Wednesday, June 28, 2006

VKB No. 23, from 1943, turned up yesterday. The seller had said that she’d send it second class, and so she did, but the postman took pity on me. It’s in great condition except for the missing cover.

As you’d expect, there’s nothing about danger or discomfort or supporting the war effort. Vogue’s job is to send us out looking smart.

I’ve snagged the pictures from eBay – I’m certainly not going to flatten my precious copy in a scanner. The sizes range from a bust size of 34” all the way to 36”. Take it or leave it. They did that in the 30’s, too.

The format, layout, typeface is precisely as it was throughout the 50’s, although the page size and print size are smaller. The photographs are unattributed. They’re good. The style in the late ‘30’s was radically different.

The war is there, of course, on every page. The yarn ads almost all hint at difficulty: “Briggs W.B. Wools may be a little difficult to obtain at present…” “You can still buy your best beloved wool for every Ladyship shop receives its ration regularly…” “The better woolshops still have a few lovely colours to show you…[Sandison of Edinburgh]” “The maximum quantity permitted is being distributed to the shops with the most scrupulous fairness…[Lee’s Wool]”

The only specifically bellicose ad is for Eno’s Fruit Salt. (What does that do? “Keep you regular,” I suspect.) “Health is a national duty” it proclaims, over the picture of a radiant air-raid warden.

But my favourite ad is for Weetabix. A drawing of a sturdy three-year-old. “Weetabix, with milk, for breakfast! At other times of the day his Mother serves it in many other delicious ways, knowing well that Weetabix provides all the food-goodness that children need for healthy growth. Whether you can get Weetabix depends on where you live for all cereals are now ‘zoned.’ If you live in a Weetabix area, you are doubly fortunate! Weetabix is the best value for points…”

Vogue’s own text enjoins frugality, and includes instructions for unravelling and re-knitting old jumpers. “Buy new wool if you must, but only if you must.” A pattern for a two-piece set of underwear is included (bust 34”, hips 37”). “Make these to wear throughout the winter.”

The editor’s note at the beginning is really rather good. The picture is of a Victorian night-cap, unattributed. That knitter, it says, “…had no exciting boucles or gay novelty wools to help her fingers….For contrast and texture she depended upon her skill. Her work was and is exquisite.

“We modern knitters have been spoiled. But now the novelty wools and yarns which made it easy to seem skilful have gone for the duration. We are on our own again…”


In the course of all my eBay-ery lately, I have bought myself a fresh copy of VKB No. 39, Autumn 1951. Does anybody want the extremely tatty one which has been replaced? jean at milesandmiles dot demon dot co dot uk.

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