Happy New Year! I am delighted to be sharing my review of the insightful; Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2: Ready for Action by Lucy Adlington. Firstly, thank you to Rosie at Pen and Sword Books for my complimentary copy.

About the book

Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2: Ready for Action by Lucy Adlington.

Genre:  Non-Fiction, Women’s History, WW2 History.

What would you wear to war?

How would you dress for a winter mission in the open cockpit of a Russian bomber plane? At a fashion show in Occupied Paris? Singing in Harlem, or on fire watch in Tokyo..?

Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2 is a unique, illustrated insight into the experiences of women worldwide during World War Two and its aftermath. The history of ten tumultuous years is reflected in clothes, fashion, accessories and uniforms. As housewives, fighters, fashion designers or spies, women dressed the part when they took up their wartime roles.

Attractive to a general reader as well as interesting to a specialist, Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2 focuses on the experiences of British women, then expands to encompass every continent affected by war. Woven through all cultures and countries are common threads of service, survival, resistance and emotion. Historian Lucy Adlington draws on interviews with wartime women, as well as her own archives and costume collection. Well-known names and famous exploits are featured…and many never-before-told stories of quiet heroism.

You’ll indulge in luxury fashion, bridal ensembles and enticing lingerie, as well as thrifty make-do-and-mend. You’ll learn which essential garments to wear when enduring a bomb raid…and how a few scraps of clothing will keep you feeling human in a concentration camp.

Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2 is richly illustrated throughout, with many previously unpublished photographs, 1940s costumes and fabulous fashion images.

History has never been better dressed. 

Purchase Link: Pen and Sword Books: Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2 – Hardback (pen-and-sword.co.uk)

Review

I am fascinated by what women did during both world wars, there is a huge abundance of books that covers this era and how women played such an integral part in the war effort and beyond. But this is the first book I have come across which focus’ on what the women wore, which is one of the reasons I was taken with it. Whether they were land girls, wrens, nurses, factory girls or having a rare night on out their entire wardrobe is covered in this original and enlightening book.

I liked that the author didn’t just go down the stereotypical route of only focusing on the well-publicised aspects of women during the war, and o those stories which we all know for their heroism, here the author mixes the known with the relatively unknown, such as shining a spotlight on the under-represented women of the time, everyday women who may have gone under the radar and I really liked that.

I liked how the author incorporated quotes from fashion magazines or pamphlets of the time dotted through the book, I can imagine women from the time reading these magazines and oohing and ahhing over the frocks and materials which were available at the time, for those who could afford such luxuries.

I enjoyed the author’s attention to the materials of the clothes and what was available, it’s refreshing to read about the more mundane and everyday aspects of women in the war, I liked how it works as a bridge between over books about women in WW2, such as you can read all about the Wren’s, Land Girls, Steel Factory Girls and Nurses but this book allows you to fully understand how they were able to go about their work in the clothes they were wearing and what they could/couldn’t wear in certain circumstances (if that makes sense).

I would have preferred the images to be historical pictures showing real women of the era instead of staged costume images, I thought the bright colourful images were a little off-putting while reading especially when you suddenly come across one. I don’t mind one or two for informational purposes if an original image of a garment cannot be sourced. Less is more as the saying goes and it is very true here!

Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2; Ready for Action is an easy to read book, I like how it’s laid out making it accessible to the reader and I thought the author has done a great job at sharing her insightful knowledge on the subject. Overall, this would be a great addition to anyone’s bookcase as a reference book for those who have an interest in the subject.

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