Friday, July 29, 2011

"The 1940s Look" by Mike Brown

The subtitle for this ("Recreating the Fashion, Hairstyles and Make-up of the Second World War") is misleading.  The 1940s Look doesn't tell you how to recreate the look of the 1940s so much as tell you how the people of the 1940s created it in the first place.  While it is possible to approximate the fashion and beauty techniques of the 1940s using this book it really doesn't provide enough detail on how to duplicate them exactly using the resources of the 21st century.

On the other hand The 1940s Look does give e a fascinating account of how people "made do" in early forties Britain, and the way they tried to present themselves.  It covers everything from make-do-and-mend tips, to some of the substitutes popularly used for hard to get make-up, to the tricks people used to try and get around clothes rationing.  It is also slightly unusual in that it gives almost equal weight to men's and children's styles in its account of fashions in the 1940s.  One piece of trivia I found interesting was the description of how men's hairstyles in the British forces differed from the regulation crew cuts worn by American soldiers.

In summary I would say: this book is an excellent overview of fashion and dress in the 1940s.  It draws on many original sources, in particular the many popular magazines and advice leaflets of the time.  If, however, I wanted to give myself an authentic 1940s makeover I would try to go to the original sources myself and study the subject in more detail.   A lot of good 1940s fashion texts have been reprinted, and the magazines are always available through eBay!

Published: Sevenoaks, Kent: Sabrestorm Publishing, 2005.
ISBN 9780955272318

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