Finding other ways to feel feminine in wartime

Ever wondered if women in the 1940s really did bother with rolling their hair and painting on stocking seams during wartime?

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The reason that women bothered to do this was austerity, something some people may be all too familiar with. Obviously during wartime there was a sense of community or ‘Blitz’ spirit- a common enemy, we were all in it together, all ready to ‘do our bit for the war effort’. For women, this meant finding another way to be feminine when they were working the land or in munitions, when they’d replaced skirts for dungarees, when dresses became utility dresses with no trimmings or frills, when clothes were made from your Dads old trouser suits or curtains. Remember that with life, there had become a sense of immediacy, living for the moment. All ‘girly girls’ today will understand that having your femininity whipped away from you is upsetting, it creates an imbalance, that it leaves a deficit. And so the women of the 1940s found other ways to create glamour where there was none. A stroke of red lipstick, browned legs, rolled hair, some red nail polish if you’d made it last and a cup of tea at a Lyons tea shop with a girlfriend – who could ask for more. Of course a twirl on the dance floor at the local Palais with a man in uniform was just the ticket!

So here’s a few pictures of how the common people (as opposed to Hollywood icons) did it!

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factory_worker

WW2-factory-03

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Keep your pecker up! xx

In the face of adversity…1940s glamour

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1940s domestic telephone

In the midst of so much hardship, and threat to life, how did the girls of the ’40s manage to ‘keep their pecker up’? A little bit of motivation from Churchill, to show Hitler that we could still carry on, work hard, look beautiful, fall in love, and show strong moral fibre!

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Goldwyn Girls in the UK, 1946

1940s-fashion

1940s fashion

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Drawing on 'stockings'

Sometimes, I think women of that generation are formidable, stoic creatures. They endured. Life was more immediate, and it was also at times towards the end of the war, a lot about making do and getting on with it. We have the beauty of hindsight, but they didn’t know in 1939 how long they would have to persevere. When I’m feeling a little blue, I reach for the red lipstick or some glitter nail polish. What did women of the ’40s used to reach for?

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Colour logo_for web

Keep your pecker up! xx

Wartime Tea Cosies and Aprons

The history of the tea cosy begins when tea was introduced to Britain in the 1660s; the first documented use of a tea cosy in Britain was in 1867. It was probably the Duchess of Bedford who, by establishing the activity of afternoon tea in 1840, would have brought the popularity of the tea cosy. Afternoon tea was the time for practicing social etiquette, decorum, gossip and society news. And bearing in mind all of this, the teapot would get cold, which would have at times cut short some tea parties. And so, the tea cosy came about.

Tea cosies then flourished during the late 19th century, where they appeared in many households across Britain, motivated by the obsession of decorating and covering objects characteristic of the Victorian era.

The tea party would be served at a table, often in the garden in clement weather, and the matriarchal figure would pour everyone’s tea. In her absence another lady would perform this role, which is where the expression “shall I be mother?” originated. With all the ladies absorbed in chattering and exchanging tit-bits of news at tea time the forgotten tea pot would often go cold. To prevent this eventuality from curtailing the tea party, the tea cosy became a usual sight on the tea table.

Aprons are probably a more obvious item. Practical, functional, and often very pretty accessories, the wartime apron that began as a frugal wrap, became frilly and floral as rationing on material was lifted.

And yes, women really did go to the trouble to look glamorous in their aprons!

So remember your blitz spirit ladies, and serve your tea proudly in an apron and with a tea cosy.

Keep your pecker up! xx

A Day in the Life 1940

September 1940, we are being bombed what seems like almost every day now. When the government instigated Blackouts, Air Raid Sirens and Church bell ringing to warn of invasion, it seemed so unreal that any of it would be necessary. Even building a shelter was more like making a den we thought we’d never use. When the first Siren went off no bombs came.  There are fires all around us every day now though . I walk past bomb sites and remnants of people’s belongings, remnants of their lives, on my way to the shop to see if there is anything I can spend my ration coupons on. The most sorry sights are the burnt toys and books, paper scattered all around.

At the shop I can still buy certain things. I have to stick with one shopkeeper now instead of shopping around, as our ration tokens had to be registered to one shop.  The Ministry of Food issued our ration books after Hitler managed to stop food shipments coming in from America and other countries. On 8th January 1940, bacon, butter and sugar were rationed. This was followed by meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, lard, milk and canned fruit.  Strict rationing inevitably created a black market, but I don’t have anything to do with it. I’ve bought some jam as I’m going home to get tea and wads ready for the children when they get home from school. Luckily bread hasn’t been rationed. We practically live on bread and potatoes now!

