Keep Your Pecker Up!

The art of keeping your chin up when there’s no milk to put in your tea, of having some gumption in the face of office hot desking, and remaining soft yet stoical when you’ve just dropped your only red lipstick under the bus…

What would you do if it was wartime?

Think about it for a moment.

Tea in wartime was rationed. In fact it remained rationed right through to the 1950s. And rationing was a method the Government used to make sure that valuable commodities remained available to all during this desperate economic period. With Lyons tea at your local shop, there wasn’t variety like there is today, and I don’t just mean brand – we have innumerable varieties to choose from including black tea and caffeine free.

lyons tea rooms

Milk was powdered. Each person got one tin of milk powder (equivalent to 8 imperial pints or 4.5 litres) every eight weeks.


Women had various jobs but once married they usually all revolved around the home. Womens jobs were essentially retail, nursing or clerical. It was during the war that we had a spike in the influence of women in the workplace which although shot down post war in the 1950s, had planted a seed of rights and equality.


Red lipstick. I’ve lost a few of those, namely to my daughter but I know I can go and choose from a never ending selection of shades and brands. During the war lipstick supplies were lost to factories making war items. Women turned to natural colorants such as beetroot once their much loved and coveted red lipstick was gone.


So girls, when it’s hard to sleep because it’s too hot, think about trying to sleep in a air raid shelter with bombs crashing down around you. When the commute gets you down, think about how difficult it would be if we had no transport links. And when you’ve just laddered your tights, imagine having to draw on stocking lines every time you wanted to dress for the day.

liquid stockings

Keep your pecker up!

Five 1940s things to lift you up


1. Red lipstick A total must! If you are feeling the slightest bit under par, the amazing uplifting power of red lipstick will astound you. It will make you smile and in return, you will get lots of smiles back!

blog pic

2. Seamed stockings If you are in need of the lift that only heels can give, then seamed stockings are the way forward. For longing gazes, and the sense that you are the epitome of Old Hollywood glamour, these stockings in nude or black are for you!

WW2 cup of tea

3. Strong tea A good ‘nice’ cup of strong tea is the very fuel of bad or low days. As tea was rationed during the war, it was often stronger and armed with sugar. How do you like your tea? ‘Wartime issue’ of course!


4. Knitting/Crochet Nothing makes the soul feel more nourished than creating/making something of use. During the war, due to the shortage of new materials to make clothes, women were shown how to re-use old items to ‘make do and mend’. Grab your needles or crochet hook and get making!

eating for victory

5. Being creative with Rations Lastly, what better way to make you feel uplifted, comforted and creative, than cooking ‘austerity style.’ Think of your Sunday roast as part of your Rations and make sure it can make another 2 family meals during the week – you will soon get creative and inventive! What better way to make you smile than cooking for the family.

Just a few ideas to see you through those not so sunny days sweeties, and remember…

Keep your pecker up! xx

* Please donate to to help me make this blog a 1940s Directory here. Thank you sweeties!

Jane Russell – sassy screen siren

Are you feeling a little small time? How about slipping into some sequins and singing a little number? Find some inspiration from this lounge-singing, long-legged, red-lipped brunette from ‘Little Rock’…er Minnesota.


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Publicity can be terrible, but only if you don’t have any.’

the outlaw poster

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Russells most famous and first role in The Outlaw 1943, won her pin up status with serviceman during WW2 – despite the movie not going on general release until 1946, the promotional media was enough to keep her busy and propel her to fame. Russell was now seen as one of Hollywood’s leading sex symbols in the 1940s, and this continued into the 1950s.

‘They held up “The Outlaw” for five years. And Howard Hughes had me doing publicity for it every day, five days a week for five years’.


