bohemian style idol, Eva Barok. Image source

Nell arrives in a respectable suit, but is swiftly given a sartorial lecture from her layabout cousin John. She needs to buy a beret and “if you can’t afford proper clothes, long full skirts and low heels and metal jewellery, you should copy Eva Bartok. She knows how to make horrible little suits like the one you’re wearing and old raincoats look marvellously romantic.”

John himself dresses in what’s described as “an extraordinary collection of clothes “. One ensemble includes an immaculate striped blazer, blue denim trousers, a gaudy American shirt.” I love this sense of improvisation, which reminds me of the improvisation of Ken Russell’s teddy girls. But, as with any subculture, en masse the bohemian dress and habits turn out to be no less strictly governed that those of their parents they rebel against. They party, dancing with naked feet in pools of cider while candles burn in – of course – Chianti bottles.

Enter one of their café haunts and:

“There they sat: the large calm, dirty girls in flowing skirts and lead jewellery, and the dreamers in drain-pipes and duffel coats, the spinners of fantastic plans for making fortunes brooding silently over newspapers, with unwashed hair falling across (in the case of the girls, who believed in living naturally) unpowdered faces.”

The Troubadour cafe, London, 1950s. Image source

Gibbons is seemingly quite fixated on their cleanliness (or lack of), perhaps the most evident characteristic they were rebelling against the “cleanliness is next to godliness mantra” of previous generations. In another café, Nell encounters the “dirty faces of the Espresso drinkers, set off by brilliant checked shirts, white jackets fastened by wooden links, black ‘jumpers’ (as Nell called them) and, in the case of the women, exaggeratedly severe or flowing manner of arranging the hair. Coiffures and beards played a large part in the exhibiting of their personalities, and did not always look quite clean.”

It’s not only ‘jumpers’ that need an explanation, but the whole notion of separates. When Nell tells her mum she needs some to look modern, her mother responds “need what?” And she’s even more surprised when Nell tells her she’s spotted a top “for less than a pound and a skirt for less than 30 shillings” on Oxford Street, because “No ‘top’ or skirt costing as ridiculously little as the sums Nell had mentioned could be anything but bad style.” Not only are the ways of dressing and shopping on the cards, it’s obvious that there is a shift in generational styles – perhaps something that’s usually more closely associated with the 1960s. Here Be Dragons captures these transitions, and revealed some of these details that normally would get overlooked in a survey of how fashions, and even teens, changed postwar. 

Leon Bell and the Bell Cats and some hand-jivers. Image source.

Over the course of the book, Nell comes ‘chic’ and, in a real sign of the times, moves from tea shop to running her own espresso shop. How her business survives the Swinging Sixties remains unknown.

Here Be Dragons is full of wonderful details that make you feel like you could be living in London in the mid-1950s, and it’s perhaps a better book if you read it for these details, rather than the plot itself. But what vintage fashion nerd could resist a book that includes the following description of Cecil Beaton’s Glass of Fashion (first published in 1954)? It comes straight from the mouth of Nell’s debuntante school friend: “It’s all about pre-1914 tarts, with drawings of them in saucy hats.” Quite.

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Saturday, 17 October 2015

Louis Vuitton Series 3 exhibition

How can fashion brands compete in a global marketplace and capture the interest of potential new, loyal customers? The answer, from Louis Vuitton at least, seems to be to stage a lavish exhibition. London was recently host to the "Series 3" exhibition, following in the footsteps of Shanghai and Los Angeles, an elaborate installation devoted to the Louis Vuitton's Autumn/Winter 15 collection.

Like Les Journées Particulières I went to a couple of years ago (and also hosted by the LVMH group), there's a sense that that Series 3 exhibition gives everyone privileged access to a closed-off, exclusive world. And, while this exhibition was free, it was staged on such a grand scale that made it clear that no expense had been spared. Taking over a huge building on London's The Strand, Series 3 included everything from geo domes to rooms that appeared to be bathed in bright sunlight, even though we were visiting on a dark autumn evening.

Inescapably, the exhibition reinforced the idea of the designer as genius. One room was intended to represent inside Nicolas Ghesquière's mind, giving us lesser geniuses a glimpse into his inspirations and his muses.

