Welcome to the June edition of Skiff's 'Pimp My Vintage…
I was lucky enough to come across a number of early 1900s and 1930s Home Notes magazines recently. Loathe as I am to part with them, I know they’ll just end up sitting wrapped up in cellophane in my vintage knitting/magazine collection, so I’ve loaded them up onto the site. Of course, that couldn’t just be the end of it … I sat browsing through them and realised the descriptions were getting longer and longer as I got lost in these fascinating snapshots of a complicated era, so my explorations have ended up here instead.
Home Notes was a women’s magazine including fashion features, stories, recipes, advice and knitting patterns … there’s not a lot of information out there, but from what I can gather it possibly ran from the early 1890s – 1960s, hitting its readership peak in the 1950s.
I’m presently lost in the April 1935 edition – the magazine flaunts its debs and celebs like the the 1930s depression had never happened and it’s an odd mixture of ‘ladies, know your place’ and female pioneering spirit. An advert for Ovaltine is endorsed by the actress Ida Lupino, who went on to be the only woman director in Hollywood in the ’40s. An article by Dorothy Crosbie is entitled ‘I Don’t Envy Today’s Debs’ with the byline ‘Miss Modern’s struggle for a good time is too much like hard work‘, and concludes ‘Now Miss 1935. I want you to look at yourself and take stock of your assets. Are you pretty, smart, well-groomed, intelligent and socially presentable? Yes? Well then, why in the world is it necessary for you to indulge in this breath-taking pursuit of anything male?‘
Hindsight makes some features more poignant – this was after all the build-up to WWII – a picture of actress Leonora Corbett learning to fly at Brooklands, decked out in pilot gear, reminds you of the other society gals who learnt to fly for fun in the ’30s and then went on to serve in the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) in the ’40s (Diana Barnato-Walker and Lettice Curtis among them).
A witty article ‘Gardens & Gardeners’ written by Beverley Nichols sent me scurrying back to one of his books ‘Merry Hall’ – Nichols is a barely-remembered name now, but was famous society writer at the time best known for his gardening book trilogies, 3 of which were illustrated by Rex Whistler.
Lady Smiley (Cecil Beaton’s sister) endorses Pond’s face cream and is described as being ‘happiest in her garden, just playing with her baby son, cutting flowers for the house, and generally leading a care-free, fresh-air existence. In Town you may meet her in the Park, with her favourite dachshund.’ Could’ve been written about me ho ho.
Then, of course, incredible knitting patterns, the beautiful dress and vertical striped blouse from the cover being two prime examples. The earlier editions don’t boast any knitting patterns but do give a valuable insight into genteel journalism during World War I.
The July 1916 issue contains a regular feature ‘A Mother’s Letters To Her Son’, which are incredibly sad and moving pieces written from the perspective of a mother to her unborn son:
“When you are grown up, little unknown Son, all this will be history : the heat and passion and agony of these two years of conflict will have died away, and only the cold dissecting sanity of history will be left, and we shall be able to see where our national mistakes lay“.
Heartbreaking to think they had to go through two more years of slaughter before they were able to relegate it to that cold dissecting sanity.
An article called ‘Laughing In The Wrong Place’ is apparently written ‘for girls at the “awkward age” by a wounded soldier‘ … you’d be hard pressed to find a stiffer upper lip: ‘I’ve been in bed for ages with a rotten head-wound, but it’s nearly well now, thank you‘. You could quite easily substitute the word ‘head-wound’ for ‘cold’ and be none the wiser. Then a couple of small paragraphs about the crowds who come to honour and respect the war-wounded as they arrive at Charing Cross with red roses, a custom I’d never heard of.
My ramblings don’t do these magazines justice – they are incredible pieces of history and I’m almost regretting my decision to part with them as I write this … snap them up fast before I change my mind!