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!

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

Have you drawn your stocking lines on yet?

The History of  Stockings

Men adore them.  Women have cursed them, loved them, drawn them on, peeled them off, held them up with garters and,  at usually the most inconvenient moment, ruined them. Stockings!  However, did you know that the world’s first knitting machine was invented in 1589 by William Lee, and was designed for making stockings? Stockings have a long and complex history, entwined with wool, cotton, silk, rayon and nylon.


Gil Elvgren

In the 21st century, showing your stockings has now become as canonical a rite as what started out as a form of propriety, or social rule of etiquette.

 18th Century womens stockings

18th century fashion plate

Men were the first to wear stockings, although at that time they were called hose and held up by garters. In the 12th century,  hose were a staple garment  in every man’s wardrobe. In comparison, women generally wore socks. This continued throughout the medieval period, and it was only into the 18th century that women began to desire a sheer sock or stocking, that too, was held up by a garter although the entirety of these garments were covered by a dress.


1920s hosiery

So before the early 20th century, women’s stockings were mainly worn for warmth however,  in the 1920s, as hemlines  rose, women began to wear stockings to cover their exposed legs. The purpose was still to cover the naked legs as a form of etiquette and propriety.  These stockings were first made of silk or rayon, and in the 1930s, the development of a circular knitting machine made seamless stockings possible.


DuPont stockings

Now a foundation garment for each woman, every day hosiery took a steep leap with the introduction of DuPont’s  nylon at the World’s Fair in New York in 1939. American chemical company DuPont was founded in  1802 as a gunpowder mill by Eleuthère Irénée du Pont. Nylon was a revelation.  Sheer and glossy just like its silk and rayon counterparts, but much harder wearing and invulnerable to water. The first nylon stockings appeared in New York stores in May 1940, and over 72,000 pairs were sold in that first day.  During wartime,  DuPont manufacturing  helped produce the raw materials for parachutes, powder bags, and tyres, and increasingly from 1942 when the US entered the war,  the production of stockings declined and they became significantly rare.   At this time, women wore stockings all the time, and bare legs were considered a faux pas.


Drawing on a stocking seam

This scarcity of nylon stockings led many women to brown their legs and they tried several different liquids to get that stocking look such as cold tea, and gravy browning.


Liquid Stockings

In the 1940s, the main production of stockings was seamed. To recreate this seam, some women would draw it on with an eyebrow pencil and make-up companies including Helena Rubenstein even marketed “liquid stockings” for the purpose.


Hanes Hosiery

At this time, Hanes was marketing “no-seam stockings”.  At first reticent to try them as the lack of a seam line on a leg might lead observers to believe a woman was going bare-legged, and therefore inproper, inappropriate or disrespectful,  when other manufacturers joined in, very gradually women adopted the seam free stockings.


Pure silk seam free stockings

In the early 1950s, Ethel Gant suggested to her husband that a garment incorporating stockings with knickers would be rather convenient, and handed him a notion for a prototype.


Allen Gant of Glen Raven Knitting Mills

With the help of his work colleagues, they developed what they later called “Panti-Legs”.

Their new product was introduced in 1959, and became  more commonly known as Pantihose.


Hanes marketing

In the 21st century, we have a full range of stockings. Some women wear them for warmth, others to show them off. Fortunately now, it is no longer considered de rigeur to wear them at all.


Mess of a Dreamer


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

A nice cup of tea


'There are few hours in life
 more agreeable than the hour
 dedicated to the ceremony
 known as afternoon tea'
 - Henry James

Have you got the kettle on because ‘this is the story of 2 leaves and a bud, its a story of rivers, mountains, history, politics, imperialism, espionage and addiction.’

Its the story of tea…

This post is a review of the wonderful Victoria Woods’ exploration into why we all enjoy a ‘nice cup of tea’. I’ve harvested some of her facts and phrases, but mostly I’m going to give you a sense of her findings from her extraordinary adventure into our love of tea!

How did this exotic fragrant leaf became a way of British life?

Why are we addicted to tea?

Tea is essentially a dull brown mundane accompanient to our ordinary life, and remains our most popular hot beverage as we drink over 60 billion cups of tea a year.  What started as an aristocratic luxury, swiftly became imbued into all areas of British culture. We still get through 3 cups of tea for every coffee drank today. The way I see it, coffee is a date, tea is a marriage!

Pop History

  • Tea isn’t English or British
  • Tea has over 5000 years of history
  • In 17th century it was only grown in China (then a secretive and mysterious country closed off from the west)
  • 1.3 billion people in modern China
  • In 17th century it was a 2 year round trip from England
  • Chinese make more tea and were drinking it long before we heard of it
  • Shanghai played a big role in bringing tea to Britain, and partly because of tea, Shanghai is the most westernised city in China

At the Wuyi Mountains tea grew on hillsides. Tea was so precious  because it could so easily be lost or damaged along its perilous journey on the way to Britain. Once it arrived here it was kept in locked Caddies.

  • By the end of the 18th century Britain had gone crackers for tea, so hunt was on to see if we could grow tea ourselves and not be dependent on China
  • Robert Fortune of the Botanical Gardens in Chiswick in the 1840s, went to China to see if he could get the information on growing tea, or the seeds he needed to grow it
  • The first tea hunters thought green and black tea came from different  plants, but this is not the case (it is just the way it is oxidised, roasted, basically processed)
  • Buddhists were the first people to cultivate tea and the Da Hong Pao tea grown by monks was being used as a medicine, so it followed that when tea first arrived in Britain it was sold in Apothecaries

China would allow us buy tea, but wouldn’t let us know how it grew and didn’t want to trade. That was until we offered them Opium, which turned Victorian Britain into the biggest drug dealer in history. The money we made from dealing Opium meant that we didn’t have to use our countrys’ precious silver reserves to pay for our beloved tea. So the tea and opium trade were locked together – addiction!

