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Category Archives: Shopping

Fifth Avenue Fashions 1940

Fabulous fashions photographed New York in March 1940 – 



Diamonds, not only a girls best friend in WWII

Imagine inheriting diamond jewellery – a lot of diamond jewellery….and during WWII. Would you keep it or turn it over to the war effort?

  the duchess of kents inherits diamonds and jewells in 1940  

As a royal I suppose you’d need to keep a few, and anyway personally owned diamonds could not be taken by London’s Diamond Comittee during the War, according to this article from February 1940.


And from March 1940-

Of course Holland was invaded two months later, in May 1940, so let’s hope the diamonds did travel to England the the US.

This article from October 1938 shows that some smart (and obviously rich) people were already thinking ahead about war and investing in diamonds. There are interesting comments about Jewish people too, and how diamonds were easily transported across “unfriendly borders”.  londons rich investing in diamonds 1938 

Unfortunaltely diamonds did not save many, if any, Jews from persecution and execution. Many had sewn their diamonds and other jewels into their clothing, and these were routinely removed from clothing after the Jews were murdered at the concentration camps.  There are accounts of diamonds being moved to a vault in banks in France in order to provide “rainy day” money for nazi officials to make new lives for themselves after the war.

Of course this article could have been just part of  De Beers 1938 American marketing campaign encouraging people to by diamond engagement rings – a campaign that was obviously extremely sucessful, with a jump in US diamond sales of 55% in the four years between 1938 and 1941 – but then again I haven’t actually been able to find any Debeers ads from before 1948, so maybe it was the war……

I did find this ad from 1938 for an Australian Jeweller, which advertises diamond rings, and watches, as anniversay gifts rather than engagement rings. 

 diamond ring ad 1938 
I now work in a an antique jewellery store and find it interesting that many couples are now buying diamond bands for their wedding bands, as well as diamond engagement rings.  Debeers really did well…..

Read more about diamonds in WWII here.

Fashions of February 1939

Continuing on from my post Fashions of January 1939, today a look at fashion from February 1939, the last month of Summer in Australia.


Illustration by Virgil, 1939

Illustration by Virgil, 1939


Suit ideas from London


Light weight wool is a popular Autumn and Spring fabric


I love the high waisted genie pants!


Why don't you wear Schiaparelli's adorable black seal skin topper?Hmmm...

Why don’t you wear Schiaparelli’s adorable black seal skin topper?Hmmm…


Simple swing skirts


Long gathered skirts for evening wear – what a lot of fabric!


Imagine the blackout curtains you could make from that velvet dress..


And let’s not forget the foundation garments!


Any favourites?

Articles from March 1942

Oh joy, the new scanner has arrived. Unfortunately I am still learning it’s secrets, but at least its a start. I can finally start sharing some images from 1940’s magazines loaned to me by a wonderful reader. First this Magazine from March 1942 –

cover womans day magazine march 1942

What a sweet cover I can’t seem to find detail of it in the magazine, but she looks as if she has just had some bad news….

One of my favourite ads in this magazine is this one of Olviia de Havilland – love that hairstyle!

olivia de haviland cola ad 1940s 1942

I’ll share more ads on the tumblr blog and try and scan a few interesting articles for next time.

Fashions for January 1940

More January fashions, this time from 1940, and Summer in Australia.  The war had only been going a few months at this stage and long  and full skirts are still popular. 

rice starch ad1940

Rice starch, an essential fashion tool

Beach fashions 1940

Beach fashions 1940


vintage 1940s fashion


vintage fashion 1940

 Fasjion patterns are still being sold for the making of new garments, still using quite a bit of fabric. I love the school tunics! fashion patterns 1940 Frocks for maids (teenagers) and children – love the check playsuit grace brothers ad 1940   

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

Wartime Swimsuits

It’s the first week of Summer here in Australia, and my thoughts have turned to swimsuits. We have a few beaches nearby (which occasionally have crocodiles, sharks and stingers) and a pool (which is currently getting renovated) so we swim every day over Summer.  Usually we even put on swimsuits, although the odd skinny dip is not unknown!  

