events london

Air Raid Warning! Everyone in to the Shelter!

It’s not every day that one can channel one’s ancestors and relive a time gone by. But that is exactly what I did last night when a group of my friends and I converged on Holywell Lane in Shoreditch to get in the fighting spirit and do our bit for the war effort at the Blitz Party.

A wildly successful event (tickets always sell out right away so this was the first time I’d been able to snag one), the Blitz Party is put on every couple of months at the Village Underground, railway arches converted into a makeshift East End air raid shelter complete with sandbags, ration books and blackout curtains. Men were on leave from the Navy, RAF and Army, and girls donned their tea dresses and victory rolls (there were quite a few Rosie the Riveters, too) for a night of dancing to swing music and gin drinking. A live Big Band got the crowd dancing and in the intervals we were treated to The Andrews Sisters, Glenn Miller, Vera Lynn and more. The air raid reveling was a lot more fun than what people actually experienced during the Blitz, but aside from the constant threat of death by bombing, starvation and the whole war bit, there was something glamorous about the 1940s. The “make do and mend” attitude ensured that women never looked completely dull, even when clothes and essentials were hard to come by.  Even Vivien Leigh had to make do with rationed goods. Laurence Olivier had to go to Paris to find nylon stockings for her in 1945. Most women didn’t have that luxury and had to rely on American GIs  to provide the contraband.

I really admire modern die-hard enthusiasts who wear vintage all day, every day. Unfortunately that’s not me. I haven’t the money or the sense of style, I’m affaid, but I had a marvelous time getting dressed up for this party!

The ensemble

  • Hair: Nina’s Hair Parlour — I wanted a Veronica Lake look, but my hair dresser told me that because my hair is layered, it would be shorter. I think it turned out something between Gene Tierney and Betty Draper. I absolutely loved it!
  • Hair flower: Topshop
  • Tea dress: Vivien of Holloway
  • Stockings: Miss Selfridge
  • Brogues: Miss Selfridge

Cab CallowayJumpin Jive
The Andrews SistersBoogie Woogie Bugle Boy

Kendra is the designer and webmistress of vivandlarry.com. She lives in Yorkshire and is the author of Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait (Running Press, October 2013). Follow her on Twitter @kendrajbean, Instagram at @vivandlarrygram, or at her official website.

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Comments (7)

  1. you’re so right, apart from war’s horrors, the Forties were really glamorous and women did look totally feminine , at least they look so in almos every 1940′ movie I’ve ever seen and how I’d love to wear some of those dresses! In addition I like this Blitz Party event that seems to me true to Brtish attitude toward the past , they pride on the bravery of those days facing Nazis bombs and dont’ forget ( The King’speech , for instance) I appreciate very much that attitude-

    P.S Kendra, you look lovely in that photo, in my opinion resemble both a young Lauren Bacall and Lisa Eichorn in a 1979 Schlensinger movie “Yankees”- Thank for sharing your experiences with us.

  2. Ahh, this looks like so much fun. I would so love going to an event where everyone dresses for a specific era, especially the ’40s. I’m with you, I admire girls who really immerse themselves in vintage day-in and day-out but I could never commit to it. How fun for a night, though!

    P.S. You totally remind me of Keira Knightley in The Edge of Love.

  3. @casee– It was so fun! I can’t wait for the next one! I’d love to dress vintage all the time, but it’s quite an effort and can be really expensive, I’m sure!

    I haven’t seen The Edge of Love, but thank you :)

    @sylvia–Thanks, it was really fun! :)

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