More interesting was how those ideas were embodied in the collection. Footage of the collection was shown in a space that replicated the one in which the collection had been held. It captured the energy of the show for those of us who are never going to be FROW-ers. 

Also emphasised throughout was the craftsmanship that went into each Louis Vuitton piece, and their use of some cutting edge (literally) 21st-century technology. Lasers that can scan the leather for imperfections and cut the pieces around it, therefore leading to less waste - very clever indeed. You could watch close up video footage of hands assembling the bags, as well as see the work being done live. As in Les Journées Particulières, they'd brought in some real life workers to answer our questions. It was every bit as interesting and - telling - no, the woman we spoke to couldn't afford to own a Louis Vuitton bag herself. 

The shot above is an attempt to capture the daylight room - so bright that even the models were wearing sunglasses. This room attempted to bridge the gap between the history of Louis Vuitton and the brand today. That meant historic trunks and cases shown alongside accessories from the a/w collection. There was the trunk that inspired the new Petite Malle bag, down to the crosses that decorated it. Or it became apparent how the lining of another case inspired the hatched padded of some of the other bags. 

That lead into a giant "walk-in wardrobe", filled with pieces from the collection and demonstrating that the brand today was about much more than accessories. Of course, it's always fun to be able to get a close-up look and feel of garments that you'll never buy, or even dare to try on, in your everyday life. 

The final room resembled that of a teenagers, in that it was covered with tearsheets of images from the latest Louis Vuitton advertising campaign. For that they've picked ambassadors who bring a slightly edgier, contemporary look to the brand, such as Jennifer Connelly and Alicia Vikander. It was a room clearly intended for selfies (as was the whole exhibition), a simple way of communicating the Louis Vuitton message over social media. 

With my museum head on, it's easy to pull apart these commercially-led exhibitions. It's impossible to miss the messages they are pushing about the brand: heritage, quality, craftsmanship, reinterpreted for today. They want the brand to be seen as something desirable, and cool. If you can't quite afford a bag yet, how about some sunglasses? How about a belt? 

However, it's made me stop and consider a brand that I really only had a passing historic interest in before. Perhaps if I was looking to invest in a designer item, I'd consider them where I wouldn't have previously. It seems like an awfully elaborate way to make some sales but - given that this is the third installment - those big fromages at LVMH must consider it one that works.  

Thanks to my fellow visitor Tia for letting me use her photos. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Noel Streatfeild and fashion modelling in the 1920s

One of my favourite posts I've written is this one, about how Noel Streatfeild used her experience of modelling in the 1920s to create an accurate - albeit romanticised - picture of life inside a fashion house for her book Clothes-Pegs. I’ve been revisiting Noel recently (as evident from my 51 books in 2015 list) and one of the most noticeable things about her books is how she reworks the same themes over and over again, all drawn from her own experiences: her stories are stuffed full of sisters, vicars and stage school children. Her first book, The Witcharts, is essentially Ballet Shoes, with a few more out-of-wedlock pregnancies! Given this, I couldn’t believe she didn’t revisit the setting of the fashion house at some point.

After a bit more reading, I discovered she does, at least three more times. It’s the setting for another “Susan Scarlett” story (Streatfeild’s pseudonym), Peter and Paul (1939), where Petronella (Peter), a vicar’s daughter, becomes an in-house model. Susanna, a vicar’s daughter, goes off to London, still stunned with grief after the First World War, and becomes a model in Parson’s Nine (1932). And, in Away from the Vicarage (published as On Tour in the States, 1965), a “fictionalised biography” of Streatfeild’s life - you may well have guessed it - Vicky, a vicar’s daughter, becomes a model.

This makes it even more amazing that this experience is given so little attention in what’s been written about her life. It wasn’t as if Streatfeild was ashamed of the experience. In her Desert Island Discs, she admits outright, “I was always a fashion model between jobs. I was very tall … and in those days I was very slim and there was plenty of fashion work going in the west end.” But perhaps that honesty only came with time. Vicky, in Away from the Vicarage, doesn’t tell her father and fears someone from her drama course spotting her at her modelling work.

As backed up by the detail given in Clothes-Pegs, Streatfeild described herself as having a “blotting-paper memory”. That means it’s possible to eek out a few more details about a model’s life in the 1920s from these books. For starters, it’s obvious that models were in demand, as Streatfeild says above. Vicky is lucky because “it was the beginning of the period when mannequin parades were all the rage. Clothes were shown all day long – to the trade in the morning; at thés dansants in the afternoons; in the intervals of musical comedies and variety shows and at nightclubs.”

