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  • Hi, I'm Fashion Historian Amber Butchart

  • I'm standing in the tunnels at English Heritage's Dover Castle where the

  • military was stationed during the nation's fight for victory in the Second World War

  • Among those were ladies from the Women's Royal Naval Service

  • otherwise known as the Wrens. In addition to their

  • formidable contribution to the war effort, women across the country had

  • another weapon in their arsenal - makeup. Cosmetics became crucial for morale and

  • were encouraged by everyone from Vogue magazine to the British government. Today

  • we're taking a look at the surprising role cosmetics played during the Second

  • World War when Britain put on a brave face. Are you ready? Let's find out more

  • Hello Rebecca!

  • Hey Amber, how's it going?

  • Good, how are you?

  • I'm alright thank you, welcome to Dover!

  • Thanks very much

  • Well today we're focusing on the Second World War which began in 1939 and lasted

  • for six long years. We're also focusing on the Wrens, so Rebecca tell me about

  • the look that you're going to recreate for us today

  • We're going to be creating something that feels very classic 1940s so

  • beautiful powdered skin and a bright red lip on our gorgeous model, Ella

  • Hi Ella

  • Hello

  • We're also going to be incorporating some homespun hacks from our brilliant

  • audience. I'm excited to try these out

  • I'm very excited to see them. Now makeup

  • is often dismissed as frivolous but during the war it took on extra

  • importance in terms of morale. Vogue even talked about it as 'cherished a last

  • desperately defended luxury' so it's going to be great to explore makeup and

  • especially the women who wore it and their huge contribution to the war effort

  • Let's get started

  • What are you doing first?

  • Well let's start the beginning

  • and let's start with skincare. Now we had an account from a Wren who

  • was based here in Dover called Doreen, and her account says that skincare

  • became really hard to get hold of during the war it was like gold dust but she

  • had a chemist friend that could make her a vanishing cream that she could use

  • throughout the war and so I found a vanishing cream that's made to an

  • authentic late 1930s, 1940s recipe that I'm going to use on Ella here. And what a

  • vanishing cream does is it vanishes into the skin and it also provides a

  • brilliant base of powder

  • So it's kind of like a primer?

  • It's very much like a primer, yes. Interestingly with makeup from the

  • beginning of the early 20th century it started out being something that's quite

  • unseemly and something that's under the counter

  • But as we move onwards into the 1930s and into the 1940s makeup now is not

  • only an accepted part of your routine it's also almost an essential part of

  • your routine and in fact during the war beauty became a woman's duty

  • Well this is an idea that the government really promoted as well. The Board of Trade

  • proclaimed in 1940 'keep up the morale of the homefront by preserving

  • a neat appearance' and this was a line that fashion magazines really echoed as well

  • In fact, for example, they even advised women against turning into frights and slovens

  • That's a real shame that it seems to be just a woman's

  • duty not to turn into a fright or a sloven. We're in a time where women are starting to

  • take on newer jobs and also have to keep the home fires burning and then also

  • they have to look awesome while they're doing it

  • A woman's work is never done

  • It is a lot to expect

  • So let's finish off this skincare and I'm going to apply a powder now this is an

  • original 1940s powder

  • That is beautiful

  • It's fabulous! I'm applying it with a

  • powder puff this is a homemade powder puff which feels very in keeping with

  • the time. And you'll notice that this is in a cardboard box. Now during the war as

  • austerity started to kick in, manufacturers of cosmetics couldn't use

  • metal anymore all the metal had to go to the war effort so more and more

  • cosmetics were produced in cardboard containers just like these

  • Long, luscious lashes are a really integral part of the late 1930s into the 1940s look

  • But as austerity started to bite, women had to look for alternatives to darken

  • and lengthen their eyelashes. We had some amazing tips and tricks from our

  • audience to do with mascara but the one that intrigued me most was using burnt

  • corks as a mascara. The suggestion was to burn a cork and then use the ash

  • mixed with some Vaseline as a mascara. So we're going to give that a try

  • Hold onto that for me, Ella. Thank you

  • Well speaking of austerity these ideas of rationing and austerity

  • really define this era in terms of personal appearance. Clothes rationing

  • lasted from 1941 to 1949 and was really all about fairness, it was about making sure

  • that everybody had access to the essentials and it was also about

  • conserving materials for the war effort as well. So when we think of rationing we

