Writer Seeking Fashion Advice for WW II Novel

Ad for Flatterknit long-wearing stockings, Vogue Aug. 15, 1943.

Ad for Flatterknit long-wearing stockings, Vogue, Aug. 15, 1943.

A writer named Kay Harwell Fernandez contacted me about finding a costume historian to advise her on a novel set in World War II. She asked help in finding someone with whom she could discuss American and French fashions between 1939 and 1947. I’m not sure what her novel’s plot is, but if you, like me, get frustrated reading novels which get the fashion details wrong — well, here’s our chance to help someone who wants to get them right.

Butterick Fashion News, cover, September 1943.

Butterick Fashion News, cover, September 1943. Pattern 2695, two views.

Butterick Fashion News, Sept. 1943. THe dress on the right has an "Eisenhower back," a reference to the Allied commander's waist-length military jacket.

Butterick Fashion News, Sept. 1943.

Kay Harwell Fernandez wrote,

“Question, please. I am in the process of writing a novel set around WWII with locations in the U.S. and France. Could you suggest a fashion historian who I could either speak to or email questions about fashion, especially women’s fashion and designers, from 1939 to 1947?

“Thank you so much for any help you can provide.

“Kind regards, Kay”

I certainly love the title of one of her ebooks:  It Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Luggage: Tips for Older Women Traveling Abroad

Older British woman blacksmith working at a forge, England, 1943. From Vogue, Aug. 15, 1943.

This older woman, a “Blacksmith WREN,” is working at a forge in England, 1943. From Vogue, Aug. 15, 1943. She is a member of the Women’s Services.

My copy of the American Vogue from August, 1943 is full of reminders that the war affected every aspect of daily life — not to mention advertising campaigns.

Pretty Patriot buyin war bonds in an ad for shoes, Vogue, Aug., 1943.

A “Pretty Patriot” buying war bonds in an ad for shoes, Vogue, August, 1943.

Ad for Hill and Dale shoes, Vogue, Aug. 1943.

Ad for Hill and Dale shoes, Vogue, Aug. 1943.

Fashion model posing at the Naval Academy. Vogue, Aug. 1943.

Fashion model posing at the Naval Academy. Vogue, Aug. 1943.

In the Butterick Fashion News flyer, robes and pajamas remind us that a nighttime curfew was imposed in coastal cities, to prevent city lights from providing bombing targets and silhouetting ships.

Robes and loungewear are called "Curfew Clothes" in the BFN flyer for Sept. 1943.

Robes and loungewear are called “Curfew Clothes” in the BFN flyer for Sept. 1943.

Here is Kay’s contact and professional information:

Kay Harwell Fernandez
Writer, Editor, Author
Member SATW, ASJA, FFWA, MWA, SiNC
Twitter @KayIsAWriter and @chocolatetravel
Professional profile on LinkedIn and Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/kayharwellfernandez
Author: It Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Luggage: Tips for Older Women Traveling Abroad

Author: Have Chocolate, Will Travel – An Enticing Journey to All Things Chocolate

I answered Kay’s email like this, but left out many ideas:
“Gee, I’m out of the loop when it comes to knowing fashion historians personally. My first thought was the Costume Society of America, because their journal, Dress, has years worth of articles on very specific aspects of history — if you find a useful article, you might contact the author. There are also historical recreation groups and military museums focused on WW II in Europe and the US; some re-enactors have an amazing depth of knowledge. The trouble with fashion magazines like Vogue (and its European editions and competitors) is that they try to lead fashion, rather than reporting what normal people wear; news magazines like Life are more likely to show daily life of civilians. Finding out who were the most well-known French and American fashion designers in that period isn’t hard, and then you can locate autobiographies, like Fashion Is Spinach, by American designer Elizabeth Hawes. And, luckily, many women who lived through this period as children and teens have active memories or have written about their lives…. (e.g., Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire, and her sisters Nancy and Pamela Mitford. A fourth Mitford sister was pro-Germany. Very sad story.)
The blog and Youtube site Glamourdaze is worth a visit; it often shows short film clips of fashions and makeup, made in the period (there’s a World War II page) : http://glamourdaze.com/
I’ll ask for better suggestions from readers, too. (We always cringe when an author gets something wrong, so we ought to be willing to help.)”

So, I am asking if any readers can make more suggestions of sources and contacts for Kay. If you are willing to be her advisor, contact her through her Facebook or Linked-in; if you have suggestions about sources, books, etc., please use the comments section so we can all benefit! Thanks!

What are you doing about it? Ad for Vogue magazine, Aug. 15, 1943.

What are you doing about it? Ad for Vogue magazine, Aug. 15, 1943.

 

 

 

 

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1 Comment

Filed under 1930s-1940s, A Costumers' Bookshelf, Musings, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Resources for Costumers, Vintage patterns

One response to “Writer Seeking Fashion Advice for WW II Novel

  1. Hari

    There are two definitive books on the era, in my opinion, written by historians that should answer all her questions easily. They are 1940s Fashion: the Definitive Sourcebook by Charlotte Fiell and of course Forties Fashion by the wonderful Jonathan Walford.

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