The Opium of course had a devastating effect on China when it flooded in, but it meant that the tea came pouring out. The Emperor tried to stop this trade so the British Navy blockaded the Grand Canal and China capitualted. Opium had solved our problems, and gave birth to the golden age of the Tea Clipper – sleek ships such as the Cutty Sark, racing back to Britain from China with tea as their precious commodity. London was THE centre of  the international tea trade.

  • In 1801-1911 the population of Britain quadrupled, and the  amount of tea drank grew 12 fold
  • In mid 19th century tabacoo, sugar coffee and tea were the  things that mattered!
  • By 19th century even the working class had tea, it was transforming the country, and led us to rule the world!

We wanted to get tea from somewhere else other than China, and tea was too popular to risk loosing it as a commodity, so we needed to grow our own elsewhere….India was British! So the first Tea Plantations sprang up and the first tea was grown in Assam.

  • 1823 Robert Bruce Scottish soldier visited Assam and was given a drink and he asked what plant it had come from, was it tea?
  • He planted the seeds in Indian Botanical gardens to see if they were really tea
  • 10 years later they decided it was!
  • Within 20 years more than 50 tea gardens had sprung up. The first was in 1836.
  • Compared to China, tea in British India was cultivated using modern industrial revolution techniques
  • But the hand picking/plucking is still mostly done by hand by women even today
  • By 1888  India had overtaken China as our main supplier of tea, and the Indian people started to drink tea themselves.  Since the 1920s it has become their national drink
  • The main city that lives and breathes tea is Calcutta
  • Mass market tea came to India via the British!

So there we have it, tea’s a survivor!

VW and DrWho

Its a drink thats conquered the world,  seduced and enslaved the British, and I very much doubt that it will ever disappear.

‘Arthur blinked at the screens and telt he was missing something important. Suddenly he realised what it was. “Is there any tea on this spaceship?” he asked.’ – Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Tea has a rather blood stained history  – it started a war, has underwritten the empire, and sparked a revolution:

Boston Tea Party

The history of the Boston Tea Party is taught to every American school child, and it happened nearly 250 years ago when America wa still Britis. In  1773, 3 Tea Clipper ships sailed into the Boston harbour carrying tea. The events that followed were really about tax, more specifically the 3 penny tax on every llb of tea imposed on them by British government. A huge crowd gathered  but about 150 men took crates of tea, chopped them open and dumped it all into the harbour in protest. This sparked a revolution, and America took independence 3 years later.

A well kept secret: Americans drink 65 billion cups of tea a year!


Tea & Sympathy in New York

“To be born English is to have won first prize in the lottery of life.” – Cecil Rhodes

Moving on then to World War II, and what seemed to be very dull British qualities before the war; our sense of a need for routine, our faith in a nice cup of tea to resolve any problem, were embraced and this made us ‘Great.’

Tea was so important to morale, that supplies regulated by the government through rationing were stored around the country to avoid being destroyed by war. NAAFI vans (alongside the Salvation Army and WVS) were the picture of warmth and comfort. Tea urns were introduced for mass distribution of strong wartime issue tea!

Tea became more than a drink, it became a symbol of  ordinaryness and courage combined, it pulled our morale together, gave us an identity as a nation, and a reason to fight.

” a good hot cup of tea worked wonders”, ” to be without tea was to be without life”

Victoria Wood's Nice Cup of Tea

We won the war, back to work everybody!

The tea break became enshrined in British law – and brought on the age of the tea lady! Sadly the tea trolley was eventually replaced by the vending machine which wasn’t quite the same comforting social experience as the ritual of making tea had been. But this had already been replaced somewhat by the advent of the teabag,  invented by accident in New York in the early 1900s by Thomas Sullivan, a  tea broker who was using these little parcels to send out tea samples. Teabags changed the way we drank tea – we left ritual behind and went tea bag bonkers.

  • 9 and half out of every 10 cups we drink is tea bag
  • TV started broadcast in 1955  and dawned the 2 minute advert break to put the kettle the on.


Shifters Removals

We get a sense of nostalgia about tea, but are its glory days over?

Tea adverts now stress the benefits of young people getting together over a cuppa rather than social networking.

We have 80 tea tasters in Britain. The tea we drink is a blend from lots of different teas from different countries that vary from harvest to harvest (grown in 40 different countries).

I would like to thank Victoria Wood, or whoever wrote or commissioned this wonderful insight into British tea drinking. It was interesting, educating, and tea inspiring!

Happiness is good tea. Lots of tea drinking occured during the writing of this piece, and whilst watching the 2 part documentary! There is nothing better to look forward to than Afternoon Tea.


Make a perfect brew: recipe from UK Tea Council

  • Use a good quality loose leaf or bagged tea
  • This must be stored in an air-tight container at room temperature
  • Always use freshly drawn boiling water
  • In order to draw the best flavour out of the tea the water must contain oxygen, this is reduced if the water is boiled more than once.
  • Measure the tea carefully
  • Use 1 tea bag or 1 rounded teaspoon of loose tea for each cup to be served
  • Allow the tea to brew for the recommended time before pouring
  • Brewing tea from a bag in a mug? Milk in last is best

I’m sorry but I know the debate is an enduring one,

but milk in first!

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