There’s more to the Forties than victory rolls…

1940s, 1960s, 1970s, Ann Savage, forties fashion, Lauren Bacall, veronica lake

Not victory rolls. She has simply pinned loose curls on the top of her head. The effect is pretty, soft, natural and unforced. Woman’s Illustrated, August 1946.

A personal bugbear of mine, aside from the prevalence of cupcakes and ‘upcycling’ in allegedly ‘vintage’ contexts, is the dominance of the victory roll as a vintage look. I may make myself unpopular here, but frankly it is akin to assuming women in the Sixties only ever wore their hair in beehives – or that everyone was bothering with a Marcel wave in the Twenties. It is lovely to make an effort with your hair, and it is lovely to wear Forties clothes. Or, more likely in my case, Seventies clothes in a Forties style. But why on earth would you want to limit yourself to victory rolls, and why on earth would you want to look like every other allegedly ‘vintage’ woman walking around?

If you search ‘victory roll tutorial’ on Youtube, you get about 855 results (and counting…). That’s 855 people who think they have something new to teach you about doing a very specific style. So say 20 people follow each tutorial to the letter and frequently wear their hair that way, that makes over 17,000 people all desperately trying to create a hairstyle to look ‘unique’. Ok, so the maths is arbitary, but what it demonstrates is how very unoriginal it all is.

Lauren Bacall. No victory roll.

I realise that I am not the target audience for such things generally (in fact my hair is frequently set in what look like victory rolls purely so that I can unclip them in the morning and brush out for a loose-but-frankly-enormous hairstyle which can then be styled to suit any era I choose) – but I do wish that the perceived ‘vintage look’ wasn’t so rooted in a cartoon-like version of the Forties. Not everyone rolled their hair, not everyone wore red lipstick, not everyone bothered drawing a seam up the back of their legs. Most people were too busy/stressed/modest or even independently-minded enough to worry about such things.

I respect people for adopting an unusual look, whether it be vintage or any other subculture, and I respect anyone who makes an effort with their hair. But I have never, and will never, understand the way vintage has turned into a kind of uniform. I know I personally approach it as a way of creating my own style without anyone else’s rules in my head, and also because I have a stupidly stubborn (and geeky) interest in certain eras other people consider ludicrous. But while I sit, engrossed in magazines, films, music of the time, I don’t ever feel like I need to copy any of it slavishly to justify my own vintage-ness. If that is even something I want to define myself by. It is about self-expression, but an unfortunate number of people are expressing their conformity in my opinion. The moment I see a cast member from Made in Chelsea wearing a floppy felt Seventies-style hat, is the moment I put my own original hat to the back of my wardrobe.

On that note, I am still mulching down my feelings and opinions on Grayson Perry’s series about taste, which was a fascinating insight into what he deemed to be the very ‘middle class’ need to express non-conformity. But expressing in a way which is validated by everyone else’s admiration and acceptance of your ‘individualist’ choices. More musings on that at a later date.

Veronica Lake. No victory roll.

When I was a teenager, my mother laughed at me for wanting to wear black jumpers, long dip-dyed skirts and smudged kohl eyeliner. I said I wanted to look ‘different’, and she said ‘don’t you see that you look the same as every other teenager in their black clothes and smudged eyeliner?’. I didn’t, but I do now.

I look forward to the day when the victory rolls have been unpinned, the tea dresses cast off, the lipstick has become more muted and the general mood has moved on to something new. Personally, I haven’t ‘done’ Forties for a few years now, although I used to enjoy dabbling when the mood took me there. I even detect a certain amount of frustration and boredom from the people I know who do live and love the Forties look.

Ann Savage. No victory roll.

In part, I believe the burlesque scene is to blame. (I still cannot understand why nobody is doing jiggly Carry On-style Seventies burlesque in nylon ruffles and glossy pastel make-up – you’d make quite a name for yourself!). Although I would say this is through no fault of their own. Any business which is about the seduction of men (and women) in ten-minute bursts is naturally going to seem larger-than-life and somewhat cartoon-like. But is that what most people are actually aspiring to? Or are they using it as a shorthand? Like black and white Mondrian-esque dresses for ‘mod’, or cheap beaded shifts for ‘flapper’. And are they dressing this way because they are actually passionate about the era (easy enough to claim) or because they want to fit in with a scene?

Somehow the commercialisation of vintage is represented, to me, by the victory roll. Although it is by no means the only example.

I am trying not to judge people, I just want to understand why it is happening since the knock-on effect is a lack of understanding about vintage. I have actually lost count of the number of times someone has asked me if I ‘make’ the vintage I sell. So far I have managed to retain a sense of humour about it, but occasionally feel like I should rename my website Secondhand-a-Peel and officially reject the word vintage.

My approach is always to look at original pictures of normal women of the time – “primary sources” was always the mantra in history lessons – which is why My Dad’s Photos is such an immensely valuable resource for any Seventies-fiend. So I have included a few photographs from my own family’s photograph albums. These people worked for the Civil Service and were stationed up in Buxton during the war. I don’t know who half of them are, they were friends of my grandparents, but look how lovely they are. Some have rolls, some just have a nice set, some are just clipped off the face; variety is the spice of life.

The first photo is of my grandmother, and she is sporting a reverse roll! Go Nana, being all subversive there… I just wish she was still around so I could ask her what she made of it all.

Please do not reproduce these pictures without permission. Thank you.

