Tag Archives: WWII

Ad Campaign – Active Modern Shoes, 1943


Fascinating… inspired detail… perfect cut – all help Active Modern Shoes cast a real spell of loveliness upon your feet.

And with the built-in comfort that only Selby Arch Preserver hidden features can give, you won’t want to fly through the air – you’ll love walking.

I imagine that ad writers had a really hard time when it came to pushing the merits of wartime women’s shoes.  Due to the  scarcity of dyes, by 1943 American shoe manufacturers were limited to six colors: navy, black, white, and three shades of brown.  Shoes were made in sturdy styles that were  meant to last and to provide support for the feet of the female workforce.

I know that there will be some disagreement, but to me these are old lady shoes, possibly because in the 1960s old ladies were still wearing similar styles.  I can imagine that the older woman stuck with this style because as the ad points out, they were comfortable.  Look at all that toe room and the nice sturdy heel.  But I really do fail to see the this style would “cast a spell of loveliness” on anybody’s feet.

And is it just me, or does that black model actually look a bit like a witch’s shoe?


October 16, 2013 · 8:03 am

Glamour, May, 1943

From the cover notes:

In previous years, necks this low were usually seen on evening dresses.  Now they come right out in broad daylight and, combined with the briefest of sleeves, signal a new type of day-or-date dress that is this summer’s favorite.

In 1943 it was becoming increasingly necessary for the clothing budget ( and ration coupons) to be stretched as far as possible.  Clothing was often advertised as being multi-purpose, much like this “day-or-date” dress.  And while not exactly office-appropriate, it does seem like just the thing for an afternoon out shopping  or for a  casual dinner date.

This issue of Glamour was full of wardrobe stretching ideas:

* To save wear on your work clothes, change into slacks or hardy cottons when you arrive at home after work.

*  Keep your clothes repaired and clean.  “A stitch in time saves nine.”

*  Cover up the moth holes in your old wool swimsuit with flower appliques cut from colorful cotton.

*  Make a sturdy housedress by adding a skirt to the bottom of an old shirt.

*  Fasten a bunch of fresh flowers to a plain hat.  It’s like a new hat every time you wear it!

Photographer:  Lemus

Model: Not credited

Copyright: Condé Nast


Filed under Fashion Magazines, World War II

Currently Reading: Slacks and Calluses

Slacks and Calluses was the result of two high school teachers who decided to spend their summer vacation in 1943 helping out the war effort by working in an aircraft factory.   Constance Bowman Reid was an English teacher, and her friend Clara Maris Allen taught art, and in their spare time that summer they worked together to produce this delightful little book.

When I found this book, I assumed it was a  memoir, written by the pair many years later, but instead they  put the finishing touches on their work after they returned to school that fall, and they were lucky enough to get the book published the next year.  As a result, the book has a freshness and humor that goes with the very recent retelling of a story.

Along with the amazing descriptions of how a giant airplane assembly line actually worked, Slacks and Calluses has a lot of insights as to the fashions of the day.  Most interesting are the attitudes toward women wearing what was still considered in most situations, men’s clothing.

It was bad enough being tired all the time and dirty most of the time, but worst of all the first week was having to go to work in slacks – down Fourth Street where people who knew us acted as if they didn’t, or down Third Street where people who didn’t know us whistled as if they did.

The two friends found that clerks in stores ignored them, other women on the street scorned them  and men on buses would not surrender their seats to them like they did to women wearing skirts.

It was a great shock to C.M. and me to find that being a lady depended more on our clothes than upon ourselves… This summer we found out that it was not out innate dignity that protected us from unwelcome attentions, but our trim suits, big hats, white gloves, and spectator shoes.  Clothes, we reflected sadly, make the woman – and some clothes make the man think he can make the woman.

Some women in the factories, the “women’s counselors” and nurses, were allowed to wear skirts. Constance and C.M. “hated” those women.

On the positive side, the two did not have to worry about their figures that year, as all the walking just getting to their spot on the assembly line was sufficient exercise, and then the job itself was quite physical.

Slacks and Calluses is a light, fun read that gives a view of WWII that is rather hard to come by.  In the updated version, Reid wrote an epilogue, in which she says she was a bit embarrassed by the book.  That is because she went on to write books about math and number theory and became quite renowned for this work.  She died in 2010 at the age of 92.


