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Category Archives: 1930s

The Death of King George V

It’s eighty years ago that King George V died, on 20 Janaury 1936. 

He died before the start of WWII, although the signs of war were troubling, just as they had been when he became King in May 1910. Although a first cousin of both German Kaiser Wilhelm and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, the Kings family connections could not prevent the catastrophe to come.

In 1936, at age 70, the King had been in failing health for some time with a chronic bronchial complaint, made worse because of his “weary heart” due to an earlier infection or abscess in his lungs in 1928 (brought on no doubt by his heavy smoking).  His final illness was brief, however. It was only four days before his death that the Queen sent for Lord Dawson, the royal physician. Dawson’s records, released in November 1986 showed that he administered two injections of morphine and cocaine at about 11 o’clock on the night of 20 January 1936, just after he had written a brief medical bulletin that declared, “The King’s life is moving peacefully toward its close.”

“A Peaceful Ending at Midnight,”said the headline the next morning in the newspaper.

Many believe the King was euthanised, probably so that his death would make the morning rather than the afternoon paper, and therefore be more dignified.  Sounds bizarre to me.

Here is an account of his death from”The Australian Womans Weekly” at the time.

 portrait of king george V  
the beloved passing of king george v in 1936  official story of the death of king george v 1936 We will probably never really know what sort of a man he was – grumpy and domineering like Michael Gambon’s version in “The Kings Speech”, or did he lack(ed) intellectual curiosity and sophistication – but the King seemed to be well loved by the people of Great Britain and Australia.
Read more –


Fashions for January 1939

I always think it’s interesting to get an idea of what fashions were like before the war to see how they changed, and to see what women may have already had in their closets.  So today, some prewar fashions from January 1939 and advice on how to dress.

Actress Joan Fontaine in ruffled  dress, 1939

Actress Joan Fontaine in ruffled dress, 1939



Actess Priscilla Lane in a gold evening dress, 1939

Actess Priscilla Lane in a gold evening dress, 1939




A stylish hat and gloves change the look of a black dress

A stylish hat and gloves change the look of a black dress



vintage hats

What ever happened to our love affair with hats?


the versitile little black dress, ever popular

Long full dresses for evenin were all the rage in 1939

Long full dresses for evenin were all the rage in 1939

Wool was always a popular fabric in Australia, Simmer and Winter

louise campbell

Full Aline below knee 30s skirt

Shoes for Summer 1939

Shoes for Summer 1939

Black and white vening dresses 1939

Black and white vening dresses 1939

Evening dresses 1939

Evening dresses 1939

Finland’s Women Face War Horrors, December 1939

 Not a cheery Christmas tale, but interesting reading none the less. I never really think of Finland being involved in the war, but it really was a World War, wasn’t it?

finland during WWII  
finlands women face  war horrors 

A Delicious Christmas Dinner, 1939

Last night I watched  “Sarah Beenys Christmas at Rise Hall” on iview, which looks at how some of our Christmas traditions have come into being – such as Christmas pudding and carolling. They dress up for each period, including WWII, and eat a menu that would have been eaten at their (grand) home at the time. It’s well worth watching, but if you would like a menu a little more suited to the common person, here is one from Christmas 1939.

In Australia it’s so hot at Christmas that I usually make ice cream plum pudding, or even jelly. What’s more Christmassy than jelly?!

You may also like this menu from 1943, or this one.

The Soap War of 1939

  In 1939 soap was essential for cleanliness – plain bars of soap, there were no body washes or pump soaps.  Deodorant was fairly new and not everyone used or approved of it, so soap had to combat body odour, or try to. The advertising was intense as companies fought for consumer loyalty – these ads are all from the Australian Women’s Weekly in December 1939.

vintage 1930s rexona ad  

vintage 1930s soap adLux paid big money and used movie stars in their ads-

If only consumers had a crystal ball they probably would have stocked up on as much soap as possible, as it became almost impossible to get during the war.

Hair styles and products of 1939

Sometimes in old novels I have come across people using “Californian Poppy” and I had no idea what it was. It turns out it’s not drugs, as I imagined, but brillantine, or hair oil. I remember my Grandfather using brilliantine in the 70s and 80s, even when he had very little hair, and I assume he used it his whole life. Women also used it, as shown in the ad below, as well as setting lotion, and in the 1930s shampoo began being advertised to replace soap for washing hair. Enjoy these ads from 1939, and if you’re brave there are instructions for damp setting your hair!

 vintage 1930s hair ad  
 intage 1930s hairstyles    


Fashions for October 1939

Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, and by the next day Britain put Air Raid Precautions into effect and school children and pregnant women were being evacuated from London. Great Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September, and Australia followed suit.

