Looking Good in Wartime, Part Two
'Looking beautiful is largely a duty,' Vogue sternly informed young women during the war. Apparently, girls were meant to look as pretty as possible to cheer up their soldier boyfriends. Of course, girls might have wanted to look nice for themselves. Maybe they didn't have enough coupons for a new dress, but some bright lipstick and a new hairstyle might help them forget the gloomy old war for a while.
The problem was that cosmetics were in short supply, just like everything else. Cosmetics companies such as Yardley's and Cyclax had stopped making lipstick and perfume, so that they could concentrate on manufacturing sun protection creams and sea-water purifiers for the army. So, with no cosmetics in the shops, girls had to be creative. No mascara? Use shoe polish or burnt cork mixed with castor oil. No hand cream? Try rubbing lard or margarine or lemon juice into your hands. Perfume? Well, you might have to make do with lavender water. Unable to buy new stockings? Paint your legs with gravy powder mixed with water, then draw a 'seam' down the back of each leg with a pen.
Girls got creative with accessories, too. Everyone was meant to carry a gas mask at all times, in case the Germans dropped bombs filled with poison gas. Elizabeth Arden produced a special range of velvet-covered cases for gas masks, which included a silk pocket for cosmetics. When the poison gas attacks didn't happen, people started ignoring the rules and left their gas masks at home – although some girls carried the empty case as a handbag.
Even hairstyles were affected by the war. Women in the services or working in factories needed to keep their hair up, out of the way. One popular style was the Victory Roll, an arrangement of curls held in place on top of the head with bobby pins. It got its name from either the V-shape of the hairstyle or in honour of the 'victory rolls' that fighter pilots would perform after an air battle. If you have long hair and would like to see how you look with a Victory Roll, here's a handy how-to video from a modern-day girl who loves vintage fashions. Yes, I did attempt it myself. No, it wasn't very successful, but then, I didn't actually have any hairspray and I ran out of bobby pins. Anyone else have any success with it?
Next: Eating Well in Wartime