Beauty

5 Genius Fashion Secrets WWII Women Learned

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When it comes to being resourceful, there are few people who perfected that skill better than the ladies of the ’40s. Nice fabrics, cosmetics, and anything of luxury were all in short supply during the war, yet our mothers still managed to look fabulous. How did they do it? We had a rummage through some of our favorite frugal fashion tips of the era, and we’re feeling inspired to bring that same make-do-and-mend attitude to our own lives today.

1. Use beetroot juice to add a splash of lip color.

Luscious lipsticks had just vanished off the shelves as more and more items were rationed. Yet the beauty brands were still pushing their message of “beauty is a duty,” keen to make sure standards didn’t slip and women didn’t lose all interest in cosmetics once the hard times were over. So what was a girl to do?

Root vegetables were surprisingly the answer for a lot of women. It turned out that beetroot gave a lovely dark colored stain on our lips that was relatively harmless, and so it became a favorite among ladies who wanted to look their best.

2. Who says tea is just for drinking?

For the beauty belles of the 1940s, tea wasn’t just for sipping; it played a vital role in the morning beauty routine too. Lots of ’40s girls, longing for perfect pins, would soak their stockings in a pot of tea before drawing a pencil line at the back to make it look like the real thing! If tea wasn’t available, gravy would also do the job. 

women's fashion during wwii

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

3. Boot polish was a beauty must-have.

Forget the fancy brands of cosmetics that might line our make-up bags today — for a ’40s girl, the item at the top of their must-have list was boot polish. She used this to darken her lashes as a makeshift mascara. It was certainly effective enough to catch on but this is one trick we perhaps won’t be trying ourselves at home anytime soon!

4. Recycle an old blanket into a warm winter dress.

When clothing coupons were few and far between, you had to calculate rather carefully how you were going to spend these golden tickets of fashion. Making your own clothes was a nifty way of spending fewer coupons, and women in the ’40s were always ready with their sewing kits and on the hunt for useable fabrics.

Old blankets were a firm favorite, as they were one of the few fabrics that were perfect for winter clothes as well as not being rationed. They also made great black-out curtains. When surplus “escape maps” issued to Allied aircrew during the Second World War were sold off, they were also quickly transformed by thrifty housewives wanting to make their new frock from the luxurious map silks.

5. Repair, recycle, reuse.

This was the mantra of all discerning housewives looking to do their best in times of ration. Shops and businesses also got whole-heartedly behind this campaign for thrift. 

This article was originally written by Yours editors. For more, check out our sister site, Yours.

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