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Jane performed a plethora of movie roles. She played Calamity Jane opposite Bob Hope in The Paleface (1948) on loan out to Paramount, and Mike “the Torch” Delroy opposite Hope in another western comedy, Son of Paleface (1952), again at Paramount. Russell played Dorothy Shaw in the hit film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) opposite Marilyn Monroe for 20th Century Fox. Vivacious, sassy, sultry and seductive, she continued to be a star of the Silver-screen throughout the 50s.   In the 60s her next movie appearance came in Fate Is the Hunter (1964), in which she was seen as herself performing for the USO in a flashback sequence. She made only four more movies after that, playing character parts in the final two.  In 1995, she co-starred with Charlton Heston, Peter Graves, Mickey Rooney and Deborah Winters in the Warren Chaney docudrama, America: A Call to Greatness.

Why did I quit movies? Because I was getting too old! You couldn’t go on acting in those years if you were an actress over 30.’

Jane Russell starred in more than 20 films throughout her career. When you start reading about this sultry tongued startlet, and reading things that she has written, you can tell what a forthright, moralistic, sassy, smart, pertinent woman she was. Glamorous to the end, a songstress, dancer and performer – an amazing inspiration for gumption and fortitude.

“Big Jane. Big Bad Jane,” she repeats with great relish..

She wrote an autobiography in 1985, Jane Russell: My Path and My Detours. In 1989, she received the Women’s International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award, amongst other Hollywood accolades.

monroe russell handprints

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Russell’s hand and foot prints are immortalized at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6850 Hollywood Boulevard.

jane-russell gentlemen prefer blondes fur

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Russell married three times, adopted three children, and in 1955 founded the World Adoption International Fund.

I really think the 1940s were the best generation for Hollywood. Everybody was patriotic then.’

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Ernestine Jane Geraldine Russell (June 21, 1921 – February 28, 2011).

Star of the Silver-screen, siren extraordinaire.

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Bring your 1940s to life click HERE!

Dress code 1940s

Do you wonder if the 1940s revival is one big fancy dress party? Do you wonder why people would want to remember the austerity and danger of wartime and glamourize it?

1940s enthusiasts are people who are essentially paying their respects to individuals who lived during wartime, to honour their life and lifestyle and to experience as much as possible the modus vivendi of the period.


At Home Front History, they explain a little more and give you good guidelines towards preparing your 1940s character.

It’s one thing to ‘dress the part’ and another to be able to ‘re-enact’ the person convincingly in front the public. So a good starting point for every portrayal is research and the internet is probably the quickest and easiest way forward….However more and more, groups are diversifying and have members portraying a mix of civilian and service personnel as well as a mix of Allied and Axis forces. Welcome additions to the re-enacting community in recent years include Postmen, Vicars, Farmers and shopkeepers, so there is always the opportunity to portray a character other than those portrayed in larger numbers.’

Re-enactors usually build a character using period photographs, ephemera and personal items such as a ration book, bus ticket and paper money to create a real authentic feel. These can be easily recreated and reproductions are widely available.

1940s family frome bazaar (1)

Of course not all enthusiasts are re-enactors. Some people like to glam it up a bit and stray from rigid historical fact. For example clothing and clothing styles and periods can be mixed (40s and 50s), and adding a touch of 21st century or cheesecake pin up can be fun too.

tootsie rollers

Tootsie Rollers, 1940s entertainment girl group

You can find opportunities to strut your dress code 1940s at events and nights out throughout the year.

You can find out how to wear red lipstick, and wear red nail polish for these special events here.

You can also find details of Reenactment groups from Home Front History or The 1940s Society. Don’t forget to stay chipper and…

Keep your pecker up! xx

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?


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!






Keep your pecker up! xx

Winter in Madrid by C J Sansom


This is a story with interdependent relationships, winding roads and the inertia of war…moving along under its own fuel of obligation, social expectation, love, loss and devastation. Set during World War II, our narrator Harry Brett has suffered at Dunkirk and finds himself reluctantly working as a spy in Spain, ‘watching’ his old schoolboy chum Sandy who is suspected of anti-government shady business dealings. Its 1940, and the Spanish Civil War is over and has left the country flat both literally and metaphorically, and to add insult to injury, Hitler is marching through Europe.


