Friday, 31 July 2015

Fashion on the Ration exhibition

I made it there eventually, and it was worth it. I didn't want to go in the school holidays, but I knew if I didn't go now, I would never get there. The Victoria line is closing at my end over August, so I will be trapped in the Stow.

Image IWM

I took my boy with me, who was a little angel, and enjoyed the whole thing.

My little fashion historian

Tank Boy

He loved seeing the Spitfire suspended from the ceiling, and a huge tank.

Image - the boy

I wore my only piece of CC41 clothing - a tailored navy jacket, with what I think are the original buttons. It is a little snug now, but looks just as good unbuttoned, and to go with it I wore my Victory Jumper and Moss Stitch beret.  I am also wearing a couple of brooches, a bakelite flower in a yellow/gold shade, and one of my knitted brooch patterns - A Posy of Violets. This is partly because they are pretty, and partly to hide the moth holes. Still, it hasn't done badly considering it is over 70 years old.

The exhibition is broken into six sections: Into Uniform, Functional Fashion, Make Do and Mend, Utility Clothing, Beauty as Duty and Peace and a New Look.

The Make Do and Mend section was a real lesson in recycling.

'Everyone should understand that it is patriotic to wear old clothes. That does not mean of course that you have to look shabby. You always look neat if you keep your clothes clean and well repaired.' (From Can I Help You on the Home Service, 10th March 1942).

There was a patchwork dress and housecoat made from scraps of fabric, lingerie made from silk maps originally used by the RAF, and lots of ingenious ways of re-invigorating a tired wardrobe. The poster that helped promote this was 'Go Through Your Wardrobe', (one of which I had to purchase).

The Utility Clothing section, which was given the name CC41, has a large and comprehensive collection of clothing from that time. Everything from underwear to a red wool overcoat, with dresses in myriad colours and fabrics.

Image IWM

Image Getty

If I hadn't known it was utility clothing, I would never have thought anything other than how chic and beautiful it was.

Beauty as Duty was a fascinating look at the lengths women had to go to, to look half decent. As makeup became scarcer and scarcer, women became increasingly desperate, and turned to homemade preparations like beetroot water to stain their lips red! I have to say this particular propoganda does rankle me a little. While the men were off fighting, women were told they just had to try and look pretty. In fact, it was their 'duty' to. Lots of cosmetics companies pushed this idea in their advertisements:

'We cannot leave men to fight this war alone. Total war makes heavy demands...The slightest hint of a drooping spirit yields a point to the enemy. Never must careless grooming reflect a 'don't care' attitude...we must never forget that good looks and good morale are the closest of good companions. Put your best face forward.' (Yardley advert, 1942).

On the knitting front, there was just one case, with some wools, patterns for knitted underwear, and some lovely fair isle knits, a matching beret and scarf.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the new look Imperial War Museum. I hadn't been since well before my boy was born, so it was great to see all the new galleries. The staff were on hand to give much needed expert knowledge on every exhibit in the museum. It was particularly helpful when my son asked where the bombs were put in the Spitfire, (I didn't know they sometimes carried them), and as I said this a chap jumped in and told him all about it. Marvellous.

On my knitting front, I am planning my holiday projects. We fly to the States on Monday for a week and having just had a phone call from the airline I was able to ask directly if I am allowed knitting needles and crochet hooks on board - and it was checked, and I am. Hooray!

You may have noticed I was working on a holiday piece, a crocheted beach T-shirt thingy from Inside Crochet magazine.

I went a bit crazy with my colour choices and it has turned into a bit of a beast. I have attached the front and back at the shoulders, so it looks a bit like a poncho at the moment, which would be fine if I were going to a Mexican fiesta. My husband said it would look great with a sombrero, and even better if I were holding a taco in each hand. Now I do intend to eat tacos on holiday, but perhaps not while wearing the 'Fiesta' poncho. Grrr. The original is so chic too. I might rip back the top which has closer spaced stripes and just continue with white. And do the sleeves in white.

Image Inside Crochet

I will be taking my Stitchcraft jumper, from the cover of March 1941.

I am on the second front now (ooh, sounds a bit military), just the sleeves to go. Oh, and the front bands, and the belt, and the collar. Then the sewing up. Hmm. I want to take some crochet projects too, but need some time to decide on the right ones. I might also take some yarn for projects I plan to sell at the next E17 Designers Fair in October. Some brooches and a beret or two. I will mainly be selling the patterns, but I think it might be nice to have the knitted pieces available too, for the non-knitters. I can only try.

What are your plans for the summer?


Friday, 24 July 2015

Free Pattern Friday - The Smartest Thing in Plain Knitting

Easy enough for a beginner and in a larger size

Thank you all for the comments on my last post about what 'women of a certain age' should or shouldn't wear. I cringe writing that phrase. There is so much more I want to discuss about this, so watch out for more posts on women daring to age in public. Funnily enough, I found another blog post about this issue, written a couple of days before mine, by Forever Amber. She had seen an article on Facebook - 24 Things Women Should Stop Wearing After Age 30. (I did NOT click on the link to read the article - I didn't want to be sucked into it. I've got enough to be angry about!). Amber commented on it in a way I would expect of any woman over 30. It is so worth reading; she is a fab writer.