By October 1939 American fashions were already seeming a lot more colourful and extravagant compared to English fashions, according to this article (Australian Womans Weekly  8 October 1939).

 american vs englinsh fashions october 1939 
  Some more fashion from the same magazine – this one for easy care sportswear.

vintage wartime fashion ad 1939  

Quite a utilitarian suit –


Dresses with pleats, still using quite a lot of fabric, and the length is below knee to almost mid calf- 
calf length pleated dressses october 1939  

These evening dresses are still quite frivolous too, with long full skirts and frills (as well as the odd midriff!)

summer evening dresses october 1939  

And the home pattern service also shows pleats, long  and full skirts and even roomy pajamas. Let’s hope whoever bought the patterns also bought their fabric straight away, before rationing started!
patterns to sew at home october 1939  

To finish are these quite full skirts, in not so practical white. 


Fashion was still important during the war, and underwent significant changes. I’ll continue next time with fashions of November 1939, and I’ll move on through the war so we can see the changes as they happen. 

A Christmas Menu & Birthday Dinner with Roast Duck

A Christmas Menu & Birthday Dinner with Roast Duck

Its was my birthday yesterday, and after a very unration like lunch of smoked salmon omelettes with unexpected (but very welcome) visitors, I cooked a duck for dinner.

I was inspired by this menu plan from 1935 when duck was very popular, and the main dish at most Christmas dinners.


Those directions for cooking the duck are so precise!

Then I found this recipe from 1933.  

1933 recipe for roast duck

1933 recipe for roast duck

It sounded way to complicated (and I used a supermarket duck not one from my small breeding flock) so I decided to stuff it with the raisin stuffing then cook it just like my slow roasted lamb – scored and seasoned for about 4 hours at 150*c/300*F. I turned the oven up for another 30 minutes to brown the skin and make it crispy, as I do with pork.

The oysters were local and fresh (and the biggest I have ever seen) so I simply served them in their shells with lime slices, and one prawn because everyone wanted one. 

Giant Aussie oysters,  prawn and lime wedges make a simple first course!

Giant Aussie oysters, prawn and lime wedges make a simple first course!


Orange salad seems to be the thing traditionally served with roast duck, and I found this simple recipe from 1940 – 

1940 recipe for orange salad to accompany roast duck

1940 recipe for orange salad to accompany roast duck

Slow roasted crispy skin duck with roast potaoatoes aand orange sallad

Slow roasted crispy skin duck with roast potaoatoes aand orange sallad


As I don’t have a maid, as I probably would have in prewar 1935, we skipped the soup course, and  lovely Miss 14 made chocolate mousse for dessert, with real cream and dark chocolate instead of the Xmas pudding.
Everyone would like a repeat of the meal for Christmas, although I have warned my husband that we will not be eating our own duck this year… May be in 2016. 

Fomaily dinner with grandmas crocheted table cloth and vintage dinnerset


The Wartime Home – Interiors of January 1939

I have been asked by one reader about home interiors during the war, as he hasn’t been able to find any books on the subject.  I don’t know of many books about wartime homes or interiors either, and that’s probably because not many houses were built during the Second World War, so houses were mainly those built before or during the inter-war years.  There was no single identifiable ‘wartime’ house. 

During the war things like building supplies were in short supply, if they could be obtained at all, and furniture and fabric was rationed.  The average wartime house was built, decorated and furnished in the thirties, and stayed in the same style, often with exactly the same furnishings until rationing ceased after the war.

 Vintage 1930s prewar ad for furnishing fabric 
I have noticed that wartime women’s magazines have about half the amount of pages of their prewar selves, and this is often be aide things like decorating featurs and ads do not feature. I thought it wise, therefore, to go back and look at the start of 1939, to see what was trending in the few months before war erupted.

Today a look at ads and articles from Janaury 1939, once again from the Autralaian Women’s Weekly – Vintage 1930s prewar decorating and furnishing  ideas  

  Vintage 1930s prewar decorating and furnishing  ideas for the modern regency style  

1930s embroidery for chair back covers 
Vintage 1930s prewar decorating ideas with quilting 1939

To be continued….. 

“Fashion” ideas for 1939

One of the hints during wartime austerity was to sew your own clothes. ‘Fashion’ magazine from October 1939 was filled with ideas for the home sewer, with mail order patterns cheaply available – the equivalent of about $4.25, about half the price of a modern pattern. Image 

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