  • can sort of broadly think about three different areas. Firstly there were

  • coupons which were issued and this was to make sure there was a sort of equal

  • distribution of clothing. So you'd need money as well as coupons to buy specific

  • items. For example, 11 coupons for a dress or 8 coupons for a men's shirt or pair of trousers

  • There was also the utility scheme that was brought in by the

  • government and this was a range of sort of well designed, price-controlled

  • clothing that really made factories much more efficient and so freed up

  • production again for the war effort. Now finally we have austerity

  • regulations. These were again brought in by the government and determined what

  • you could and couldn't design basically. So for example, the turn-up on men's

  • trousers was abolished, lapels you know the width of lapels was defined. There

  • were a whole host of rules brought in which help to conserve materials and

  • labour so they could be put towards the war effort. Now with all of this

  • rationing of fabric and food as well going on, women also have to be very

  • creative when it came to their makeup, didn't they?

  • Yeah they really did

  • Although makeup itself wasn't actually rationed, it did become much more

  • expensive and harder to get hold of and a couple of reasons for that is that the

  • government put a luxury tax on makeup and also it limited cosmetics companies

  • to just 25% of their pre-war output so it was much harder to get hold of which

  • meant some makeup had to do double duty and I'm going make this burnt cork do double duty

  • by applying it through the eyebrows as well

  • This is looking really good, it looks great, it works well

  • I know, I'm really surprised at how well this actually works and also the burnt cork through

  • the eyebrows is surprisingly effective and a really nice colour. We had a really

  • great quote from one of our audience members telling us that women of the era

  • would match the angle of their eyebrows to the angle of the stripes on their

  • uniform. I don't know whether that's true or not but I really like the idea of it

  • so we're going to do a really nice angle into Ella's eyebrows

  • So another way that women could cut costs during the war was to use

  • household products and produce to create makeup. And we had several people tell us

  • that beetroot was a product that people used because of its staining properties

  • and the colour of it so I thought we'd try out some beetroot as a little bit of rouge

  • Fantastic. Well saving money, saving materials - wow! - was of course important

  • 'Make do and Mend' was the philosophy as promoted by the government

  • I love the look of that! It's so effective immediately

  • And so people were really encouraged to repair, to restore and to reuse

  • their clothing to really make it last as long as possible

  • And along with this, you know we tend to think of the war as this really

  • drab era defined by austerity, but there was a lot of creativity in terms of the

  • material people turned to and the way that they were dressing. So for example

  • black out fabric wasn't rationed so it was often used for clothing, it could be

  • turned into dresses. Also second-hand shopping became really important in

  • terms of replenishing people's wardrobes as well. These are all things that we

  • should be living by today as well, using your clothes for as long as possible,

  • secondhand, really taking a sustainable approach

  • And beetroot as blusher because -

  • - because it's fantastic!

  • It works very well

  • When we think of the 1940s we think of a classic, bold red lip

  • Why was red such an important colour?

  • Red is a really symbolic color anyway. It shows strength

  • in dark times. Nella Last wrote about wearing red lipstick. Now she kept a

  • diary all the way through the Second World War

  • And she said that wearing a too bright lipstick on dim days helped the corners

  • of the mouth turn up when you couldn't smile

  • So it was a way of showing strength, it was a way of showing unity in these really dark times

  • And also a way of showing that you were well presented and well kept

  • Interestingly, it was also rumoured that Hitler hated makeup and specifically he hated red lipstick

  • So to wear red lipstick was a way of saying that you were anti-Hitler

  • Cosmetics companies also saw a way in to produce wartime products and they

  • started to produce lipsticks that had rousing military names such as

  • 'Auxilary Red' or 'Homefront Ammunition'. Now I couldn't get hold of any of those

  • particular lipsticks because they don't produce them anymore so I've gone for a

  • really intense bright red which is as close as I think I can get to what

  • I think those colors would have looked like

  • Now we know that red lipstick is kind of a uniform for the face, but tell me a bit about

  • uniform and how that relates to the Second World War

  • Well uniform becomes hugely prevalent at

  • this time. During the war between a quarter and a third of the population

  • are entitled to wear some kind of uniform whether they are fighting in the

  • Forces, whether they're working at home in the Forces or even civilian workers as well, people like

  • dock workers, nurses, the land army - they're all wearing some

  • form of uniform. So it's no surprise that it starts to affect the way people are