The 1920s - when Streatfeild modelled - was a boom time for fashion modelling, although perhaps it didn't happen in the way we’d think of it today. It was the decade the mannequin parade really took off, and the parades were held regularly within department stores - sometimes several times a day - as well as put on by the fashion houses. As Vicky’s experience suggests, they were a form of entertainment as much as presentation. In 1928, The Times reported how “There has been a big call on the mannequins and some firms have experienced considerable difficulty in supplying their needs.” No wonder Vicky/Streatfeild found it easy to find work.

Vicky’s favourites are the mornings, because “usually only two or three models were used, and they would sit in their underclothes eating sticky buns, waiting for the various groups of buyers.” They get given port or wine to “put colour in their cheeks.” That’s also what happens at “Reboux”, the house where Peter models. Eloise sits around, dressed only in her “brassiere and panties” and pesters Pauline (Peter’s sister, also known as “Paul”) to go out and buy them choc-ices. Other than when seeing clients or being fitted, the “models never went out unless they had a date. They had fearful meals in their own room of such things as sardines and cream buns.”

Yet, for their mollycoddled appearance, it’s apparent that the models do have to work hard. As Streatfeild writes from experience, “only a girl who has done it knows how it feels to have to look exquisite to order any time between nine and six.” And then there’s that strange anonymity that’s thrust upon models that I’ve written about before. Susanna certainly experiences that. In one show, a men grabs her by the wrist to look at the hat she’s wearing before remarking, “these brims are nearly perfect for line; it’s difficult to see what I mean on this girl, as she has a hopeless profile for them, but on anyone else it would be divine.” No wonder Susanna feels numbed by the whole experience: “I felt as though I didn’t exist, that I was just a machine. I don’t think I was even expected to be able to speak. I had to pinch myself to remember I was alive at all.”

Models are secondary to the clothes, convenient ciphers for the client’s desires. Peter is too beautiful to be a successful model.  While she’s has plenty of gentlemen admirers and is known as “a figure in the night-clubs and restaurants”, she can never make a sale when she’s showing for “mothers of plain, rather-difficult-to-marry-off daughters.” Those mothers, we’re told, “sniffed and started at once to run down the clothes, subtly suggesting the fault was Petronella’s.”

Modelling is never presented as a career for life. Streatfeild doesn’t feature it as a possible career option in her 1950s Years of Grace book of advice for teenage girls, despite it being at a peak in popularity and respectability in that decade. Susanna and Vicky use it a way of making ends meet, to be given up when stability returns. For Susanna, it’s a profession associated with a depressing period in her life when, we’re told, she allows herself to go into bedrooms with men at parties. Peter is pawed at and ogled by men constantly too. Streatfeild might write that it’s a way to earn “an honest penny”, but you sense she doesn’t quite believe it. Susanna, for example, is told, “All this mannequin, cinema, photographing rubbish was so many hours filled in till you got on the right track.”

As that last sentence suggests, these books also illustrate a period in modelling that was evolving to encompass more than simply mannequin parades. Susanna also makes money from being a photographic model, showcasing a “painfully suburban-looking home” and a film extra, while Petronella is Reboux’s first photographic model.

But, perhaps the main difference is the coming of the movies. By the time Streatfeild was writing Peter and Paul in the 1930s, the beautiful girl doesn’t want to appear on stage, and in no way is modelling considered the pinnacle of her career. Peter talks and dreams of Hollywood as being the embodiment of glamour and, indeed, that’s where she ends up, clearly too beautiful for Britain or modelling. If you don’t snag the husband (which is the fairy-tale conclusion to the model’s life in Clothes-Pegs), a decade on, you can at least get yourself a Hollywood contract.

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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

To Bed With Grand Music and the Second World War Home Front in women's hats

Vogue, 1 August 1940, via

I've recently finished Marghanita Laski's To Bed With Grand Music, a dark, witty tale charting the 'fall' of a woman, set on the British home front of the Second World War. Originally published in 1946, it's obvious why this book was shocking at the time - it still is. There is no keeping the home fires burning, no scrimping or saving, making do and mending. We're left uncertain whether the anti-heroine, Deborah, will be given her due comeuppance.