Its a compelling tale of love and nostalgia, against a backdrop of vivid and haunting wartime Spain, and takes the reader to the very core of living with intense choices to make and the consequences thereafter.

I found the sub story about Barbara intensely moving. Here is a woman, as shell shocked from war as her counterpart Harry; not something that is usually considered in wartime narratives, who rebels against her own chosen salvation, to rise up in hope once more. In some ways, her and Harry are very much alike.

The enduring ‘feel’ of this story, is one of reality…the reader gets the sense that as with life, not everything is plotted and known in advance. This quality sustains the readers attention, along with the affable writing style, and historical fact.

I would recommend it either on Kindle or in paperback. Lots of tea!


Keep your pecker up! xx

Pitch in for Victory 18th May

Pitch in for Victory
 ~ one day, two events ~
one "Truly Vintage Cause"
Help raise money for a national memorial to honour the Women’s Land Army.
Come to this spectacular vintage celebration on Saturday, May 18th, 2013 at the Staffordshire County Showground, comprising two separate events
~ a Vintage Jamboree during the day and
~a Dance to Victory during the evening.

“I was cycling home,” she says, “all alone, no cars about – it was blackout time – I had a light on my bike but it had a cowl over it so it couldn’t be seen from above – and I heard a plane overhead. I knew it was German – ours had a continual drone, theirs were like a motorbike. I thought ‘oh dear, I’d better get back quick’. All of a sudden this plane dropped flares. It lit the whole area up like bright daylight – and there was me just cycling along. They were either mapping the place or looking where to drop bombs. I tell you, I didn’t half pedal!”


Staffordshire businesswomen, Sharon Taylor of Always Red Events and Lisa Oakley, owner of LottyBlue an online vintage homewares store, are combining their considerable strengths to support the Staffordshire Branch of the Women’s Food & Farming Union (WFU) in their efforts to raise funds for a permanent memorial to be sited at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, to honour the work of the Women’s Land Army during the war years.




Both events have all the ingredients to recapture and embrace the flavour and sounds of the war years.

lola lamour
Lola Lamour


The daytime Jamboree features the stuff that any War time foodie would be happy to experience! With the likes of Lord Wooten pie, Spam and Trifle in the offing, who could resist! For those more interested in dressing up for a  1940’s themed Dance the evening will be a delight of musical nostalgia and swing dance.


land girls1


More about the Tribute Campaign:
The Women’s Land Army Tribute’s campaign aims to raise £100,000, to enable the commission of a bronze life-sized sculpture (based on the war time recruitment poster) to honour the work of the Women’s Land Army and Women’s Timber Corps during the wars years.  If you don’t already know, during wartime it was up to volunteer girls to work our rural lands, to help feed the war effort and the nation, as well as helping to maintain wood supplies, hence the references to these young girls as Land Girls and Lumber Jill’s.


Keep your pecker up! xx

Did women wear nail polish during wartime?

“There’s a ruddy war on”

“If you had been wearing nail polish the night before you only took it off your thumb”

The Wartime Memories of a wee WAAF 

I had never considered this particular question of regular women wearing nail polish during wartime before, only that movie icons, and brand adverts depict a range of colours that would match any professional lacquer today. So I decided to do a bit of reading! (Of course!)

In 1937, Revlon started selling nail polish in department stores. By 1940, Revlon offered an entire manicure line, and added lipstick to the collection, being the first brand to introduce matching nail polish and lipstick colours to consumers. During World War II, Revlon created makeup and related products for the US Army, which was honored in 1944 with an award for excellence. During wartime, some cosmetic companies manufactured for the war effort e.g. Revlon factories made first-aid kits and dye markers for the US Navy.

