Fashion on The Ration Book Review and Giveaway

4 Mar

Fashion on The Ration by Julie Summers Review

Tomorrow sees the launch of an exciting new exhibition at The Imperial War Museum in London. Fashion on the Ration explores the issues faced by both men and women during the period of clothes rationing which took place during the Second World War and for a while after. I popped along to the press view of the exhibition this morning and if you’re planning on going you really are in for a treat. I’ll be covering the exhibition more in a post later this week. Today I’d like to share my thoughts on the incredible book which accompanies the exhibition.


The book is written by Julie Summers who writes fascinating social history books focussing on the war years. I’ve read another of her books and absolutely loved it so I was really looking forward to leafing through the pages of this one.

The hardback book not only features nearly 200 pages of text but is full of wonderful images, be they photographs of clothing, government posters or magazine adverts, they really add an extra insight into the issues faced during the war years. As well as the glossy colour photos on the middle pages, there are other images scattered throughout which add a little extra context to the accounts covered in the book.

One thing I really love about Julie’s writing is how she brings real people into her books and talks about their lives and experiences, she is a fantastic story-teller as well as historian and this makes her books real page turners. As well as the fantastic writing, the actual subject matter is absolutely fascinating and paints a picture of life in war-time in a light I’ve not experienced before and I feel like I’ve gained so much knowledge not just on the fashion of the era but also on the day-to-day lives of women and their struggles at a very difficult time.

Fashion on The Ration Colour Pictures

Subjects covered include women’s uniforms during war-time, the introduction of rationing and how it worked as well as utility clothing and fashion directly after the war, she also covers subjects like beauty and make-up during war-time and how fashion magazines coped with the difficulties of rationing. The book goes into great detail talking about why rationing was needed, how many coupons people received and what they could get with them. For me as a vintage fashion enthusiast I found the chapter about CC41 utility clothing and the top end designers brought in to design them especially interesting.  I also felt truly inspired by all the description of how women took on the responsibility of ‘make do and mend’ and how creative they were when it came to making clothes last and making clothes with the materials available. There is so much we can take from this today.

Fashion on The Ration Clothing Book

The author uses a fantastic mix of references throughout the book including diaries and letters written at the time as well as women’s magazines especially Vogue, she also looks a lot at the information that the government provided for the people, which gives a very well-rounded account.

I’m really glad I got the chance to read the book before visiting the exhibition as I felt I gave all the items on display a greater relevance and poignancy. I also recognised some of the items mentioned in the book such as a suit that was worn to a wedding and a set of lingerie made using RAF silk maps.

Fashion on The Ration by Julie Summers

I’d recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in fashion both vintage and otherwise as well as history enthusiasts. If you’re a home sewer you’ll also find the book really inspiring. I loved the book because I felt I gained a real snapshot of an era and the social history of war-time Britain. I have a new-found respect for the generation of women who managed to juggle so much and I’d really recommend giving it a read.

You can buy a copy of Fashion on the Ration on Amazon.

Fashion on the Ration is published by Profile Books and Accompanies the exhibition at The Imperial War Museum.

I was lucky enough too get sent an extra copy of the book to give away to one of my lovely readers which you enter below…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I will announce the winner once the giveaway has ended and will contact the winner to arrange delivery. This giveaway is only open to UK based readers. 

A Visit to Kew Gardens

2 Mar

Last Monday was the girls last day off school and we decided to make the most of it with a trip to Kew Gardens. We’s wanted to go for ages and hadn’t been since Jess was very little so it was long overdue.

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew were founded in 1840 and house the worlds largest collection of plants as well as many historical buildings and structures many of which are grade 1 and 2 listed. It is also a World Heritage Site. The site has been a Royal residence for  centuries and the first garden construction on the area began in 1299. Kew is absolutely steeped in history, but it is also perfect for a long walk and a big explore.

The girls had an absolutely lovely day looking at everything, having little adventures and a apart from a few complaints of tired legs and achy feet from all the walking we had a really lovely time.

