Thursday, 26 July 2012

Olympics 1940s Style

1948 Poster. Source: British Library
So it's the Olympic opening ceremony tomorrow (in case anyway had missed the ever present topic in the news, shops, conversations and adverts- don't get me wrong though I am interested, but if you're not its hard to avoid!) and although I suspect this sort of post may be doing the rounds with many vintage bloggers, I couldn't let it pass without one post on the last Olympics held in Britain.

Great Britain last hosted the games in post-war austerity (hmmm- austerity rings a bell!) in 1948, unlike this years Games, there were no new stadiums or complexes built and athletes were not housed in an Olympic Village specifically built for the occasion but in existing accommodation.

The Opening Ceremony was slightly more low key than I suspect tomorrow's events will be.  With army bands playing for the 85,000 strong crowds in Wembley stadium, there was the obligatory British 21 gun salute, parades of the athletes, followed by Lord Burghley's speech.  Finally at 4pm King George VI released 2,500 (although some sources suggest 7000) pigeons to declare the games open. 

There are some amazing videos to be found on you tube of the opening ceremony, the best one I could find was here, with some of the original commentary and what appears to be different countries footage spliced together to give a fairly complete picture of what happens.

So as we are a vintage fashion and lifestyle blog, I thought I should share the sort of thing they would have been worn at the time of the games.  

1948 Day Wear (Source: The Complete Fashion Sourcebook  by John Peacock
Christian Dior introduced the "New Look" in his 1947 collection to fight against the war-time sharp shoulders and economy styling of previous 1930s fashions and give the women of the generations something more feminine and "new".  So tiny waists and full skirts were starting to hold sway with most women, although it had not fully come into it's own yet as many women then (as now) would still be wearing previous seasons fashions.  The key looks for the year were:
  • The high-fashion colour of the year was navy blue.
  • Bare-top sundress with a cover up jacket or stole.  
  • The late day or after-5 dress became a big fashion piece
  • Move away from softer fabrics such as crepe or ply-yarn to stiffer fabrics
  • Move towards headcapping shorter hairstyles
  • Stoles in matching fabrics to skirts were a major accessory.
  • Straw or felt "roof-tops" bonnets, or brimmed veiled hats
  • Diamonds and pearls were ever popular
  • The pump was the most popular shoe
  • Petticoat were essential wardrobe item, of taffeta or in summer crisp cotton.
Our area of interest and what the shop sells is more women's fashion, so unfortunately my knowledge on men's fashion is limited- although sharp double breasted suits with a fedora were a must for smart day wear. I'd be interested if anyone has any good sources regarding men's fashion history as information is definitely limited compared to the wealth of information on women's fashion.

Enjoy the opening ceremony if you are watching it tomorrow; and in another 54 years time, who knows, maybe Great Britain will host again and some will be blogging about what we wore in 2012.

(Sources: Deisgn Museum / Retro Fashion HistoryVintage Fashion By Carlton Books / The Complete fashion Sourcebook by John Peacock / Information Britain / British Library)


  1. Very interesting Olympic history, great post! Those Christian Dior fashions from 1947 were very stylish! I am watching the Olympics, I always enjoy watching and wish I was there in London to see it.

    1. I live less than an hour form London and I'm still watching it on television if it makes you feel any better! Makes me really cross to see all those empty seats that the corporate sponsors have not filled up. Thanks for the comment! x

  2. I particularly like the fashion history - it is still such a classic look!

    1. Thanks Dorene, can't beat a bit of late 40's fashion, I love it!


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