Fashion and faces in the 1940s.

Maintaining morale was important for the families back at home. Beauticians and Max Factor agents showed women how to paint a seam on a bare leg, the aim was to produce a trompe l’œuil effect, giving the impression of wearing the sheerest of stockings. Skirts and dresses were knee length with a defined, belted waist, set in sleeves but the skirts not too full as there was a need to conserve material. Hair was longer, with some but not necessarily all, piled or curled on top of the head. Curling tongs, curlers, kirby grips and rags were all employed to create 1940s styles. Soap was in short supply as was shampoo and hair dye was next to impossible to obtain, so natural colour was the norm. Setting lotion could be made from sugar and water. A Victory Roll (hair swept round the head in a sweep of burnished halo) was a popular style for those not in uniform but the ‘long bob’ was unsuitable for those who wore a military cap and the hair styles became ‘above collar’ for practicality. Lipstick became the ‘red badge of courage’ and women were encouraged  to use makeup to keep up their morale, and for their men, ‘looking lovely for his leave’ was the catch-cry, ‘beauty and duty’ was yet another responsibility. ‘No surrender’ was the slogan for Yardley cosmetics. ‘We are proud to work with men for victory. But we must achieve masculine efficiency without hardness, without surrender to personal carelessness. With leisure and beauty-aids so scarce, it is very creditable to look our best. Let us face the future bravely and honour the subtle bond between good looks and good morale. Put your best face forward.’

Reference: James Lescott, “The Forties in Pictures”, Bath, UK,  Parragon, 2007 and Juliet Gardiner, “The 1940s House” London, Channel 4 Books, 2000.

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