I am so excited to tell you about the fabulous day I spent at The Dig for Victory Show on Sunday, a 1940s festival held at the the North Somerset Showground but, before I start, I must apologise. This is probably going to be the longest post I’ve ever written (and I write long ones as it is!) but I had such an amazing time that I ended up taking nearly 150 photos! I promise I have managed to whittle it down to under 30 but there was just so much going on and I wanted to make sure I covered everything!
I really wanted to go to this last year but it rained heavily leading up to the weekend and I really didn’t fancy wondering about in mud, so gave it a miss. This year, however, I was absolutely determined to go and when I won a ticket on the Dig for Victory Show Twitter page, I knew there was no way I was going to back out even if it did rain!
When we initially got there, thanks to the fantastic signage available all the way from the motorway, we were a little overwhelmed and just wandered around going “Ooo!” and “Ahhh!” at everything until we got to the Victory tent where the fashion show was about to start. It was put on by the Blitz Buddies, a re-enactor group that focused much more on the everyday life of the 1940s rather than the military side and I couldn’t stop snapping away with my camera.
How brave is this lovely lady? She came out in her luxury original 1940s skivvies and owned that stage! The fabulous lady who was commentating explained where the phrase ‘straight-laced’ came from as she turned around, because apparently if your corset is laced up with the laces going across in a straight horizontal line then it means you’re a good girl. However, if you wear them criss-cross it means you’re a loose lady!
They even had their very own Captain Mainwaring! He looked amazing in his original wool uniform and one of the older ladies in the audience said how scratchy they were when she used hug the men back then.
The woman on the left is a Home Guard and wears just an ordinary 1940s boiler suit with a Home Guard arm band and a cap with a Home Guard badge on it. Apparently the badge was the only thing they were issued with and everything else they had to find themselves.
This fabulous gentleman dressed as an US Air Force pilot made me think of my mum’s Uncle Frank. He was a G.I. based near to where my mum grew up. My mum’s aunt Joan became his war bride and they ended up going back to live in America at the end of the war.
I adored this WWII nurse’s uniform because it reminded me of my mum. She wore a very similar uniform whilst she was a nurse in the 1960s. I’ve always wanted one of the capes with the criss cross ties at the front and I’m always keeping an eye out for them in Etsy.
If I remember correctly the lady in this photo is wearing what was the US equivalent of the CC41 clothing over here. The designs were slightly more ornate with things like button and trim allowance being a little more lax than our restrictions.
The gentleman is wearing a classic 1940s zoot suit, which were favoured by the gangsters in America, but were also worn by the ordinary man. Part of my final year collection was based on zoot suits when I was at fashion college so it was great to see one in the flesh.
This fab three piece swimwear was just divine. Completely knitted in a dark olive green, it came with a bikini top, shorts and a pleated modesty skirt. You can just imagine how awful it was to swim in as the wool would get so heavy. But, hey, who needs to go swimming when you can just sun bathe?
And lastly, the wonderful commentator, who did a fabulous job of explaining all of the outfits, wriggled into a stunning shelter suit made from an old blanket. I’m sure these would’ve helped to keep warm during those scary times but I can’t say they were flattering, just like the horrible onesies you get these days!
Once the fashion show was finished it was time to head off and check out some of the stalls. There were two sections of stalls, one on the main drag as you came in where larger individual stalls were set up and one inside the Home Front marquee, where smaller sellers were placed.
On the main drag I met up with the lovely Claire from Claireabella’s Closet and had a really long chat with her about all things vintage. She had a whole array of goods on offer from retro and alternative clothing, her fabulous own brand tights and stockings (watch out for a post about these coming soon!), loads of accessories, a small selection of the fabulous Kitty Lou reproduction clothing and some amazing vintage style hats. I was very taken with Kitty Lou’s pieces and would’ve gone for her stunning late 1930s dress and bolero if it had been a little bit bigger.
