Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Retro curiosities

My mother was born during World War II, suffering the traumatic deprivation of being denied a banana until age 7. Needless to say, she now eats a banana every day without fail.

She vividly recalls her gas mask and its “horrible case”, as well as painted wooden toys - and her celluloid dolls, one of which her brother smashed to pieces with a hammer (nice family!)

Her mother liked to look her best, and was always pictured wearing a smart, if somewhat austere looking, suit: probably utility clothing, saved up for with ration coupons – like this perfect and unworn example by Digby Morton, photographed at a private viewing of the V&A textile stores recently. Designed to minimize the wastage of mass production, its clever construction utilizes fabric in both vertical and horizontal alignment. This particular suit has a rather curious tweed blouse, in addition to a jacket – and the skirt has a whalebone lined waistband (ouch!) There are no zips, nor pockets on the skirt to save fabric, which was in far too limited supply for such unnecessary extravagances. Note the buttons (below) bear the trademark logo – CC41 (Civilian Clothing 1941).

Luxuries were few and far between during the war, yet women still tried make the most of their appearance. As almost all funds and raw materials were directed towards the war effort, there simply weren’t that many new things around. Most of the pampering products available were originally from the 1930s, or earlier - like tortoiseshell dressing table sets.

Whatever precious metal accessories hadn’t been melted down were kept in jewellery boxes made of cardboard, tin, or – for some very lucky ladies – wood. Even in the 1950s, natural resources were still in short supply, and my mother would have loved a rare wooden box, like one of the selection by talented young designer, Lisa Tilley, currently available at ShopCurious.

Intricately embellished with decoupage, pieced together from vintage fashion magazines and retro ornaments, these highly decorative boxes make perfect Mothers’ Day gifts. They’re versatile too, with potential for all manner of uses... In these times of renewed austerity, perhaps you've some suggestions regarding a suitably utilitarian function for these unique and beautifully handmade boxes?

Do you?

1 comment:


great post! I remember doing lots of decoupage... wish I have more time to do it again, it was fun!