Generally, nails would be painted to match lips in various shades of red and pink although clear varnish, often used as a top coat could also be found. Other colours such as gold became more available after the war when the pressure of rationing started to ease.

So did women wear nail polish during wartime?

From the reading I have done, it seemed to depend on your ‘situation’ before the war. Girls who worked behind the make up counter in department stores continued to ‘find’ nail polish to wear, but it would be saved for special occasions. Women who were billeted to work in munitions and on the land – well it just wouldn’t have been appropriate or worth while. Nail polish did become increasingly hard to come by, as less and less polish was manufactured as glycerin was a main component used in vital munitions, and generally, items that were imported became increasingly hard to obtain where supply ships were bombed and lost at sea . A lot of reading points to how nails were manicured, rounded tips and half moon manicures. Again I think this depended on your ‘situation’. I very much doubt that women had the time or the inclination to worry about obtaining a half moon manicure, which is actually quite difficult and time consuming to achieve successfully! I think a lot of the notion of what nails looked like came from the movie industry of the day, and without a doubt I would imagine the likes of Jane Russell, Ann Sheridan and Rita Hayworth to be sporting a blood red rounded tip (half moon) manicure!




 This question of wartime, women and cosmetics is an enduring one. There are endless blog posts about it (including mine) as well as specialist 1940s Beauty teams for 1940s events and vintage fairs. This may be because Churchill engendered a notion of fighting the enemy by keeping our morale up and looking our best. Magazines and newspapers had an endless flow of hints and tips for scrimping and making your powders and lipsticks last longer. Glamour was propagated as a way of lifting the wearer from the awful reality of war, not just for herself, but for her soldier too.

How much we take for granted the availability of our cosmetics and other sundry feminine items.


'still time for charm'

Boots Number 7

Keep your pecker up! xx

Doing your bit for the war effort

ARP women

‘I would caution you all to remember that it is your duty to your country to give our brave soldiers what comfort you can.A cup of tea, a gentle touch, a listening ear – all of these things are important.’ *

This may be a fictional quote, but the work of the WRVS (formerly WVS) founded in 1938 by Stella Isaacs, Marchioness of Reading as a British women’s organization to aid civilians, and the women ARP wardens also founded in 1924, was a significant contribution to the Homefront war effort.

Are you doing your bit
 for the war effort?


Women ARP (Air Raid Protection) Wardens



WVS Mobile Canteen


When the men came home in their hurried droves from the beaches of Dunkirk in June 1940, it was the WVS who went to out to comfort them in what little way they could. These were brave young women amongst others,  who had never faced a man in such physical as well as mental distress. Churchill described the men of  The Battle of Dunkirk as “the whole root and core and brain of the British Army”. In his We shall fight on the beaches speech on the 4th June 1940, he hailed their rescue as a “miracle of deliverance”.

The WVS provided essential evacuation services for civilians from urban areas. They also played a significant role in the collection of clothes for the needy (the bombed out families), as well as providing food and drink around the clock. The mobile canteens were a salvation to those needing a warm drink and friendly face, but the WVS also helped thousands of people who were injured or who had lost their homes in the bombings not only in the London Blitz, but also in other cities. As a consequence of this the WVS also set up Information points known as IIPs (incident inquiry points) so that civilians could find out about lost loved ones.

It wasn’t just these women volunteers doing their bit for the war effort though. Every woman who wrote to her man, every woman who made a meal from rations, every woman who waved goodbye to her child as part of the evacuation initiative, every woman who continued to go to work, or work the land as a land girl, or work in ammunitions factories, or work across the country in jobs left vacant by fighting men, were doing their bit to defeat Hitler.

And then there were the women who joined the fighting services…

Keep your pecker up! xx

*Goodnight Sweetheart, Annie Groves

In the face of adversity…1940s glamour


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!


Goldwyn Girls in the UK, 1946


1940s fashion


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?


Colour logo_for web

Keep your pecker up! xx