Once I’m home, I’ll be listening to the radio whilst I see what the Ministry of Food has suggested what I can make for dinner. Things like sausage meat pie made with potato pastry, and bread pudding.

I’m making some new clothes by unpicking ones that have got too small, or too worn. I can re use the yarn and knit some winter gloves and scarves for the children, and a new tablecloth for the table at Christmas. I’ve set myself a goal of getting these things done soon before it gets too cold. I’m off out to the WVS later, we’ve got a mobile canteen bringing hot tea to people.

My daughter has left school and now works at the local hospital training to be a nurse. Of course she gets more experience than she bargained for in training now. She works all sorts of hours, but I like to make sure she gets a hot cup of tea when she gets home and some sort of hot meal. She helps me out a lot now, and its been hard on all of us that their Dad has been conscripted and only god knows where he is. We haven’t heard from him for quite some time, but always have some hope. Maybe tomorrow there will be a letter

Keep your pecker up! xx

Post War Tea Rationing 1945..the UK Tea Council

When I think of ‘tea’ I think of Palm Court at The Ritz…

Palm Court, The Ritz, London

During World War II the Ritz was struck by bombs twice, one destroyed two suites and another landed on the terrace facing Green park and did severe damage to the refrigeration plant. However, Tea has continued to be served at this opulent hotel through the great Depression and the years of austerity after 1945, and continuing with this ritual today. When I think ‘tea’ I think of Palm Court at The Ritz. I had the most exquisite experience in 2008, enjoying Afternoon Tea with my best girlfriend.


 Taking tea is one of the quintessentially English occasions, and who is a greater authority on the subject than the sumptuous London Ritz Hotel? This charming Edwardian-style book captures the essence of this traditional British pastime, and provides us with all the expertise on the ceremony as well as the recipes. Stories about the legendary afternoon teas at the Ritz and fascinating details about the history of tea drinking are complemented with passages from such diverse writers as Charles Dickens to Oscar Wilde. Over fifty recipes are included for different kinds of afternoon tea specialities, from delicate sandwiches, strawberry shortcake and rose petal jam, to crumpets and muffins for hearty teas in front of a roaring fire. The author gives an infallible guide to the many blends of tea and their suitability to particular occasions. Beautifully presented and delightfully illustrated, this book is the perfect gift for tea drinkers everywhere. Waterstones

As the end of the war in 1945 did not bring the immediate end to rationing,  tea remained rationed until October 1952. The tea bag, an American invention, began to make an impact on British tea-drinking habits. It was to revolutionise the tea industry, and today 96% of all tea sold in Britain is in tea bag form.It was Tetley in 1953 that drove the introduction of tea bags in Britain, but other companies soon caught up.

Rationing by no means diminished the British enthusiasm for tea however!  In January 1946, the author and journalist George Orwell published an essay called ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’ in the Evening Standard newspaper, calling tea ‘one of the main stays of civilsation in this country’.  He offered sensible advice to make the 2oz ration go as far as possible, such as using water that is still at the point of boiling, in order to make the strongest brew from the least tea.  In his novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying, the main character, Gordon Comstock, makes tea secretly in his rented room as a means to undermine the oppressive authority of his landlady, who does not allow it.

How did we come to start drinking tea, and have it become so quintessentially English?

Well, the arrival of tea in Britain in the 17th century altered the drinking habits of this nation forever.  In the 19th century widespread cultivation of tea in India began, leading to the imports of Indian tea into Britain overtaking the imports of Chinese tea.  In the 20th century there was a further development that would radically change our tea-drinking habits – the invention of the tea bag, introduced in the austere years following World War II.  In around 1908, Thomas Sullivan, a New York tea merchant, started to send samples of tea to his customers in small silken bags.

The purpose of the tea bag is two fold:

1.  the belief that for tea to taste its best, the leaves ought to removed from the hot water at the end of a specific brewing period

2. the added benefit of convenience – a removable device means that tea can be made as easily in a mug as in a pot, without the need for a tea strainer, and that tea pots can be kept clean more easily

But the earliest examples of removable infusing devices for holding tea were not bags. Popular infusers included tea eggs and tea balls – perforated metal containers which were filled with loose leaves and immersed in boiling water, and then removed using an attached chain.

The tea bag isn’t for everyone. I prefer to make a good pot of tea using loose leaf strong tea, and pouring over milk into a Bone China cup and saucer. I’m a bit of a tea snob on the sly, although I claim to be an ‘as it comes’ person amongst strangers! Don’t dowse the tea with milk, and most definitely a huge no! to sugar. Taste the tea I dare you. It is the most refreshing and civilised thing….ever.