As usual I took absolutely loads of pictures and here are a few of my favourites things to see at Kew…

Kew Gardens Kew PalaceKew Palace has always been one of my favourite buildings and I’ve visited it many times. The building was built in 1631 and is well-known for being the intimate family home of George III and his family later on. The house is closed during the winter months but is still amazing from the outside.

Kew Gardens OrangeryThe Orangery was completed in 1761  and was once used to display plants as well as later being used as a timber museum used to display wood from Britain’s Colonies. It is now used as a restaurant.

Kew Gardens King Williams TempleKing Williams Temple is somewhere I remember exploring as a child, every time I’ve come to Kew as an adult I can remember running around here. The pretty neo classical temple was built in 1837 in memory of William IV her uncle and predecessor to the throne. The temple is surrounded by a Mediterranean garden.

Kew Gardens Treetop WalkwayThe Treetop Walkway is definitely not one for me, I have an absolutely terrible fear of heights which I would one day like to overcome. I do however have the bravest daughter ever who loves tall places, so Jessica went up alone and enjoyed the view above the trees and across Kew Gardens while Lila and I kept our feet firmly on the ground!

Kew Gardens Japanese GatewayThe Japanese Gateway was created for a Japenese exhibition in London in 1910 before being moved to Kew the following year. It is surrounded by a beautiful Japanese style garden and sits perfectly in situ with the Pagaoda.

Kew Gardens PagodaThe Pagoda is one of the most famous structures at Kew. It was completed in 1762, the girls had a fantastic time running around the base of the pagoda which is nearly 50 metres high.

Kew Gardens Queen Charlotte's CottageQueen Charlotte’s Cottage is another Kew highlight for me. I am a huge fan of Georgian history particularly relating to George III and his family. The cottage is quite hidden away in a quiet corner of the garden and is only open to the public in the summer months. The cottage was used as a retreat by Queen Charlotte and her daughters.

Kew Gardens Pine TreesTrees: Kew is absolutely packed with thousands of different types of beautiful trees. It so relaxing walking around and taking in all the beautiful sights. We especially enjoyed looking at the different types of evergreen trees which give a welcome dose of greenery in the winter.

Kew Gardens Redwood TreesRedwood Grove features some beautiful examples of these huge American trees. The Redwoods at Kew were introduced in the 1840s and 60s and give a sense of how big these trees can become. They are known to live for thousands of years and both the tallest and largest trees in the world are both Redwoods.

Kew Gardens PeacockAnother wonderful experience at Kew is George the Peacock, he walked straight over to us with two female peacocks and showed off his wonderful feathers to us. He was so tame and I got so many gorgeous pictures. The girls absolutely loved him and he stayed with us for about 20 minutes.

Kew Gardens Female PeacocksAlthough the female peacocks weren’t quite as pretty as their male counterpart they were still absolutely lovely to look at. The male peacocks feathers look just as lovely when closed as they do opened up.

Kew Gardens Tower and Palm HouseThe area around the lake is a really pretty spot to walk around and is near the main entrance to the garden. There are fantastic views of the palm house and the Temple of Aeolus.

Kew Gardens Statues and ChicksWe spotted some cute goslings walking around the lake, also pictured above is the Museum building and nearby Temple of Bellona.

Palm House Kew EditedThe Palm House is the most iconic building at Kew, the building is absolutely beautiful building which was completed in 1840 it is a beautiful example of Victorian engineering. The giant greenhouse houses thousands of beautiful plants from around the world as well as an aquarium in the basement.

Kew Gardens Bamboo and Trunks Palm House

Kew Gardens Palm House Bananas

Kew Gardens Palm House Floor

Kew Gardens Palm House Roof

Kew Gardens Palm House Staircase

Kew Gardens Palm House Interior

Kew Gardens Giant Leaves

Kew Gardens Palm House Flowers

Kew Gardens Palm House Red Flowers

There is plenty more to see at Kew and we will definitely be back soon to take in even more of what this wonderful garden has to offer. If you find yourself in London and have the opportunity to visit Kew make sure you do, as it is one of our most beautiful and fascinating attractions.

