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VE Day

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Posted on May 06, 2015 by Fancy Dress Ball

VE Day


This Thursday, 7th May, marks seventy years since VE Day and the end of the Second World War in Europe. To mark the occasion, the government has announced three days of celebrations including a parade through central London, a concert and a service of thanksgiving.

But what if you don’t live in London? Don’t panic, Mister Mainwearing! Just like on the original VE Day in 1945 there will be street parties and celebrations held all over the UK. Unlike the original VE Day though, our food won’t be rationed – and bananas, tea and sugar will be freely available!

This may well be the last big celebration that veterans of the Second World War will live to see so it’s bound to be something worth writing home about.┬áMost local authorities have planned events for the public to take part in, but there’s nothing to stop you having your own, mini celebration.

In 1945, Victory in Europe was celebrated by waving Union Jack flags, tea parties in the street and big bonfires on communal land. Some of the bonfires even had quite realistic effigies of Hitler sitting on top. To celebrate VE Day in true vintage style, you need to do away with the speaker systems, the dance music and the designer clothes. In 1945 people danced in conga lines down the street in tea dresses and military uniforms. The atmosphere was of jubliation and celebration, but also of a big, family picnic. Despite years of rationing and not having a great deal of food, people pulled out all the stops to put on a big feast for the day.

The sort of foods eaten in 1945 included tripe (a cow’s stomach! Yum!), powdered egg (don’t ask us, we’ve no idea how to powder an egg), fish (not subjected to rationing) and corned beef fritters. Foods such as bacon, butter, sugar, tea and meat were rationed until 1954 and because of the lack of imports, many children didn’t see their first banana until well after the war had ended. In fact, during a recent TV documentary John Craven noted that the first time he saw one, he tried to eat it with the skin still on!

Of course, many things other than food were difficult to get hold of during the War. Unable to get stockings, many women would attempt to dye their legs with tea, to make it look like they were wearing them. Some would also draw a line up the backs of their legs, as in those days stockings had a seam that ran up the back of the leg. Clothing was rationed as textiles factories were switched over to the war effort, and there was a big drive to “make do and mend” old clothes.

During the war there was a major drive to encourage women to remain glamorous. As the war drew on, makeup supplies became limited and factories were given over to armament production. In 1942 using metal for lipstick or compact cases was banned and a lot of makeup was supplied as just a refill for existing packaging. Still, everyone knew Hitler disliked cosmetics, and women were encouraged to be glamorous as part of the war effort: it was their duty not to let their appearance go. The slogan “Beauty is your duty” was printed in magazines, and women eked out the last sliver of lipstick or the last puff of powder, using it right up to the very last dab. Beetroot was often used as a lip stain and some even used boot polish as mascara! (we really don’t recommend the boot polish though).

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