Somebody put the kettle on please and…

Keep your pecker up! xx 

The UK Tea Council is an independent non-profit making body dedicated to promoting tea & its unique story for the benefit of those who produce, sell & enjoy tea.

Post War Tea Rationing 1945..the UK Tea Council

When I think of ‘tea’ I think of Palm Court at The Ritz…

Palm Court, The Ritz, London

During World War II the Ritz was struck by bombs twice, one destroyed two suites and another landed on the terrace facing Green park and did severe damage to the refrigeration plant. However, Tea has continued to be served at this opulent hotel through the great Depression and the years of austerity after 1945, and continuing with this ritual today. When I think ‘tea’ I think of Palm Court at The Ritz. I had the most exquisite experience in 2008, enjoying Afternoon Tea with my best girlfriend.


 Taking tea is one of the quintessentially English occasions, and who is a greater authority on the subject than the sumptuous London Ritz Hotel? This charming Edwardian-style book captures the essence of this traditional British pastime, and provides us with all the expertise on the ceremony as well as the recipes. Stories about the legendary afternoon teas at the Ritz and fascinating details about the history of tea drinking are complemented with passages from such diverse writers as Charles Dickens to Oscar Wilde. Over fifty recipes are included for different kinds of afternoon tea specialities, from delicate sandwiches, strawberry shortcake and rose petal jam, to crumpets and muffins for hearty teas in front of a roaring fire. The author gives an infallible guide to the many blends of tea and their suitability to particular occasions. Beautifully presented and delightfully illustrated, this book is the perfect gift for tea drinkers everywhere. Waterstones

As the end of the war in 1945 did not bring the immediate end to rationing,  tea remained rationed until October 1952. The tea bag, an American invention, began to make an impact on British tea-drinking habits. It was to revolutionise the tea industry, and today 96% of all tea sold in Britain is in tea bag form.It was Tetley in 1953 that drove the introduction of tea bags in Britain, but other companies soon caught up.

Rationing by no means diminished the British enthusiasm for tea however!  In January 1946, the author and journalist George Orwell published an essay called ‘A Nice Cup of Tea’ in the Evening Standard newspaper, calling tea ‘one of the main stays of civilsation in this country’.  He offered sensible advice to make the 2oz ration go as far as possible, such as using water that is still at the point of boiling, in order to make the strongest brew from the least tea.  In his novel Keep the Aspidistra Flying, the main character, Gordon Comstock, makes tea secretly in his rented room as a means to undermine the oppressive authority of his landlady, who does not allow it.

How did we come to start drinking tea, and have it become so quintessentially English?

Well, the arrival of tea in Britain in the 17th century altered the drinking habits of this nation forever.  In the 19th century widespread cultivation of tea in India began, leading to the imports of Indian tea into Britain overtaking the imports of Chinese tea.  In the 20th century there was a further development that would radically change our tea-drinking habits – the invention of the tea bag, introduced in the austere years following World War II.  In around 1908, Thomas Sullivan, a New York tea merchant, started to send samples of tea to his customers in small silken bags.

The purpose of the tea bag is two fold:

1.  the belief that for tea to taste its best, the leaves ought to removed from the hot water at the end of a specific brewing period

2. the added benefit of convenience – a removable device means that tea can be made as easily in a mug as in a pot, without the need for a tea strainer, and that tea pots can be kept clean more easily

But the earliest examples of removable infusing devices for holding tea were not bags. Popular infusers included tea eggs and tea balls – perforated metal containers which were filled with loose leaves and immersed in boiling water, and then removed using an attached chain.

The tea bag isn’t for everyone. I prefer to make a good pot of tea using loose leaf strong tea, and pouring over milk into a Bone China cup and saucer. I’m a bit of a tea snob on the sly, although I claim to be an ‘as it comes’ person amongst strangers! Don’t dowse the tea with milk, and most definitely a huge no! to sugar. Taste the tea I dare you. It is the most refreshing and civilised thing….ever.

Somebody put the kettle on please and…

Keep your pecker up! xx 

The UK Tea Council is an independent non-profit making body dedicated to promoting tea & its unique story for the benefit of those who produce, sell & enjoy tea.

National Treasures Live BBC1

Dan Snow, presenter of many a history programme (a living paradox: a fit history guy) tells us about World War II and the programme shows us how to cook ‘ration style’…….

Tweet announces:

BBCTreasures (@BBCTreasures)
11/08/2011 18:41
Watch clip from next week’s #BBCTreasures. Gregg Wallace samples WW2 recipes eg Squirrel Stew, eaten during rationing http://t.co/rA56BAB

Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 3:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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