Laski conjures up a London not being battered by bombs, but getting battered in cocktail bars, a city populated by people who get dressed up to go out and have serial affairs. It's strikingly similar to the New York conjured up in Dawn Powell''s A Time To Be Born "when the true signs of war were the lavish plumage of the women". The true sign of war in To Bed With Grand Music is - to borrow the description of Juliet Gardiner, who has written the foreword for the Persephone edition of the book - the "frivolous hats".

Today, in a fairly hatless society, it's hard to grasp the social nuances attached to hat wearing in the past. After all, most women still wore them: a sample taken in central London in 1940 noted that 79 out of 100 women still wore hats (turbans and scarves were counted separately).

But, despite it being normal and, indeed, probably "proper" to wear a hat (or perhaps because of the latter), judgements on hat wearing in the first half of the twentieth century often seemed to take on something of a moral flavour. Catherine Horwood's excellent Keeping Up Appearances: Fashion and Class Between the Wars notes how in the 1930s, women's supposedly frivolous attitude to hats were the constant butt of cartoons. Although a social necessity, they were seen to encompass the weakness of the female gender: extravagance, frivolity and indecision.

There's something of that judgment too, in this 10 March 1941 report from the Observer:

"One of the curiosities of this war is the lack of accommodation of the head to warlike conditions. Alone the turban shows some consciousness of a period in which efficiency is all-important ... the general hat seems to be something flighty".

Perhaps no surprise then that, in To Bed With Grand Music, the start of flighty Deborah's downfall is marked by spending "a couple of weeks' salary on a hat that would never do for daytime wear at all".

At the turning point of her affair with Joe - before she decides to be unfaithful to her husband for the first time - she goes into an "extremely expensive hatshop" with him. Like the hat buyer described by Horwood, she is torn with indecision about which model to buy. But it appears she doesn't have to decide after all. Just as Joe allows her to maintain her pretence of being a dutiful wife and mother while enjoying the perks of being the mistress of a married man, he solves her hat problems by buying her both, reassuring her "But you don't have to decide."

1943, via 

Deborah yearns "for sophistication, for sleek black frocks, and, more than anything else, for an immense variety of expensively nonsensical hats." The hats become a symbol of her "sophisticated" lifestyle, and her simultaneous plunge into debt.

Laski's criticism of Deborah is clear. She describes her choice in headwear as "tarty hats". Deborah's hat is one of the first things noted by her mother on meeting her newly sophisticated daughter. And Deborah is clearly aware of their connotations too. She deliberately doesn't wear one when going to seduce the "innocent" Ken Matthews.

In the press at the time, the flamboyance of women's hats were, on one hand, defended as a way to keep up morale. Grace Margaret Morton, for example, described them as an "expression of an effort to put a bit of gaiety into a world burdened with problems" in 1943.

But, while hats were one of the few items of women's clothing not to be rationed, they were widely expensive. By 1944, the Observer was noting the shift from hats to the more practical scarves and bandeau amongst women, no doubt for their practicality. And wearing a frivolous hat would have been an obvious indication that perhaps you weren't working away, doing your bit for the war effort (alas, try as Deborah may to justify it, I don't think her job of flogging dodgy antiques to visiting G.I.s  would be counted as a helpful contribution at all).

Woman's Own, 1945, via

That viewpoint is backed up by an article in the Observer from 15 October 1944 where "A Woman Reporter" writes: "The exaggerated hat fashions recently shown in Paris and Lisbon have had their effect on the trade in Britain. Although women consider these foreign fashions unsuitable to all but a fully leisured life and much too spectacular, their appearance has stimulated the hat trade."

It's hard not to read this report without linking this desire for spectacular hats with the desire illustrated by Deborah for a less conventional lot in life - especially when the reporter notes there has been increased orders for "more thrilling models". How many more women were there like Deborah wanting to escape the dreariness of wartime for something more thrilling - whether at the level of buying a fancier hat, or going to the extremes that Deborah does? And there are hints that even Deborah's mother, the solidly respectable wife of a Leeds councillor better watch out. The report also includes the note that "even provincial stores" were being "more enterprising in buys than four years ago"

Is there a moral to be found in To Bed With Grand Music? It's hard to say - I find it hard to believe Laski would rather Deborah stayed at home instead and made her son miserable. But there's definitely a lesson that can be taken away from this book, and that's to choose your hats carefully.