The free vintage pattern this month is a very elegant long sleeved jumper/jacket, and I chose it because of the model.

'Jumper Jill' gracing the covers of my Good Needlework's

Caroline, The Sunny Stitcher, recently shared a vintage pattern featuring this model, and it seems we are both intrigued by this nameless woman. She has fascinated me since I got my hands on a copy of Jane Waller's 1972 edition of 'A Stitch In Time' in 2007, and for the purposes of this post I will refer to her as the name The Sunny Stitcher has given her: Jumper Jill. The earliest I have seen her is from 1932 in Woman and Home magazine, wearing With A New Cowl Neckline, which I modelled for the updated edition of 'A Stitch In Time'. Seeing her over and over in the jumpers that were to be recreated for the book, her face became so familiar to me, as did her expressions and poses. She is the complete opposite in looks to me, but I adore her. I think the main reason I collect these magazines is for her. I like to see how her hair and makeup changed over the decade. I'm a total fan girl.

Image A Stitch In Time 1972

Here she is in Stitchcraft magazine from 1933, in a very alluring pose, modelling lingerie. Called 'Step-Ins', I tried to step into a beautifully crocheted version to be photographed for the book and couldn't get them past my thighs. In fact, I ripped the stitching!

Image - A Stitch In Time 1972
(She looked just as elegant in a knitted dressing gown.)

She is the most popular model of the 1930s - and considering the explosion of knitting design that happened in that decade, that is quite something. I wonder if she was stopped in the street by women of all ages and mobbed for her autograph? I doubt it. I imagine she had a very ordinary life, although I would like to think that she went to wild cocktail parties hosted by Noel Coward, and danced all night with men who weren't her husband.

'Jumper Jill' graced the covers and pages of magazines including Woman's Weekly, My Home, Stitchcraft, Woman and Home, and Good Needlework and Knitting, which is one of my personal favourites. The patterns are very well written, always include schematics, and the best thing is the suggested colour schemes. They excite me more than they should, but it is a glimpse into fashion history. It seems so elaborate now to think of planning an outfit, an everyday outfit (not occasion wear), down to the shade of your stockings. And yet, women's wardrobes were so much smaller than ours - capsule in fact. The Girl With The Star Spangled Heart has done some great blog posts about capsule wardrobes, particularly the 1940s one. A suit for every season, a few day dresses, evening dresses, and maybe two coats? Oh, and tons of accessories. I would not be able to make that work - or would I?

I would really like to know about her, where she lived - London? How did she start modelling knitwear? What was it like working with the photographers then, and what was the studio like? Did the knitwear designers style the shoots, or were they just kept busy churning out new patterns every week?

I think she was married, I've seen a ring on her finger in some photographs. Did she have children? And what was her name? She reminds me of Mrs de Winter in "Rebecca". She was gone by the 1940s, perhaps her 'look' had dated, but I don't think so. We'll probably never know. If there is anyone out there who has any information about this lovely lady, I would love to hear from you.

The jumper below is knit in the elusive 3 ply wool, with 3mm and 4mm needles. The size given is about 38 - 39 inches across the bust, and 20 - 21 inches long. 'Definitely the jumper should be in every wardrobe'.

The pattern stretches over a few pages, and unfortunately I had make do with phone pictures as I had scanned them with a really high resolution, and was then unable to upload them. (After more than an hour, I failed). I think they are still readable in this format, though.

Suggested Colour Schemes - Eek!

Now back to channeling Jumper Jill.


Friday, 17 July 2015

Another Year Under My (Diamante) Belt

My 21st birthday wearing a Miss World (Hole) T-shirt

I turned 42 last week, and it got me thinking. In fact, I'm pretty much always thinking about it - getting older. When I read a recent post by Jessica from Chronically Vintage, it struck a cord. It was about fashion for the over 40s (specifically, vintage fashion), and as I read it I realized it was about me. My heart sank into my DMs. Should I still be wearing the clothes I have hoarded from the 90s? Skimpy slips I used to wear in a Riot Grrrl style with DMs or patent leather Mary Janes? On reflection, hell yeah!

Mary Janes from the nineties

I don't just wear trashy slips. I love the ladylike vintage clothes, too. And jumpers. And berets.

I guess I am aware that I haven't got that much time left to wear these crazy looks, so I'm just going to enjoy it while I can. My thirties blinked by, so my forties aren't going to be any slower.