Find out more about Kew gardens on their website.

Next Summer 15 Press Day Highlights

25 Feb

Last week I shared my home highlights from Next‘s summer 2015 press day. This time I’m sharing a few of my favourite things from the fashion, accessories and children’s ranges. It was nice to come in from a cold rainy winter day and instantly enter summer, now I can’t wait to wear my summer sandals and sunglasses.

My favourite collection would have to be the bright cheerful girls clothes. There were some gorgeous floral prints, lovely soft cotton fabrics and pretty embroidered details as well as cute festival style beaded sandals. I can’t wait for them to come into shops later this year so I can pick up some bits for my little girls…

Next Summer 15 Press Day Colourful Children's ClothesThe girls colour palette features lots of yellow, aqua and pink, perfect for hot summer days playing in the garden. 

Next Summer 15 Press Day Girls Summer ClothesI absolutely love the pretty embroidered details which featured heavily on all the childrenswear.

Next Summer 15 Press Day Girls Summer Clothes and ShoesAll ready for summer walks in pretty florals, I love the vintage look of the pretty pleats and lace detail on the pink top.

Next Summer 15 Press Day Girls AccessoriesAn adorable little straw bag. I know my girls love to pick up little shells at the beach and this would be perfect for gathering little treasures. 

Next Summer 15 Press Day Baby Jelly Shoes and Lemon HatThese cute jelly shoes are perfect for a babies first holiday. 

Next Summer 15 Press Day Postcard ClutchMy favourite colour for summer would have to be coral and there is plenty on offer at Next for the summer. Fans of novelty accessories will love the cute postcard clutch bag.

Next Summer 15 Press Day Jewellery and SunglassesGold also features heavily among the accessories and the jewellery has a bohemian festival feel. 

Next Summer 15 Press Day PinksI love these suede wedges which would go perfectly with some of my favourite vintage summer dresses.

Next Summer 15 Press Day Clothes and AccessoriesThere were also lots of fabulous nautical stripes as well as pastel accessories like these watches. 

Next Summer 15 Press Day Aviator SunglassesStraw hats and sunglasses have me longing for warmer weather.

Next Summer 15 Press Day Make upI also really liked Next’s make-up range which included absolutely gorgeous lipsticks and super shimmery eyeshadows.

What stands out to you from the collection?

Half Term Day 7 – Crystal Palace Park

23 Feb

On Saturday the girls and I took a trip to Crystal Palace Park in South London with my brother. I hadn’t been to the park since I was a little girl so it was lovely to walk around and explore it with my girls.

The park is the former location of The Crystal Palace, a vast glass and steel structure built in 1851 which was the home of the great exhibition in Hyde Park, before being moved and rebuilt in South East London in 1854. The exhibition was the idea of Prince Albert and housed displays of achievement relating to the Industrial Revolution. Money from the exhibition went towards the building of the museums at Kennsington.

The structure remained on the site until 1936 when it was razed to the ground after catching fire. Many South Londoners of my grandparents generation remember seeing the flames burning through the night as the blaze raged on.

Crystal_Palace_General_view_from_Water_TempleThe Crystal Palace at it’s new home in Sydenham in 1854.

All that remains of the building is the terraces which lead up to it, these are now in a state of disrepair, but do give a wonderful sense of what was once there and we loved walking around the vast space.

Crystal Palace ParkThis is what the area looks like today. The tower in the background is the BBC transmitter. 

Crystal_Palace_fire_1936The Crystal Palace ablaze November 1936.

Crystal_Palace_Destoyed_1936An ariel view of the building completely destroyed after the fire.

Terraces Crystal Palace ParkThese spynxes and other statues are relics of the parks former glory.

Statue Crystal Palace ParkAs well as these survivors of the crystal palaces heyday, the park has a lot more to offer, we found a lovely little garden area with some pretty cast iron benches and had a little rest before exploring the rest of the park.