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Sunday, 3 May 2015

Last-Year Reads: Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes by Virginia Nicholson

When I read Virginia Nicholson's Singled Out a few years ago, the story of the 'surplus women' of the interwar period, it not shifted the way I thought about that time, but also about the associations that come with the word 'spinster'. I know a lot more about the 1950s than I did the interwar years, but I was certain that Nicholson would find enough stories to make reading Perfect Wives in Ideal Homes a worthwhile read, especially after I'd enjoyed Rachel Cooke's Her Brilliant Career so much.

Although Nicholson does feature a few 'excellent women' herself, in the main it's a reminder of what was going on with the majority of Britain's female population while a trailblazing few forged ahead, how a generation of women were raised and educated to conform to the faithful ideal of being wives, mothers and consumers. Their aspirations were supposed to be limited to providing a well-kept, peaceful home and children for their husband. There was also the promotion of an ideal 'look' of loveliness and femininity: this was the decade that saw the launch of 'Miss World' and a boom in the popularity of modelling and grooming schools, such as Lucie Clayton.

Although the amount of working women was rising - in 1951 22% of married women had jobs and it would increase by almost 10% over decade - the work they were doing was extremely limited. In 1955, one poor woman working for a gas board was tasked with adding 33 and a third per cent profit on every estimate that came in. Every day for a year.

There are plenty of stories that make you howl with frustration, such as Lorna Arnold, who had an amazing career in the Foreign Office during the Second World War but stepped down straight after, simply because it didn't occur to her to stay on in a 'man's job'. Or the unplanned pregnancies and, sometimes unplanned marriages, that resulted from a refusal to talk about sex.

Nicholson builds her themes - and gently but persuasively argues her point - through the use of many different case studies. In Singled Out she admits her reliance on diaries and biographies did skew her story slightly as the diary keepers and the published authors are more likely to come from the middle to upper classes. Because the 1950s is still relatively recent, in this book she's been able to accompany these written accounts with her own interviews. One of my favourite case studies was Rose. A teddy girl in the 1950s, Rose recently came under the spotlight because she features in an early set of photographs by Ken Russell (which I wrote about here). Rose is quoted describing how they decided to dress a certain way to capture the attention of the teddy boys:

“We turned up wearing the turned-up drainpipe jeans. Plastic belts round them. And blouses buttoned up with a wing collar. Then we added in cameo brooches, and a scarf, tailored jackets with wide lapels and velvet collars, white ankle socks and flat black shoes with a little bow on the front. Envelope bag.”

Despite what must have been their somewhat shocking appearance, Rose insists: “We weren’t bad girls … We never broke the law. We weren’t drinkers and we didn’t go to pubs.” She did end up marrying her teddy boy, however, and remembers the 1950s as the happiest time in her life.

In the midst of the other depressing statistics, there are other glimmers of happiness in the book. Fiona Calder is a young woman who comes down from Glasgow to work in the art department of a women's magazine and lives the fun and bohemian dream.

And there are other examples of people who put their unhappiness and dissatisfaction to good use. Maureen Nicol, an intelligent woman, finding herself alone and unfilled, established the "Liberal-Minded Housebound Wives Register" (today the "National Women's Register") connecting like-minded women in similar situations.

Mary Quant's Bazaar, as captured in 1955. Via

There were also signs that suggested things were changing - albeit still slowly - be it Mary Quant's Bazaar boutique opening in 1955 or at even more of a grass roots level. Betty Stucley started a youth club for East End of London tenement dwelling teenagers. Their look was certainly not the one being promoted in the magazines: “The tough girls wore blue jeens, with the names of their favourite rave, screen fan, embroidered down the legs, dazzle socks, satin blouses, duffle coats, earrings and make-up." It was, she noted, "particularly interesting" that they "have spread their influence upwards, so that Dior and Hardy Amies gave Teddy touches to some of their women’s clothes." She concluded, "It is a good sign that that new young have the enterprise to design their own clothes, and the courage to wear them.”

