Welcome to episode 2 of a new series of blogs from some of my fellow friends and colleagues within the vintage business. The topic of conversation is “My favourite vintage era”.
Today we have Kerry, the vintage girl behind the popular blog, Missy Vintage.
picture by Mat Keller
Hi Kerry, Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and all the exciting things you are getting up to!
I’m Kerry Clark, the face/chatterbox behind the vintage lifestyle blog Missy Vintage. The blog is a big slice of my life and the vintage inspirations that inspire the way I live it. I truly believe that creating a unique vintage wardrobe and home, can be really affordable but what you create will be priceless.
I’ve also recently joined forces with two friends who are also bloggers to create The Historical Sauces. We all adore history and fashion and by collaborating we’ve come up with a business that aims to educate and entertain. We create vintage reading rooms at fairs (no shhhhing in our library – we positively encourage chatter!) We’ve a dressing up box full of vintage goodies from the thirties to the eighties which we take to events, weddings, parties, photo booths etc.
We also want to show people through workshops and informal lessons how they can learn to do those little extras like get the perfect red lips and doing their own victory rolls to achieve their own style of a vintage inspired look. We were beside ourselves with excitement recently when we became stockists of vintage lingerie experts What Katie Did and Besame cosmetics. At the moment we’re concentrating on offering seamed stockings, tights and lipsticks, those little finishing touches can make all the difference.
I also write for Vintage Norwich and I have a few other projects in the pipeline too. I’m never bored that’s for sure!
Gosh you have a lot happening, it’s very exciting. So, do you have a favourite era?
I always find this a tricky question to answer as I’m so interested by life in the forties and fifties. My bookshelves are groaning but the beautiful thing about what I do, is that books are a must have item. That’s what I like to tell myself anyway. The changes people went through in these decades were just immense.
I’ll focus on the fifties for this interview, as I think this era is often looked at more from the point of view of the fashion and the music but so much more happened. The fifties was a very important decade in Britain’s history. People were still adjusting to life after the war, events had changed how and where people lived. The horror of war was still a recent scar for many people. Tea continued to be rationed until 1952, sweets didn’t come off rationing until 1953 – which is amazing to think of, when we’re now bombarded with them as we stand at the supermarket checkout.
Consumerism boomed! Televisions became more widely owned, white goods began to transform home life. Social housing was created and people were moved out of cities and in to houses and high rise tower blocks that were seen as the future answer to housing woes…….
I agree, people definitely forget that in the UK the fifties was a time of reflection as well as looking forward. So many classic 50s images of women and fashion are actually American not British. We were still very poor and sore….but times were a changing! So what about the fashion? Is there a key look you love from that era?
I’m certainly not a purist when it comes to fashion. I enjoy playing pick and mix with the various eras. I have no problem wearing a fifties style dress with forties style hair and vice versa. From the fifties I like pencil dresses and skirts. I love the shape they create on women. God bless Dior for creating the pencil skirt. I doubt I will ever own anything by Dior but I own several pencil skirts! They are so incredibly versatile; wear them with a t-shirt and pumps in the summer, blouse or sweater in the winter. Combine them with some seamed stockings (or tights if you want to easily cheat the look) some red lipstick couple of Kirby grips in your hair and there you have it. Pencil skirts provide a great way to introduce some vintage style to your wardrobe.
And what about interior design in the 50s? Is this something you also love?
I’m fairly eclectic but I do love an atomic leg, so to pick an era it’s got to simply be the fifties and early sixties. Having moved house in April, it’s all still a bit of a work in progress but the living rooms naturally fallen into that era with a few earlier pieces like a thirties sideboard thrown in to add to the mix. As well as books, the shelves contain china, shot glasses, soda syphons and cameras. I love all my ‘bits’ but two items that get used on a daily basis are my much loved fifties footstool and my coffee table. It’s great that these items are now in a loving home and serving a purpose – how tragic that so many of these gorgeous and useable items get dumped.
What about women in the 50s? Would you want to be back there as a 50s housewife?
The fifties wasn’t always an easy era for women. During the war many had been put to work on the land or in factories to help the war effort. Some joined the services which would have enable them to see the world as a much bigger place than the town or city they’d been living in. These opportunities may have been loathed by some who just craved to go back to the domestic life they knew and loved but for others it would have been empowering – life changing. So for those that didn’t aspire to go back to a domestic life it must have been a very challenging time. Women were encouraged to go back to a domestic role, be a wife and have children. It’s an interesting era to look at from the point of view of feminism.
It wasn’t uncommon for women to leave education at fifteen, the work roles for women were limited due to the general opinion that a woman’s role was in the home and at some point this would be inevitable as once women had babies they seldom returned to work. Those that managed to secure roles that were perceived to be glamorous, for example air hostesses were expected to/ forced to give up work once they were married.
Loving the fashion, reading the about the times and looking back at photographs is one thing but would I like to actually be a woman in that time? Hmmm – probably not.
So if you don’t fancy being a woman in the 50s…is there anything we could actually learn from them?
I think there are a few things that we could take from the fifties. There’s much talk at the moment of supporting British industry and small independent businesses. ‘Staycations’ as they’ve become called, are not a new phenomenon. Holidaying in British seaside resorts like they did in the fifties should be positively encouraged! Yes the weather might not be tropical but they coped back in the fifties and goodness knows our economy could do with the support.
With the Queens Jubilee coming up in June, I really hope we can capture some of the spirit of the coronation in 1953. Gather around televisions; throw street parties, communities coming together and neighbours talking to neighbours. The Fifties wasn’t filled will glorious values that will make the world a better place but it would be nice to be able to cherry pick a few.
I couldn’t agree more! The 50s was an amazing time for fashion, for communities and for new designers emerging through. The Festival of Britain in 51 showed the world that we could design and be at the fore front of this. It took really a whole decade for it to really filter through as money was so tight though. It must have been hard for women too, experiencing all that freedom in the 40s then going back to the kitchen only years later. Then again, having your man home alive after the war, must have been amazing…I would want to don a pinny and bake a cake! I think we forget it wasnt all rock and roll here in Blighty. The BBC1 programme Call the Midwife lays testament to this…..gosh we sure have come a long way since then.
Check out Missy Vintage on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.
Also make sure you drop by the Historical Sauces and Vintage Norwich
The 50s were indeed a challenging and historical decade for women. On the one hand you had (as with my grandmother with all 3 of these) women in the army/land army/factories/universities, women from all over ‘The Empire’ settling in the UK (war brides and economic migrants), women who were war-widows (sometimes judged as ‘single mums’ with ‘latchkey kids’) – on the other the stereotype of the little housewife, the ideals of consumer society and some very judgemental attitudes.
I guess that’s what resulted in many women of that generation being so formidable and strong. It is on the foundations they laid down that we women of today are building out equal rights, what seemed like small/lowly changes forced by war were actually the first cracks in the dam of sexism holding women back.
I agree totally. Its fascinating to ask the question about the role of women through the decades…Ive been getting some interesting answers and feedback. It’s not all about the fashion you know!