What style swimsuits would we have been wearing during the war? Let’s have a little look –

1939 jantzen swimsuit ad 1939  

at the beach 1939 




1942 – clothes ratioing kicks in in Australia, and ads for swimwear are almost non existent.  Elastic used in commercial swimwear would have used rubber, which was needed for the war effort. To keep itself in the public  mind Jantzen cleverly told women how to care for their swimsuits so they would last longer.

 vintage 1940s swimsuit ad 
1943 – 

 vintage 1940s swimsuit  bikini 

 vintage 1940s swimsuit  


Ideas for Frugal Christmas Gift Giving


A sparkling vintage chrstmas tree with presents

A sparkling vintage chrstmas tree

It’s a magical sight, isn’t it? All those perfectly wrapped presents under the Christmas tree, just waiting to be claimed and opened?  With five children, believe me when I say I’ve been there! There were some years though, when their were babies and toddlers in the mix, that the wrapping was more interest than the present!

Now that they are older (10 to 22) it’s getting harder, and more expensive, to make them all happy.  I do have an Eco-minimalist mindset, despite loving old things, and don’t like getting cauht up in all the consumerism that seems synonomous with Christmas. Gift giving is part of the Christmas tradition though, and I don’t want to abolish it, but I would like to have a more frugal Christmas, one more about the spirit of peace and giving – more like a wartime Christmas.



So, with the kids agreement, this year we have decided to instigate a new gift giving tradition in our house – each gift must be “Hand made, preloved, thrifted or re-gifted.” And under $5!

Re-gifted sounds crass, but it can work. You get given a child’s pencil case in the secret Santa a work, why not give it to your nice with a new box of pencils.  Technically regifting could include giving away something you own, but someone would probably love heirloom and vintage items that are valuable and that you may not use any more, such as jewellery, clothes, knickknacks and furniture. Keep a record when someone compliments something in your home during the year. ( Yes darling MIL, I really do love that vintage silver cutlery set that was your mothers.)

In our home  Handmade may include cards, felt decorations, and art by the little two, bath bombs, candles, or cakes by Miss 14, beaded jewellery or tie dyed up cycled clothes by Miss teenage hippie, or spice mixes, home made liqueur  or vouchers for time spent playing board games from the eldest. Last year I sewed aprons for everyone and this year I have a board short pattern I am using. I’m encouraging Mr WTW to use some left over fence palings creatively too (I really love this chair). Handmade and thrifted or recycled together – or up-cycled – are my favourite gifts, like a patchwork quilt made from old jeans (thanks Mum, I loved that one!)

I go thrift shopping every week year around.  This is where I buy most of my clothes and fabrics  for sewing, as well as collectibles to sell on Etsy and of course for gifts. Shopping for about half an hour each week is a relaxing, cheap hobby,  is Eco-friendly, keeps money in the community and helps charities, and saves hours of concentrated craziness at the shops at the end of the year.

Here is a list of my favourite things to buy at thrift shops, and how to up-cycle them-

Collectibles – does someone in the family collect a certain thing? Dish patterns, mid century vases, glass elephants? Keep a list and an eye out. A pretty plate, mug or dish with homemade fudge or sweets makes a good teacher gift. Vases turn a garden picked or store bought bunch Into something special.

Vintage canisters and tins – great in the kitchen and  to gift full of homemade biscuits or mince pies. A small amount of money for young children in an old tin or vintage money box is usually well appreciated. Grow a plant that a friend has admired in your garden from a cutting and sit the pot in an old tin or interesting container.

Baskets – if small, as above for tins, if large, make up a hamper of gourmet and homemade foods, or the vintage China you have collected. Add a cushion and give to a pet lover with some home made cat or dog treats.

Vintage and costume jewelry – brooches, earrings, beads and bangles, either as they are or up cycled – screw on earrings changed to posts, broken necklaces changed into bracelets, or even earrings and bangles made from old silver teaspoons or forks. Make a cardboard tiara with glued on rhinestones and old brooches for a little princess.


Vintage linens- as new  tea towels are great on their own, or as wrapping for something else.  They, and tablecloths that have some wear, can be cut down and made into cushions or bags or even patchwork quilts.  Add doilys to tshirts for a shabby chic look.

Handkerchiefs – grab a stack, the perfect gift for a vintage loving or Eco- conscious friend. Or If you sew, turn them into lavender bags for the wardrobe.

Vintage hankies make a great environmentally friendly gift

Books – old classics and collectibles, or even nearly new once read hardcovers are easy to find. Or turn them into desk organisers like this.