I do feel like the old bird in the room a lot now. Not when I'm with my girls, but in the vintage scene. I took a long break from dancing and DJing when I had my son, five and a half years ago, so I feel a bit out of the loop. But being older means I have a lot more confidence, and a don't-give-a-shit attitude to most things. I guess I just want to look 30 (not 20, I'm not greedy), but be 40+, with all the wisdom acquired along the way. I could do without having to cover my grey hair every month, though. I found my first white hair at 19. As a feminist, I should probably let it show, but I just CAN'T. I know very few female clients in the salon where I work who have stopped covering the grey, but there are definitely more now than ten years ago. I totally support their choice, but I can't go there yet, or maybe ever. However, I've seen a lot of blue and pink rinses that I could rock.

On the way to Mixtape for birthday fun

Do I have any rules for what I wear now compared with how I dressed 15 or 20 years ago? I certainly don't take as long deciding, or trying things on. It was part of the fun back then. I don't go out nearly as much, so that means less chance of people seeing me in the same thing over and over. I went to Westfield shopping centre this week, and had a good look at the clothes in H&M, Topshop, etc, and as usual, was completely unimpressed. However, tt was worth the trip to see my daughter dance to Justin Timberlake's 'Like I Love You' in the mirror at Topshop.

I definitely dress with comfort in mind now - no squeezing into too-tight shoes and trousers anymore. I have a better idea of what is flattering to me, so shapeless shift dresses are out, along with hipster flares!

I love the vintage look, but I have to say I actually find it more ageing sometimes. The tight curls and shingled waves of the early 1930s, worn away from the face, are very severe, as are some of the clothes. Pallazzo pants though? I can't get enough of that action! And floor length bias-cut tea dresses? Bring it on.

I'd like to get a forties suit, as I think that could be dressed up or down, and is the perfect accompaniment to vintage knitwear. And the knee-length dresses from the 1940s are so easy to wear. But the heavy makeup look is not so easy on older skin. I've just started watching Agent Carter on television, and Hayley Atwell suits that look down to the platform wedges, and she can get away with the strong makeup, but I find it too ageing on me. That's why I veer more towards the 1930s, it had a more natural, feminine look, as long as you keep your hair soft, and your makeup light, especially the eyes. What I do like about the 1940s was that very few of the models looked like girls. They were women. If anything, they looked older than their years. Teen fashion hadn't been invented yet. Teenagers hadn't been invented yet.

So, I'm going for the look above, but I'm way closer in age to the woman below. Depressing much? Why did they frump up women this young? She's probably only 50, if that. OK, so 50 is not young, but really.

You'll notice I've not mentioned men, and their wardrobe dilemmas when they turn 40. That's because they don't have any. They're not under the same scrutiny as women, in that or any area of their lives, really. They can carry on wearing whatever the hell they want without worrying about being accused of looking like 'mutton dressed as lamb'. Still, I don't have to give in to these societal pressures to stay young - I'm just vain, I suppose. And I'm having fun. Dressing up to go out was always about so much more than wearing the latest fashion,. In fact, it was never really about that. Dressing up was, and still is an opportunity to become a different character in your life, be it a 1930s screen siren (Joan Crawford) or an angry feminist agitator (Kathleen Hanna).

I will continue to age. I just hope I can do it with grace and humour. And tiaras.

On the 29 bus to Camden Town, 1994


Thursday, 2 July 2015

Summer, cotton and crochet

Ah, summer is here. I hope you're all enjoying it, because I'm suffering rather. Filthy weather. 37C? In London, that is not nice. On a beach somewhere, or lounging by a pool, but not in a humid city.

It makes knitting a little warm to say the least. So I just had to get out the cotton and get cracking on a warm weather top. It is inspired by the Bold Batwing Dress by Ruby McGrath of Frank&Olive Crochet, from the current issue (67), of Inside Crochet. I haven't bought Inside Crochet for months, as none of the projects grabbed me. I always look forward to it coming out every month, and make it a rule that at least two projects must interest me to justify buying it.

Image by Inside Crochet

This will be a combination of the Batwing Dress and another top Ruby McGrath's designs featured in issue 58 of Inside Crochet, The Rebekka Jumper.

Image by Inside Crochet

I had several balls of Sugar 'n Cream cotton from last summer when I was in the States. The colours were just mouthwatering, and I had bought them initially thinking I would make another blanket, or cushion cover. I'm so glad I didn't as this might actually get finished! It is an aran weight, so I'm using a 4.5mm hook. I'm not making it quite so oversized as this or the dress. The pattern is only given in one size, to be worn with varying degrees of positive ease. It is a very simple pattern, and therefore incredibly easy to size up or down. I've adapted mine for a 44 inch bust size, and it will be about 25 -28 inches long, depending on how much it drops, because of the weight of the cotton.

I'm also still working away on the cover jumper from the 1941 Stitchcraft magazine.

I've almost finished the back, and it's looking good.

I have lots of things happening at the moment, none of which I can reveal much about as they are in the early stages, but they are incredibly exciting, and are to do with knitting and vintage music. What else is there?

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...