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First Time Forties

So, just to be clear: I'm not great with hair.

Never have been and I'll be astounded if I ever will be. So I was not a little daunted to realise that a basic updo or a few curls was not going to cut it at a friend’s 1940s themed 40th Birthday Party. (Great idea, though, isn't it?)

I mean it could have done but me being me and always striving for authenticity over cute/pretty was not going to be satisfied with a cursory effort. (For reference, there are images out there of me as a gothic bride for Halloween some dozen years ago - the other brides wore black bustiers and tiny fascinators - I made a long lace dress with a bustle and full white face, black shadows, crazy matted hair and carried a lily all night without losing it.)

Plus I run a period styling website so I couldn't really have held my head up high if I hadn't tried.

My hair is usually mid-length to long, dark, fine, flyaway and incredibly straight. Like Pocohantes straight but without the Disney thickness and gloss. Up-dos don't stay up for long, curls fall flat within the hour and everything requires significant quantities of hair spray, wax and so many pins I look like that bloke from Hellraiser.

Accessories heaven

The rest of my outfit was pretty satisfying though. I had managed to source a simple black vintage 1940s rayon dress with lace panel inserts that was understated enough for someone who has gained a lot of weight and isn't happy about it. The shoulder pads, slightly puffed sleeves and little collar were beautifully indicative of the era.

I teamed it with a green ceramic necklace with shaped panels that just brought the right amount of Art Deco and, it being war time, metal had become scarce. I did manage to find some stunning gold disc clip-on earrings to add a touch of glamour and a patriotic pin which celebrated our good King George VI and Queen Elizabeth at this Time of Adversity. A smart pair of suede gloves and a large crocodile clutch bag complete my required accessories. And we even drew some distinctly wobbly lines down our legs due to the shortage of silk stockings in these dark days of rationing.

The hair however was looming on the horizon and I watched no end of brilliant tutorial videos. Some of the vintage stylists on YouTube and Instagram are fantastic, they do it every day (although surely they must get up a the crack of dawn - no thanks very much), and they make it look so easy.

The Aim

Let me tell you, its not. I've never done a full set and brush out and wasn't about to risk it for an event. Curling tongs can help but they always end up looking too modern. So I sort of compromised...and by compromised I mean I wore a turban.

Turbans are wonderfully evocative of the 1940s and yes, they are also a useful cop-out. I certainly didn't have enough faith in my hairstyling to risk going without. But it required some work and I learnt a lot. I learnt the secret of a great fringe roll is a cut up hair donut and thousands of pins. Fourth time lucky.

I learned that back-combing is the answer to most things and that victory rolls can be cheated by winding the hair around a mascara tube. I did eventually manage two teeny tiny victory rolls, however the turban didn't quite fit properly over them so disappointingly they stayed under cover.

Somehow my fringe roll stayed in place all evening and I even wanted to sleep in it in the hope that it would still be there for our trip to the wonderful Bletchley Park the next day but I wimped out and got a better night's sleep for it.

All in all I was pretty pleased with the result. My friend wore a fantastic peplum jacketed dress and a quirky little hat and looked every inch the glamorous wartime spy. I decided I ran a boarding house for wayward land-girls.

Everyone at the party entered into the spirit, we had gas mask boxes and our ration books and coupons and dinner was supplied by a gorgeous vintage fish and chip van!

I'd certainly love to try this era again. Next time, maybe, I might even go without the turban!


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