  • dressing in day-to-day life as well. It's also considered really bad form to be

  • dressed in a very showy or expensive way and even by spring 1940 we start seeing

  • Vogue running adverts for clothing with a military touch

  • So it's really beginning to enter all areas of fashion

  • Now we couldn't do a tutorial based on World War Two without talking about painted stockings and the effort

  • that women would go to to look good in difficult times

  • Well stockings were rationed from 1941 so you had to use coupons to buy them

  • Nylon stockings were a relatively new invention from America but from 1942

  • nylon was also put towards the war effort so they became even harder to get

  • hold of. So where clothing was sparse, makeup really stepped up to the job

  • It did, and it didn't

  • Explain?

  • We had some amazing suggestions from our audience

  • about how women were painting their legs to look like they're wearing stockings,

  • from boiled walnut shells to coffee and tea bags and then also the famous gravy browning

  • on the legs. Now you'll notice that Ella is wearing tights and there's

  • her reason for that. We tried gravy browning. Gravy browning does not look

  • good as stockings

  • Ah, I see, I see

  • It's an interesting colour and it's a little bit sticky so we

  • tried it, it didn't work brilliantly. There was also something else that we

  • tried that didn't work brilliantly but I wanted to show it to you anyway

  • I had a very clever model-maker friend of mine make this

  • - wow!

  • I'm calling this, the seam machine!

  • - brilliant!

  • And we made this from a picture that we found in the Smithsonian

  • It's a bicycle clip, it's a compass, it's a screwdriver handle and

  • it's an eyebrow pencil

  • - What a contraption!

  • It's amazing isn't it? So you're meant to use

  • this to actually draw a stocking line up the back of your own leg

  • So the bicycle clip goes on your leg and you draw it upwards

  • And how effective is it?

  • I'd say slim-to-none. Not very good at all! And interestingly we think that

  • using gravy browning is actually a little bit of a myth. Maybe like a

  • newspaper good news story, something that's light-hearted but maybe not very

  • many women were actually doing it

  • So not something that was actually sort of

  • widespread, used across the nation. But there was leg makeup, right, that could be used?

  • There absolutely was, yes. So companies started to see that women were making

  • their own way of making stockings so many brands started to produce liquid

  • stockings and and they were readily available and also beauty bars started

  • to populate in department stores where you go and have your legs painted

  • professionally using proper products for three pence a leg, to make it look like

  • you were wearing stockings

  • Brilliant! Well Ella you look fantastic

  • I'm going to leave you to get on with the hair, and I'm going to go and find out more

  • about the Wrens here at Dover

  • What does your job entail at English Heritage?

  • I look after and research

  • collections from English Heritage sites all over Kent, Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire

  • including Dover Castle

  • What were the tunnels here at Dover Castle used for during the Second World War?

  • They were initially used as the command centre

  • for naval operations in the channel. They then expanded to include

  • nearly four miles of tunnels over the course of the war and that included a

  • hospital section and a combined headquarters for the army and the RAF as

  • well as the Navy. From the tunnels you have the organisation of the evacuation

  • of Dunkirk and also this was used for an awful lot of sort of air sea rescue work

  • where planes had gone down or ships had been sunk in the channel

  • So it's a really, really important space in terms of the war effort?

  • Hugely important, yeah. Really, really important

  • The Wrens played a really important part during the Second World War

  • What exactly were they doing down here in the tunnels?

  • They had a whole variety of different tasks so for example there

  • was a small group of German-speaking Wrens who were monitoring German radio

  • transmissions, there were groups that were plotting the positions of ships and

  • airplanes over the channel but also administrative tasks, typing, cooking a

  • whole variety of different roles

  • Can you tell me what it would have been like

  • down here in the early 1940s for these women?

  • When they first moved in the

  • tunnels were really quite old at that point, light levels were low and a colony

  • of bats had moved in.The women had to come through what they referred to as

  • 'bat alley' in order to get down here. They did improve but there was

  • constantly sounds from the air being pushed through the tunnels, in certain

  • places you could hear what was going on outside so you could hear the ships

  • coming in and out you could hear bombs dropping

  • There were also rats down here. One woman went to sleep for a bit of a rest during

  • her shift and woke up with a rat crawling over her so not always the most

  • pleasant place for them to be

  • Generally speaking what were t