Crystal Palace Park Benches

Crystal Palace Park Puddles

Crystal Palace Park Joseph Paxton StatueA statue of  Joseph Paxton who designed The Crystal Palace stands in the park’s car park. 

We then had lots of splashing about in muddy puddles and a play in the park’s excellent playground before having a spot of lunch in the onsite cafe. It was then time for the main attraction… Dinosaurs!

Crystal Palace Dinosaurs

The display of model dinosaurs at the opposite end of the park to the palace site, date from the same era. They were the very first dinosaur sculptures in the world, and were based on contemporary theories of how dinosaurs would have appeared. There are also models of other extinct prehistoric creatures and a geological landscape, on the edges of the boating lake.

Crystal Palace Park StagThe girls looking at the model Megaloceros or Irish Elk models.

Crystal Palace Park Dinosaurs

Crystal Palace Park Water Dinosaurs

Sydenham_studioThe dinosaur models under construction in 1853.

Dinosaurs Christmas Palace Park

Out of everything we’ve done this half term, I think Crystal Palace Park was probably my favourite and I can’t wait to go back. if you find yourself in the area it’s well worth a visit. It’s also worth checking out the rest of the area as well as there are some fantastic vintage shops just down the road.

Want to know more?

To find out more about plans to rebuild The Crystal Palace, check out this article.

Here’s a fantastic video of the fire itself…

And a video of the dinosaurs being restored in 1959…

Matalan SS15 Fashion and Accessories Preview

21 Feb

A few days ago I shared my highlights from the home range at the Matalan press day. Today I’ve put together some of my favourite pieces from the fashion collection. There were lots of beautiful colours on offer especially pretty pastels and some lovely rose gold accents and well as vibrant prints and strong tribal colours. I was particularly impressed with all the fabulous shoes and bags which I would love to team up with some of my pretty spring vintage dresses. The collection is the perfect accompaniment to sunny spring days and hot summer nights and I can’t wait for it to come into stores.

Matalan s15 Press Day Rose Gold Bags and AccessoriesRose gold seems to be everywhere at the moment and I think it’s works perfectly on this lovely selection of accessories. I love the pretty formal flats which would look great with summer dresses.

Matalan SS15 Press Day Coral Coat and AccessoriesThere were lots of fantastic colourful jackets which would be perfect for chilly spring evenings and could be dressed up or down. 

Matalan SS15 Press Day Pink and Blue Pastel Bags and ShoesPastels are a strong theme across the board next season and these shoes and bags are really pretty and feminine.

Matalan SS15 Press Day Statement NecklacesI’m a big fan of big statement necklaces and Matalan have absolutely loads, I love pairing them up with simple outfit to add a bold finish to my look.

Matalan SS15 Press Day Blue Jacket and Pastel TrousersKnitwear and jeans are coming in a colourful assortment of pastel shades.

Matalan SS15 Press Day Pastel SatchelsMore pretty colours on show on Matalan’s selection of satchels and handbags, I like the idea of mixing and matching pastel shades and adding one of these gorgeous bags.

Matalan SS15 Press Day Bright and Novelty BagsBrighter colours are perfect for high summer and I love the addition of cute novelty bags, another essential for summer 2015.

Matalan SS15 Press Day Tribal Bags and AccessoriesI love these sophisticated darker accessories for a more grown up summer look.

Matalan SS15 Press Day High Waisted Trousers and BlouseOne of my favourite outfits was the one on the female mannequin, the pussy bow blouse paired with the high waited wide leg trousers pays homage to casual wear of the 1930s.

Matalan SS15 Press Day Peach Evening DressAnd for the evening this pretty simple peach dress has a subtle 20s feel to it.

To me the real stand out pieces were all the gorgeous accessories. I’ve always been really impressed with the quality of Matalan products that I’ve bought in the past, so I’ll definitely be stocking up on some pretty bags and shoes there this Spring.

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