But I absolutely fell in love with this gorgeous dark red and green 1940s style hat by Hayley-Jayne Black. I didn’t come wearing it but it went with my outfit just perfectly! Claire said to wear it around the show and tell anyone who asked where I got it from, then to come back and pay for it in a couple of hours if I wanted it. Of course I wanted it, it was like it was made me to wear that day. It was only £35, which I think is very reasonable for such a beautiful hat. I’d definitely be interested in purchasing more of her millinery as there were plenty of other pieces there I loved too. Why doesn’t she have a website?!
Inside the Home Front marquee I bumped into a few stall holders I’ve known for a while including Curlie’s Vintage who I first met at Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair in Bath. I bought a really sweet vintage tea cup, saucer and tea plate from her to put on my Welsh dresser when I finally find it. I also came across the lovely Vintage at the Village stall as shown in the photo above. I bought a beautiful 1930s bakelite mantel clock from them at one of the vintage fairs in Frome and absolutely adore their wonderful selection of Art Deco stuff. It’s always so amazingly priced and I was very tempted by this tea set but knew I didn’t really need it.
Most of the stalls were selling clothes and accessories, with only a couple selling home wares, but they all had really good quality stock on offer. The genuine vintage stalls were generally ones I hadn’t come across before, such as The Wardrobe Mistress and Top Tottie Vintage, and there was so much from the 1930s and 40s that I really wished I bought more money with me. The photos above and below were from the Cock-a-Doodle Vintage stall and I could’ve spent a fortune with them. I tried on those gorgeous two tone spectator shoes as I have been after a pair of these for a while. I did get them on but they were just too tight to actually wear. Cue sad face.
I also tried on a couple of these stunning 1930s – 50s summer hats and honestly could’ve bought them all! They were all in really good condition and pretty reasonably priced, as was most of their stuff. I could’ve spent an absolute fortune on hats that day. I tried on so many and wanted them all, but after buying the Hayley-Jayne Black one I just couldn’t justify it.
I did however buy this beautiful late 1940s New Look jacket in navy from Cock-a-Doodle Vintage after being coxed into trying it on. As soon as I did it up I knew it was meant to be mine. It fitted like it had been made for me and it creates that gorgeous hourglass shape just perfectly.
It is a Dan Millstein design, a designer reknowned for doing Balmain and Balenciaga adaptations, for Lenchner’s Fur Shop, Utica, New York. Apparently Marilyn Monroe got married to Joe DiMaggio in a Dan Millstein suit and Calvin Klein started his career with Millstein as a sketch artist!
And then we heard the roar of the WWII Dakota flying overhead and everyone made a run for the exit! We missed the first flyover but he turned around and came back twice and it was just amazing to experience. The sound was incredible and he flew quite low so you could see so much of its fantastic body. It’s made me really, really excited for the Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford next month which I’ll be going to for the first time. Yeah!
And this is me laughing my head off because the hat nearly went flying when I was looking upwards! The dress is now known as my make-do-and-mend dress because the only thing I actually bought for it was the zip. I spent all day on Saturday sewing it together as I really wanted to wear it. I’m going to do a dedicated post about it soon, so I won’t go into it all here.
The coat is a Ben de Lisi design for Principles that I got for my birthday last year and I’m glad I had it as it wasn’t all that warm. The bag is vintage, 1950s rather than 40s, but it looked okay and the shoes are from Revival Retro. I keep obsessing over their light blue version of these and I know I’m going to have to buy them.
Once the Dakota had flown off to land we headed back around to where some of the cars and the more domestic WWII settings were. It was so amazing to see this air raid shelter just placed in a field in the 21st Century and next to it was a Dig for Victory garden with it’s very own bomb at the back. If the people in modern day dress weren’t there I would’ve thought we’d been transported back in time for real!
I had to take this fab picture of the lovely Donna. I didn’t know who she was at the time but I kept spotting her and her friend Sam around the site and thought they both looked fantastic. Then when I got home Sam had posted a picture of them at the show on the 1940s/1950s Most Marvellous Meet Ups Facebook group that I mentioned in my last Vintage on the Web post, so I had to ask if she’d mind me using it in this post.