Gratuitous photograph of the photographer of many of these photos, my Grandad. He was quite the dish…

Please do not reproduce these pictures without permission. Thank you.

Inspirational Illustrations: The Swaggers

19 magazine, 1970s, biba, forties fashion, Illustrations, paul leith

From 19 Magazine, September 1974. Left and right coats are by Biba. Illustration by Paul Leith.

Madame Grès

fifties fashion, forties fashion, madame grès, musee bourdelle, paris, seventies fashion

I am returned from Paris! It was all perfectly wonderful, plenty of wandering (some aimless, some not…), drinking, eating and all other lovely things. I will blog a little more about events on my birthday, but I thought I would start off with the visual feast that was the Madame Grès exhibition at the Musée Bourdelle. Everything about it was a treat. The museum itself is a fantastic space; a mixture of old studios and purpose built exhibition spaces. The Grès pieces have been inserted within the permanent exhibition, and also in larger dedicated sections. You weave your way through the numbered rooms, which seem to go on forever (which is wonderful, unless you’re slightly concerned about catching your Eurostar back home…but we still managed to soak it all up!).

I have to emphasise how much of a honour it was to be able to see the dresses up close. I mean, really up close. Everyone was respectful of the ‘do not touch’ signs, so often a problem in the UK I fear, and it shows off the dresses to perfection. Grès was a designer who was all about the detail, the finest pleats and the most delicate of stitching. I couldn’t stop snapping; quite frankly, I think I forgot that I wasn’t photographing listings for my website (I should be so lucky!).

My favourite designers are always those who rarely move with the winds of fashion. Idiosyncrasy is my favourite word. The exhibit cleverly juxtaposes her early pieces with the later ones, as well as with Bourdelle’s sculptures – since sculpture was her inspiration and, I think, her vocation. I should have made more notes about dates, but I can tell you that the one immediately below this text is from 1980 (just before she went bankrupt, her House was sold and her archives destroyed). At the top of the page, the two tomato-red jersey dresses are twenty years apart in production. It’s extraordinary, and to be admired. Her skill was unmistakeable, it didn’t need to follow trends or chase notoriety and scandal.

Enjoy!

Dreamiest coat in the world

Shades of grey

Choir of angels

I can’t resist a buffle

Can you believe this dress is from 1946?

Icon: Simone Simon

1930s, 1940s, forties fashion, hollywood icons, picture spam, simone simon, Style Icons

Earlier this year, I saw the fantastic Cat People for the first time. This weekend, I initiated M into the slightly overly-sentimental and weepy world of Seventh Heaven (a film which largely works thanks to the performances of Simon and James Stewart). I find Simone Simon to be completely and utterly adorable and incredibly beautiful. I also like the fact that, despite a few attempts, she was unable to fit in with the Hollywood world and returned to France in the Forties; never marrying and living to the grand old age of 94.













Listings-a-go-go

Eighties Fashion, forties fashion, jean varon, john bates, miss mouse, novelty prints, ossie clark, quorum, radley, sarah whitworth, seventies fashion, sixties, website listings

I know it’s been a little quiet on the website front in recent weeks, and my apologies for that. I am working super hard behind the scenes, but sometimes it takes a little longer than planned to bring things front and centre. Anyway, in case you’re not checking the website very often or aren’t a ‘fan’ on facebook (highly recommended, I must say) then here are some new picks of the pops…






New listings: Day dresses

bourgeois, british boutique movement, carnaby street, forties fashion, mary farrin, mister ant, novelty prints, seventies fashion, sixties, versace, website listings
Versus Versace

Boring, functional work-related post alert!!

Just to let you know of three new listings in the daywear department (and to alert you to some others you might have missed the other day). Plenty more to come; I’m hoping to list a Marie France, an original Twiggy labelled dress and a Holly Harp by the end of the week. And more if I possibly can…. Wish me luck!

Unsigned novelty print Forties dress

Green 1970s Mister Ant sun dress

Levison Originals by Mary Farrin

Unsigned 1960s barkcloth mini

Bourgeois boutique of Soho 1970s maxi dress

Vintage Inspiration: Loretta Young

forties fashion, Inspirational Images, irene, lace, loretta young

Wearing what I’m assuming is Irene (from He Stayed For Breakfast, 1940) but what I know is one of the most exquisite dresses I’ve ever clapped eyes on….

Anna Friel: You did it again….

anna friel, forties fashion

An amazing cream satin Forties dress, and Anna has now been quoted as saying that she’s ‘as happy as a pig in s**t in a vintage store‘. A girl after my own heart, with very enviable hair as well. I really do love the fact that she’s dressing up for the paps outside the theatre. That’s definitely what I’d do.

I can’t stand ‘celebs’ who look pseudo-pissed-off for waiting photographers, whilst wearing some pseudo-stained t-shirt as a dress over some pseudo-ripped tights or somesuch. Stop moaning and break out the dressing-up box!

Anna Friel: Forties Siren

anna friel, forties fashion

Anna Friel is someone who looks amazing in pretty much whatever she wears, and I’m usually very taken with her style choices. Something of a modern style icon in the making, I predict. There have been a few strange ones this week (now she’s appearing as Holly Golightly in London she’s being photographed post-performance each night), but she’s definitely back on form with this outfit.

I have no idea if any of it is vintage, but I love the dress, jacket, hair and make-up wholeheartedly… I don’t often flirt with the forties look, but it might be time to try again.