Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Tap Dance Tuesday

At first this looks like a rather unremarkable piece of footage from 1950s television, but wait . . . what's that on her feet . . . those couldn't possibly be toe shoes, could they?!?!?  Why in fact they are! I have now opened a door onto a weird and wonderful side of old tap dancing that I never knew existed: toe-tapping.  Here is a link I found to a bit of it's history.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

the books just keep coming . . .

I'm sorry to say it, but the vintage shopping in Belfast is pretty woeful (though do keep in mind that I come from a city where vintage clothing is, maybe not cheap anymore, but certainly plentiful and I've been pretty spoiled for most of my life).  That said, the used bookstores here in Northern Ireland have more than made up for this over the years.  This week has been particularly fruitful for me:

 "How to Make Up Garments" dates from 1906, and is a pretty rigorous textbook for students preparing for any of several needlework qualifications (the appendix has examination outlines for the "Scotch Code", the "King's Scholarship", and the "Needlework (English) Scheme" exams).  This also has some good pattern draft outlines for things like chemises and whatnot.  In all honesty, I don't ever wear pre-WWI styles, so I'll probably never use any of those, but that cover was too charming and I might end up using some of the techniques or even making a fancy Edwardian pillow case someday.

No date on this one, but looks to be from the 30s which is much more my style.  I have been pretty good of late about not buying any and all vintage sewing books I see unless they have pattern draft schematics in them.  I mean really, how many different instructions does a girl need for tackling fitting issues or setting in a sleeve properly.  This book was too good to pass up though.  There are no pattern drafts, but the range of techniques shown was pretty staggering so home it came.

I'll share some pages from these two books in coming weeks (months even? I mean with 600 pictures in one book alone there's a lot of choice), but please let me know if there's anything you'd like to see specifically.  Is anyone interested in drafts for Edwardian night-dresses? Or 1930s wrist finishes? Do tell.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

War Diaries

Quite by accident I found myself deeply immersed in Simon Garfield's We Are At War book last week at the time of the VE day anniversary.  For those of you unfamiliar, it is the collected diaries of five "ordinary" people from around Britain during the first year of WWII.  Whilst reading it I realised that this book is actually the fifth war time diary I've read in the past few years and what with all remembrances happening in the past week, it seemed like now would be a good time to share them with you.

What I like most about We Are At War is the fact that you get five different perspectives on the same events.  You also get some quite surprising views from some of the writers - strong dislike of Churchill, sympathy for Hitler (at least until the bombs start dropping), lots of "defeatist" thinking, things that don't really spring to mind when I imagine the home front.  I really can't recommend this book enough for getting a good feel of the general mood in England and Scotland 1939 - 40.

Marie Vassilitchikov was a Russian princess who found herself trapped in Germany at the outbreak of war and started working in the German foreign ministry.  From there she becomes involved (peripherally) with the Valkyrie plot to assassinate Hitler.  It's been more than a few years since I read this and the finer details have been forgotten in the interim, but I found this book to be a gripping and enjoyable read.  If you'd like a much more detailed review, I found this one from the NY Times.

This is another diary from inside the Nazi state, but from a Jewish perspective.  Volume 1 (I haven't read Volume 2 which takes us through the bulk of the war years) starts the year Hitler becomes chancellor and shows the noose slowly getting tighter around the necks of those with Jewish connections (Klemperer was a Baptist, though ethnically Jewish).  If you don't mind reading off the computer, I found this link to the first two years of the book.

I got Ruby Side Thompson's London Blitz Diary for free on my Kindle.  It was an interesting enough read, but the enduring memory I have of it is her incessant complaining about her husband.  Still, it gives an insight into London life in the early days of the war.  I'm actually thinking it might be worth reading this one simultaneously with We Are At War since they cover roughly the same time frame.

My last war diary is Jean Whitear's 1945 World War 2 WAAF Diary.  This is another free Kindle book and perhaps not one for the casual reader as the entries are mostly one or two sentences long (for example: "Tuesday 2nd - On night duty with Elsie.  Talk of patrol in, bed at 1 o'clock, washed my hair").  In my opinion this doesn't make for a very good read, but that's just me.  

So, anybody else out there read any good WWII diaries?  I'd love to have some suggestions.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Tap Dance Tuesday

Ohmigod! Look at them!  They are tap dancing whilst chained together!  This is amazing! Many exclamation points warranted!!!!

Friday, 8 May 2015

Yesterday, much to my husband's dismay, I hit the used bookstores and found a couple of fun things (I'm not sure if Mr B's dismay came more from our small house slowly, but steadily filling up with old books, or the fact that I made him carry several heavy ones in his backpack for the rest of the evening).  I didn't really expect that my haul was going to have anything worth sharing here, but today whilst thumbing through The Out-Of-Doors Book by Arthur Stanley (1933) I came across all these charming illustrations and since Spring is in the air I figured why not?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Tap Dance Tuesday (and some bonus ballet)

Okay, I have to admit that this one is a wee bit problematic for me given that it was produced whilst Goebbels was basically running UFA studios.  That said, I've loved this song for awhile and damn, that's some good dancing! 

I'd never heard of Marika Rökk before, and that's probably because she seems to have hit her peak whilst the Nazis were controlling Germany.  History is full of people who, though not Nazis themselves were, shall we say . . . adaptable to the circumstances they found themselves in (Coco Chanel springs to mind here).  In my opinion Ms Rökk falls into this category.  

You can read more about Marika Rökk here

Update: I have since discovered this YouTube channel where (if your German is better than mine) you can watch some of Marika Rökk's complete films.