Monday, December 2, 2013

Wartime fashion: allusively

Dress: Reitmans; Boots; Ecco; Barrettes and sequined bobby bins: Stylize; Hair comb, dress clip, earrings, purse, and bracelet: vintage; Diamond solitaire: heirloom; Diamond right hand ring: Birks; Bands and brooch: boutique; Raincoat: London Fog
(I've noticed that this post is getting read a lot lately. If you like it, you'll probably like this post even more: Remembering I'm Jewish: 40s Fashion and Remembrance Day.)

I've always loved the late 30s, early 40s feel of this dress. It doesn't feel costumey, but rather alludes to the 40s, making it appropriate as a contemporary dress but still giving it a whiff of the "old-fashioned" that those not into fashion history can feel and see but pinpoint.

This is the way I like to dress: I can pass for modern but somehow always seem a little old-fashioned at the same time. I think I like to look like I belong to many eras at once. It's in keeping with the way I feel; I've read so much older literature that I feel I always exist in the past and present at the same time. It's a nice feeling.

Of course, unlike those who tell me I seem "old-fashioned" but can't explain why, I am a dedicated follower of fashion history so I can pinpoint why my dress has a wartime feel to it. The skirt of the dress is a-line, and, if I weren't so short, would be just the length popular in the late 30s and early 40s. Though you can't see it clearly in these night time photos, the waist of my dress has a wide panel like the ones above. It flatters the figure, yet is modest and practical, perfect for rolling up one's sleeves and pitching in during wartime.

Wearing one's hair in all kinds of crazy rolls was all the rage during World War II. The theory is that, as cloth was rationed and opulent clothes and hats were hard to come by, and even seen as unpatriotic, the hair styles got more and more opulent instead.

As with my dress, I wanted my hair style merely to allude to the 40s, not ape it, so I rolled my hair in a more understated way. This hair style has actually become a "go to" style for me as it gets my curls in check and, I think, makes me look classy and, dare I say it? Sophisticated.

It's easy: just part your hair in the middle; roll a section back on either side of the part, catching up more hair as you go; secure the rolled sides; then twist the back hair into a quick bun and secure however you please (or even leave it down). This time, I used the great, decorative hair comb that I found for 50 cents at a garage sale. 

More and more, I'm coming to love hair combs. They are the key to 40s rolls, and work wonderfully on curly hair for many styles, though I suspect they wouldn't work as well on straight hair. They're not that easy to find, though, and, when I do, they're usually flimsy pieces of junk that break after one or two uses. That's why I was so excited to find my fancy one at the garage sale. I also recently found the above Goody hair combs and plan to buy many more before they disappear off the market.

How lucky was I find both this bracelet and this achingly perfect purse at second hand stores on the very day I wore this dress? The bracelet was five dollars. The purse was fourteen dollars. I did some research and find that it was made no later than about 1942. I have a similar one in brown, but I really love the geometry of this one. It just screams Art Deco.

Details are important, don't you think? Now that I find I can endure clip-on earrings, I have a vast array of vintage earrings available to me, including these little ones I got for... I don't remember, but less than five dollars.

This brooch is new. I got it at a little boutique that was, unfortunately, going out of business. I knew that this much sparkle, with just its hint of colour, would brighten the dark, rainy, winter days ahead. 

Can you spot the snail on it? I first moved to Canada, specifically Canada's "rain coast", when I was six. I was immediately charmed by all the snails and slugs that thrive here and collected them as pets. 

Yes, I was a tomboy. A tomboy and a total femme, collecting slugs in ditches one minute, and wearing pink ribbons the next.

The ring, of course, was my grandmother's, with her name and my grandfather's and the year 1936 inscribed on the inside. The diamond eternity band? Totally fake! But it fooled you, right, for a minute anyway?

That hair clip is black, I swear, and goes with the dress. I don't know why it looks purple in photos.

That's it. Aren't you glad I didn't write about child abuse or chronic pain this time? Everything in its time and place, I say. This time, the place was second hand stores, and the time was the late 30s and early 40s.

(For once, my style blog post is actually about style, so I'm hooking up with all the other stylish dames at Not Dead Yet's Visible Mondays.)


  1. Lovely period reference, and charms on you! Very feminine without being cloying-sweet. Really flattering silhouette, Charlotte. Pretty you.

    1. Thanks, Jan. I bought this dress before the disability took over so it's more form-fitting now, but it does still seem to flatter.

  2. Hi Charlotte, wow the jewelry you've shown here is gorgeous. I love every piece, especially the brooch. Thanks for sharing it with us! XO, Jill

  3. I love your dress, and your bag, and your brooch, and, and, and... ;-)
    It is my curse to have hair so fine it doesn't pin or comb up well so, naturally, I yearn for the styles that are "put up". Oh well, you'll have to wear it up for me.


  4. Awesome pics Charlotte! Can you post a video of you doing your hair that way so you have basically teach us, step by step, (for hair idiots like me) how to do it?

    1. Well, sure, I could do that. I've always thought of myself as a total klutz when it comes to fancy things like styling my hair so it's amusing to be seen as knowing what I'm doing. This particular style is incredibly easy if you have curly hair.