Would it be this same mixture of courage and enterprise that helped London swing in the sixties? And to what extent did those changes trickle through to the rest of the country? I'd love it if that was what Virginia Nicholson decided to explore next.

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Friday, 3 April 2015

Last-Week Links: 3 April 2015

I love the Easter weekend: the pleasure of leisure without the hysteria of Christmas. If the holiday has you running to the coast (I write while looking out at the greyest sky imaginable), may I suggest you pick up a copy of Amber Jane Butchart's newly released Nautical Chic book? It covers stripes, yes, and bell-bottoms but every other permutation of seaside style you could think of, from sou'westers to mermaids to tattooed sailors and even dazzle fashions (I had the delightful job of copyediting the book, so can vouch for the amazing range of material Amber has included). Given that - somewhat astonishingly - there's never been a book on this topic before, there's been lots of great press: this Telegraph article gives a great overview.  One important question, though - what on earth am I going to wear to the book launch?!

In more work news, and entirely suitable for Easter reading, is the new issue of The Simple Things. It's a breath of spring goodness, celebrating the joys of record players, walking, garden sheds and Alice in Wonderful. I've a special soft spot - or should that be a runny spot - for Dave and Alex, the wonderful couple behind the 12 Dozen Eggcups project. There's just a sample of their work shown above, taken from the magazine.

The issue also has feature with the always-inspirational queen of the circus Nell Gifford. She's one of the great women I got to interview when I was working on Oh Comely. Another favourite, Pat Albeck, was the subject of Desert Island Discs recently. You can catch up with that programme here.


* An amazing online collection of British photography.

* Being an expat boosts creativity in the fashion industry apparently. Applicable to all creativity?

* Lose yourself for hours in this collection of photos and memories of New York after midnight.

* Lena Dunham film for &Other Stories? Dream collab!

* One of the best Mad Men looks ever. Buy Jane's 1967 Travilla here.

* And more dream shopping. 60 outfits from Celia Birtwell's Ossie Clark archive are being auctioned in June.

* Over on my other blog, Fancies, this week: Mod fashion, wallpapers and Pretty in Pink, featuring this Duckie brooch.

Have an eggs-ellent Easter!

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Thursday, 2 April 2015

Last-Year Reads: Style Me Vintage 1940s

Following on from Fashion on the Ration, here's another new book release on 1940s fashion. This one is a completely different proposal however, being one of Pavilion's hugely popular 'Style Me Vintage' series. It's a series I associate more with a 'vintage' lifestyle look, rather than proper fashion history (which they do really well - Style Me Vintage Hair finally helped me master the 1950s 'do' I dreamt about), so I was interested to see how this volume, written by curator Liz Tregenza, would work.

Style Me Vintage 1940s completely won me over. Although the fashion history element may cover familiar turf for those who have an interest in the subject, this is a great example of how to make an introductory book accessible and visually appealing without dumbing down - other publishers of 'decades' books please take note!

Liz's background and MA-training subtly comes through throughout the book. She's clearly wary of making sweeping statements about the period. So you can copy an early 1940s make-up tutorial (yep, the book still has those), but includes a later version too. Trends aren't just talked about as a homogenous mass, you can a brief survey of German and French wartime fashions, as well as what was happening in Britain and the US. Even zazous get a mention.

It's well worth the money if you want to start collecting the period - there are brief lists of jewellery, shoe, compact brands and the like, as well as a more detailed focus on particular labels. I was pleased to see the spread on Horrockses, as I first became aware of Liz thanks to an enthusiastic comment she left on my post about the label back in 2010. There's also a great list of shops - both stocking vintage and repro - at the back.

It is slightly different from most fashion history books, as Liz is not the mysterious, anonymous narrator. She's a model for some of the outfits for starters - which she does brilliantly, as you'd probably guess if you follow her on Instagram. Then there's the brilliant pictures of her Nanna in full-on forties fashion mood, which help add another level to the book. Her genuine interest in the period is palpable.

And - perhaps essential for this kind of book - it's stuffed full of eye-candy. I love the dress on p.76 and the shoes on pp.134/5 just for starters. I encourage you to buy your own copy if you're curious to see what I mean.

Will more decades follow in this series I wonder? They're bound to if this book is successful as it should be. The authors of those other books have a lot to live up to.

*Pavilion were kind enough to send me a copy.*

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