Toys – Lego is always great, as are classic toys and board games. I gave my husband the ‘Battleship” board game one year ($2) as it was a childhood favourite, and now the kids play it!

Clothes – any brand you know your kids love but can’t afford is good, or classics like cashmere jumpers or pashminas and leather jackets. Grab white tees and dresses that have a small stain (usually really cheap) and tie dye them. Cut jeans into shorts, add lace at the hem -the trend of this Summer.

Accessories – silk scarves, great handbags, gloves and hats, or grab and old jumper and up-cycle in into a beanie. Make a simple sarong or scarf from a piece of thrifted fabric.

Frames – the art or photos may be hideous, but frames can be used for children’s art or family portraits to make a great gift for grandma.

New items in their original packaging – perfumes, candles, clothes, craft kits,  great for those people you don’t think will appreciate preloved.

Christmas cards, wrapping and decorations  – at this time of year the thrift shops are full of last years casts offs.  You really never need buy new!

Whether giving something handmade, regifted, or preloved, the key is to know your audience and your intention. It’s pretty easy in our immediate family, and even for the grandparents, but when it comes to extended family and friends it can be a little tricky. I find that most appreciate a handmade card, or phone call catchup just as much as they would a gift, which is great because we have no nearby family. I try and have a pre or post Christmas catchup with friends and make special food to share, and people bring a plate or bottle instead of gifts.

I hope I have given you some ideas for less commercial more frugal Christmas.  Will you regift or give preloved? Or do you handmade your gifts?

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….. 

Living with wartime rationing – the after thoughts

So if you have followed our one week rationing journey you will have seen that we did pretty well eating on rations.  We didn’t starve, we ate healthy, and I actually lost about 1/2kg. It has inspired me to continue eating the wartime way.

But it was only for one week. I had a store of food in the fridge, freezer, and pantry, chickens in the backyard and some fruit and veg growing In the garden. What I didn’t have, as wartime women would have experienced, was the following – 

  • Blackouts and restrictions that went with that;
  • War work, different work to my normal routine that could have involved travelling a long way;
  • Shortages, such as paper, toilet paper, food, fuel and queuing;
  • An outside toilet;
  • Carrying a gas mask;
  • Extra child evacuees, to look after and feed;
  • Fear – of bombings, air raids, gas attack, invasion or death of a loved one.


1940ss tips to conquer fear

1940ss tips to conquer fear

What I did have that makes modern life so much easier –

  • A washing machine
  • Hot running water
  • An inside bathroom  and toilet
  • A fridge and freezer
  • An electric stove and oven
  • A car and fuel to run it
  • A husband at home
  • Children at home, who are (reasonably) safe
  • Easy communication with phone and email
  • Instant access to recipes and books online
  • Television
  • A coffee machine

What we did before delonghi

Now I don’t want to give up all of my mod cons, but I am happy to go back to wartime food. It was cheap, filling and basic, and it was healthy. Sometimes I felt I used too much fat, but there were no hidden fats in war time cooking – any fat we ate was honest , as was the sugar. I knew what was in every morsel. There were no suspect food additives that I couldn’t pronounce – my bread, unlike supermarket bread, or McDonalds bread, contained flour, yeast, oil, orange juice, salt and water, my roast potatoes just potatoes and dripping and my eggs were from my own wheat and bug fed chickens! And although we did eat some nitrates ( the suddenly newest baddest carcinogen) in our bacon, the amount of bacon we ate was small compared to the modern standard diet.

I now want to make even more from scratch. Like making butter from cream, yoghurt and cheese from milk and growing more of our own (pesticide free) vegetables. I spent the morning putting up a new fence for the poultry and extending my vegetable growing area, and in the cool of the afternoon I planted seedlings that I had grown.

The ducks and chooks in their new enclosure, under the coffeebush and mango tree

The ducks and chooks in their new enclosure, under the coffeebush and mango tree. The black hose comes from the washing machine and waters the bananas

Back in my 20s, prekids but wanting to make the planet better before having any, I was an Eco- greenie- vegetarian warrior. Somewhere over the last twenty years I’ve become a middle aged-too busy-have money can buy guzzler. That’s about to change! I hope you’ll follow the journey, as well as stay around for more history and wartime bits and pieces.

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