Strength of the 1940s lady

Oh Facebook … the curse/saviour of the noughties and beyond. I have been communicating so much on my FB page these days that I’ve somewhat neglected proper! I promise to rectify from here on in.

Lately lots of people have asked ‘why the 1940s?’ in reference to my blog tag-line (the more mature of my readers questioning accompanied by a somewhat perplexed expression). I understand that it may seem an unusual choice of decade to romanticise. It was of course an incredibly troubled era; some of the most unforgivable acts ever recorded happened during this decade and families were regularly ripped apart due to war.



However, although it is impossible to ignore the destruction of war, when I think of the 40s, I bring to mind the incredibly strong females, many of whom stood up and took on new roles, along with their traditional ones, in an effort to support and progress their own countries while men were in the military. This was known as the Rosie the Riveter phenomenon and the reason we are all familiar with that strong looking overall-clad lady flexing her guns and telling us ‘we can do it’. I picture the females in the factories and manufacturing plants, getting on with the job at hand … all the while sporting turbans on their heads (they kept the grime out whilst allowing the ladies to remain stylish don’t you know). So when I wish that I lived through the 1940s, it’s not that I belittle the difficulties that existed during this time, but rather I celebrate the women that adapted and excelled in the face of adversity whilst managing to hang on to their femininity. I am utterly fascinated by the evolution of fashion due to circumstance during this time and I adore the many styles that came from it. Some of my favorite things today are thanks to the 40s woman:


Red lipstick

The value of lipstick as a ‘morale booster’ during wartime was not underestimated. My own Mama is known to ladies that she trained through her work over the years as ‘lipstick lady’, due to her insistence that everyone apply their rouge before beginning their days work. This, she told them, would ensure they portray confidence in their ability and expertise when speaking to their clients (the fact that all communication was via phone only did not deter her belief). I’m sure it is she who instilled in me the love of lipstick. A staple in my makeup bag, I never fail to feel more glamorous, confident and feminine once I’ve applied my Mac Russian Red (first introduced to me by my ever stylish Aussie sister in law) or burlesque favorite Ruby Woo.  Mwah!



Seamed Nylons

There is something incredibly sexy about seamed nylons and I adore wearing them with towering heals and a glint in my eye. They are considered slightly ‘naughty’ in a modern context, however they were standard attire prior to the war. I always remember my Nana sharing with me a memory that I thought so lovely. Nana recalled how she and her fellow trainee nurses would help each other finish dressing by drawing with eyebrow pencil and great precision, a continuous vertical line down the back of each others legs to give the illusion of nylons (which were now considered luxuries in the climate of rationing). Although I have no doubt that every one of the ladies would think me queer to glamorise this practice which was necessity over ritual, I can’t help but admire the resourcefulness and sisterhood involved in ensuring the ladies’ best foot was put forward and appearances kept up during hardship.


Irene O'Brien Vintage Stylist Dublin


Pretty Polly do a beautiful range of seamed nylons and their collaboration with House of Holland means you can embrace this look while adopting a modern twist.



Ah Casablanca … how I love you so! Should you be one of the many folk I have encountered lately that have not seen this movie, I implore you to rent, nay.. buy, it this weekend. Stunning Ingrid Bergman, smouldering Humphrey Bogart, and romance that will make you float from your sofa. Really what more would you want? If you have seen this classic or one of the other many amazing movies from this period, you should no doubt be feeling inspired to channel one of your favorite 40s screen siren. Well thankfully for you and I,  Dublin’s Film Fatale is back this month with a screening of classic film noir Double Indemnity. An amazing event that offers Hollywood glamour (that’s where you come in), vintage cocktails and live performances from Mizz Dietrichson and DJ’s The Andrews Sisters’ Brothers, each playing music from the era with a sexy noir twist. Go all out, rally up your stylish gal pals and moody gentlemen and take to the Sugar Club for an amazing night out on Saturday 5th November.



Hopefully see you there; you can decide if my seams are real or not…

Irene xXx


PS.  I simply had to cut this short as I had too much to say about what I love from the 40s. I shall do a separate fashion post soon! In the meantime you can find great 40s outfits at the ever-growing number of Vintage stores around the country or, should you like your ‘retro’ to come in a newer form, brand new threads suitable for 40s sirens, can be found on the appropriately named Stop Staring label.