Filed under Currently Reading, World War II

Ad Campaign – Bates, 1944

Blueprint for tomorrow by Barbara Stanwyck

Barbara Stanwyck, star of “Double Indemnity”, a Paramount Picture, plans to commute by helicopter from Hollywood to her home – after the war!  You will be able to travel by air too, and perhaps have your own plane if you buy enough War Bonds now!  Those who want a touch of tomorrow in their homes today are selecting Bates bedspreads, designed to provide warmth as well as beauty… and they see in Bates spreads with matching draperies tomorrow’s answer to decoration.

This has got to be one of the oddest star endorsements of all time.  Here is the glamorous Barbara Stanwyck in a bedroom decorated with cotton bedspread and curtains that are covered with log cabins and pine trees.  I somehow had her pictured as more of the satiny boudoir type.

And then there is all that talk about the future, with good reason.  “For the duration” was a common way of referring to wartime life, with the hope of a brighter future being one of the things that got people through all the shortages and sacrifices.  Still, it seems to be strange that a fabric covered with log cabins is being touted as the answer to tomorrow’s decorating problems!


Filed under Advertisements, World War II

The Significance of the Object

I bought this box of ribbon candy for my husband after he spotted it in a catalog and recalled how his grandparents always had a box at Christmas.   Ribbon candy seems to have made a bit of a comeback lately, probably more for its lovely design than for its taste.  I’ve seen it featured this year dangling from the Christmas trees in several style and how-to blogs.  And that’s great, because I  hate to think of this traditional 20th century treat as passing into obscurity.  And because this is mainly a holiday candy, I’m sure many families have stories associated with it.  And here is ours:

My mother was 13 in December, 1944.  My grandmother was in the new hospital of our little town,  having given birth to my Uncle Neil.  Every day after school my mom would walk from her school to downtown Canton to see her mother and the new baby.  For some odd reason, after centuries of women giving birth at home, it was somehow determined that a week-long hospital stay was now necessary.

One day in mid December, when Mama arrived at her mother’s room,  Mamaw was waiting for her with a dollar.  She handed to her daughter in a hurry, with instructions to run to the Company Store, as a rumor was going around town that there was candy to be had.

I can just picture my 13 year old mother running the three blocks to the store, as she (and no body else in the country!) had had any real candy in several years.  To her delight, there were boxes of ribbon candy, and though people were mobbing the counter, she was able to get her hands on a couple of boxes.  It was a happy day for the Bumgarner children, and for my grandparents as well.

My mother had a life-long sweet tooth, and I can’t help but wonder if  the absence of it in her late childhood somehow stuck with her – that even after candy was plentiful again she never lost sight of how very special it was.    I just hope that in our lives of plenty, that we all take the time to appreciate the specialness of the gifts we’ve received.


Filed under Holidays, World War II

WWII Silk Escape Map

I had read that in WWII airmen and paratroopers carried special maps printed on silk, and I’d seen a photo in Jonathan Walford’s book, Forties Fashions, of maps that were made into a blouse.  But I’d never run across one in all my flea marketing.  But that changed last week, when I spotted the above map at the Charlotte Metrolina.  At first I thought it was a folded paper map, but I knew what it really was the minute I picked it up.

Unfolding it, I realized it was in perfect condition, meaning that it probably was never used.  And even though the USA made fabric maps during the war, this one is British.  It is map 43-A, France, Holland, and Belgium, and on the reverse, 43-B, the German Swiss Frontier.

Many of these maps were actually smuggled into German POW camps by way of Monopoly games.    The Germans did allow relief groups to send games and such to the captured Allies, so the makers of Monopoly in Britain, Waddingtons, printed the maps on silk and inserted them in an indention made in the board.  The indention was then covered by the paper of the playing surface.

The maps were also carried by airmen, sewn into their clothing, or sometimes hidden in the heel of a boot.  The dyes were formulated as to not run when wet, and the silk would not disintegrate in water.  It was also an extra layer of warmth when put in the clothing.

After the war was over, life did not automatically return to normal.  In Britain there was still a fabric shortage, and the  system of rationing continued.  People used whatever fabric they could find in order to keep themselves properly clothed.  And that included the surplus escape maps.  The Fashion History Museum has a beautiful example in their collection of a blouse made from some of the maps.  You can also read about this map blouse in Forties Fashion.

Photo courtesy The Fashion History Museum

Posted by edgertor:

I’ve always wanted to take a bunch of them and make them into a dress–but they cost a lot, even on ebay!

Monday, October 4th 2010 @ 6:17 PM

Posted by Jonathan Walford:

What a great find! And yours is in such good condition too. I read somewhere they were often used to make lingerie pants as well.

Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 6:31 AM

Posted by The Red Velvet Shoe:

I am ashamed to say I never knew this…I adore old maps, so finding something like this would be a true treasure. It would make a great scarf, but I’d probably have it framed and hang it.

Tuesday, October 5th 2010 @ 6:36 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

You know, this might make a great Spoonflower http://www.spoonflower.com/welcome design, though I’d have to check into the copyright.I can see these in the form of knickers, Jonathan!

I’m sure many of these were tied around a post-war head!

Wednesday, October 6th 2010 @ 9:26 AM

Posted by becca:

What an amazing piece of history, Lizzie! I would feel faint (I think) if I ran across something like this!

Wednesday, October 6th 2010 @ 8:17 PM

Posted by Catherine Janda:

this is one of my favorite parts of history that women/men who would line their jackets with maps. Very happy for you to have found such a gem. My second fav is how women wore their skirts so low not to show ankle. Staircases would be lined in fabric so no one could catch a glimpse of one walking up or down. Any posts on that? love your blog.

Saturday, October 9th 2010 @ 11:21 AM

Posted by Em:

Amazing find! I always enjoy all of the background you provide in your posts

Sunday, October 10th 2010 @ 8:15 AM

Posted by Mrs Exeter:

I’m an avid fan of war films and airman memoires but I’d never heard of these. How ingenious!

Monday, November 15th 2010 @ 12:29 AM


Filed under Curiosities, World War II

WWII Farm Girls and their Overalls

I usually don’t take the time to look through stacks of old cards, but maybe I ought to do it more often.  Otherwise, I’ll be missing some great things like the sweet card above.  I found it last week in a pile of miscellaneous paper items at the Charlotte Flea. I ususally don’t think of old greeting cards as being fashion illustration, but it does happen that you can see a lot of the fashions from the past reflected in print of all kinds.  What caught my eye about the card was the fact that I already had a pair of overalls like the girl is wearing.

I found these 1940s overalls two years ago at an antique mall in Virginia and just couldn’t believe my luck! During WWII, many women did jobs that previously had been held by men. And while Rosie the Riveter is a well-known 40s icon, the farm girl was just as important. The raising of food was a vital part of the war effort, and many college women spent their wartime summers on farms, filling in for the farmhands turned servicemen.

The blue overalls were standard wear for these farm girls. I think it is great how they took a garment that was all about function, and managed to make it look cute!

These lowly overalls also played an important role in making women pants-wearers. Many women had been wearing pants for very casual occasions since the late 1920s, but it was the daily wearing of them during the war that made pants more accepted among women.

Some  images from my 1940s fashion magazines:

And here is a look at the clothes of the British Land Girls.


Posted by Stacey Brooks Newton:

Love the post! So informative! I would never have thought of the history of these overalls without your information. Thanks:)

Saturday, October 11th 2008 @ 8:54 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Hello Stacey, Yes, it’s amazing how the simplest of items can have an interesting history!

Sunday, October 12th 2008 @ 8:19 AM

Posted by maria:

hey well thank u so much..for this information..i have to dress..in the early 1040 for the school and i was goin to wear a dress but this i a better way..:)

Tuesday, February 24th 2009 @ 6:57 PM

Posted by Laura – threesaparty@hotmail.co.uk:


Awesome post! DO you have a picture of the back of the overalls by any chance?

Friday, August 7th 2009 @ 4:26 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

Laura, I don’t have a photo of the back, and they are packed away. The straps criss-cross the back and attach at the waist. Hope that helps you visualize!

Friday, August 14th 2009 @ 6:55 PM

Posted by lilly:

wow do u have any evacue girls clothes?:)

Sunday, November 22nd 2009 @ 7:44 AM

Posted by Lizzie:

No, I’m afraid not. Was that a British thing?

Sunday, November 22nd 2009 @ 7:53 AM

Posted by Lowongan kerja:

That’s great

Sunday, April 11th 2010 @ 11:59 AM

Posted by Wilbur Clinet:

excellent blog

Tuesday, April 13th 2010 @ 7:33 AM

Posted by Diane:

Oh, the cute-ness! Those look pretty tiny… what size would you say that they are?

Saturday, June 26th 2010 @ 5:51 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Diane, They are pretty small, with a waist of about 25″!

Saturday, June 26th 2010 @ 6:40 PM

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Filed under Vintage Clothing, World War II