Tagged: 1940s

Oct 01

Jacqmar calling

 

 

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The distinctive Jacqmar mark

 

When this vibrant blouse was brought to the M Shed’s World War 2 day last Saturday, it created a frisson of excitement. Apparently upcycled from a Jacqmar propaganda scarf by the owner’s mother (a primary school teacher in London during the war), the blouse is an eye-popping reminder for us too young to have experienced the war IRL that it wasn’t lived in black-and-white.

 

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Economic cutting

 

The 1942 line drawing by Jacqmar’s company designer Arnold Lever contains a selection of  topical references. Here’s much more about it and them c/o Meg Andrews, a specialist in antique costume and textiles.

 

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Back view

 

The blouse is threadbare here and there, but still very bright and beautiful. It’s noticeable that the green binding is much finer and more flexible than the run-of-the-mill stiff stuff on offer to us nowadays. And it’s still doing the job, though a little worn here and there. The red buttons are not original to the WW2 item.

 

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Binding finish

 

I’m a little puzzled by this piece. Jacqmar propaganda scarves were expensive items when new, so turning one into a blouse would have been a very bold project, in more ways than one. Admittedly, in this form it would have been wearable for a young teacher during her working day, whereas a head-scarf would not. But have I made a false assumption that this was made from a headscarf? It looked to me as if the pieces could just come (if carefully cut) from the square yard of fabric provided by a scarf. But did Jacqmar produce garments too? Or was the fabric ever sold by the metre? My hunch is that this was a homemade item; look at the stitching visible beyond the binding – not a professional finish. And the fact that contrast binding was used, not self, would indicate a paucity of fabric which as being negotiated with the greatest care, so the upcycled scarf theory still holds water. 

 

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The odd hole here and there…

 

I bet this made a real impact on pupils when the young teacher wore it. Do you know of someone who made items from bright scarves during the war? Maybe you’ve inherited a Jacqmar propaganda scarf? Or another item of clothing made by Jacqmar? Perhaps you recognise the vintage blouse pattern this was cut from? If you have any insight at all to offer, I’d be delighted if you’d share it with me below. And if you happen to be in Bristol and have a story about World War 2, or an artefact you’d be willing to loan for an exhibition next year, do get in touch with the M Shed. Thanks.

PS Since writing this post I’ve discovered that famed scarf producer Jacqmar did indeed turn out fabrics. In fact, they were doing this before they began to make scarves: the scarves being, ironically, a thrifty way to use up precious silk scraps. There’s a nice story about Arnold Lever’s patriotic fabric over here, used to create a VE party dress.

 

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May 24

Grandmother’s quilt

Shredded quilt

My grandmother's pinwheel quilt

Just take a look at my grandmother’s quilt.

Made in the 1950s – I think, though employing older fabrics – it has been well worn (dare I say abused?) and is terribly shredded but retains much its pinwheel charm.

Feedsack pinwheels

Feedsack fabrics

I washed it yesterday using a delicate soap, gently agitating it by hand in the bathtub (just prodding it, really) before letting it drain (boy, that water was satisfyingly yellow!), rinsing it, draining it again, rolling it carefully and putting it in the washing machine to spin. Then I let it dry flat and supported before hanging it (just damp) on the line to finish drying in the fresh air. All in the name of work avoidance, of course.

Dotty pinwheel

Feedsack pinwheel

You might see it as a cutter, but I think I will drape it somewhere and watch it gently deteriorate.

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Mar 07

Hollywood pin-ups

I’m sorry if you’ve arrived here under false pretences, because this blog post is only about laundry.

Last week’s news of Jane Russell‘s demise prompted me to dig out this unused card of 1940s clothes pins (or pegs to British readers) from my small collection of similar. The laundress there, in her fetching apron, reminds me a teeny bit of a demure, daytime version of Jane.

Hollywood Pin-ups

Hollywood Pin-ups produced by Del E. Webb Products Co, California

Aren’t they wonderful? Such a brave attempt to glamorise the subject. The big claims were that they would fit any clothes line, would not rust nor leave marks on your laundry, all achieved with a modern streamlined beauty. And so versatile! The reverse of the card suggested that you could also use these as money-, paper-, hair- or tie-clips, napkin-holders or skirt-hangers.

A quick internet search (peeking through my fingers) revealed that these were designed by a couple of California neighbours who were tired of hearing their wives groan about the inadequacies of normal clothes-pins. The product was featured in Time magazine in December 1945, and 80,000 pins were then being shipped daily, so I guess you can call them a success. If you have a memory of this wonderful product, I’d love to hear about it.

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