There was even an outside loo complete with a pair of Nora Batty legs in her finest sheepskin slippers! There were two kids crouching down looking up through the gap to see if it was a real person, it was so funny. Bless ’em.
I also couldn’t resist taking this photo because there wasn’t a single person there dressed in modern day clothing. It really looks like it could’ve been taken in the 1940s. During the day there were quite a few people walking around all dressed up but a lot of them were the re-enactors. I did think it was a shame to see most of the general public dressed in modern day clothing and I would’ve hoped that more people would’ve made an effort, but those that did all looked perfectly authentic.
All of the cars on display were absolutely stunning. There were two sections of them, the 1940s section and then the vehicle timeline, which had cars spanning from the 1920s up to the 1990s. I wasn’t so interested in the timeline ones as you can go to classic car shows for that kind of thing, but we did have a good look around the 1940s ones.
I, of course, chose this enormous Rolls Royce! It was absolutely gleaming and I had to put on my sunglasses to stop from being blinded by the shine. I just couldn’t find my driver to take me home in it.
By mid-afternoon it was definitely time for tea and it was lovely to see the staff in the tea area making an effort with their outfits. The cakes were to die for and it was hard to choose just one, but in the end I went for the chocolate brownie. Yum!
I have to say, the food stalls were a little on the sparse side, although very tasty indeed, and we had to queue for about 15 minutes to get burgers at lunchtime. This wasn’t too bad considering the numbers coming through the gates but we were really hungry by then. Next year we’ll definitely take a picnic, and we’ve already planned one for Fairford, including a choice of wine, so as not to get caught out there.
Whilst eating our cakes and enjoying the South Pacific opera inside the marquee we completely missed the tank show which I was really looking forward to. Next year I’m going to make sure we really plan our day so we don’t miss anything again. Feeling annoyed at ourselves we headed back to the Home Front marquee where they were having a talk about cooking on rations. We also explored some of the other war time activities like this fab knitting group and the Make Do and Mend section.
This was run by the wonderful Blitz Buddies’ Mayor and Mayoress, Les and Sylvia, who featured in and oversaw the fashion show. Both of them are passionate about all things 1940s and love the whole make do and mend concept. Les was showing us how to make our own clothes pegs from branches and the Sylvia was showing us her amazing knitting skills. Her needles were so tiny and the yarn was like a very thin silk. It was just beautiful.
I had a long conversation with her about sewing techniques of the past and we talked in length about zips and button plackets! I’m sure anyone else listening would’ve been thoroughly bored but I loved it. They both admired my dress, especially because it lived up to their ethos.
It was getting towards the end of the day by then so we decided to just have one last look around the military section and I managed to take a photo of the Lily Marlene tank before it was driven off home. Shame I didn’t see her in action.
There were absolutely loads of military vehicles including British and American jeeps, a huge DUKW, motorbikes, tanks and all sorts of artillery. I did get a few shots of me perching on the front of an American jeep but they didn’t turn out too well. 🙁 But the opera performers all climbed on the next one to me and had some amazing photos taken. I’m sure they’ll use them in their promo shots in the future.
All of the re-enactors were just brilliant. There were all sorts of units set up including a field military hospital, a bunker with a huge gun in it (don’t ask me what it was because I have no idea!) and a huge search light just behind, which I can imagine looked amazing on the Saturday night, and several individual units such as this US Army Air Force unit. Most of the time they stayed very much in character but I did see a Land Girl at one point on her mobile phone which did make me giggle.
And I even tried to bag myself a soldier! Okay, I coxed him into having his photo taken with me just because he looked so damned handsome. Hmm, perhaps I had my corset laced up in a criss-cross fashion that day! And I can confirm that those uniforms were seriously scratchy, but then I’m sure no one cared when they hadn’t seen their own soldier for months on end and all they wanted to do was hug him.
It was such an amazing day, and the perfect remedy for what had been a very stressful 21st Century week beforehand. The dates are already set for next year’s show, the 11th and 12th of June, and I will definitely be going back. Next it’s on to the Air Tattoo which promises to be just as incredible and I cannot wait to see all the planes swooping overhead. Are any of you going?