The following article was written for WWII Reenactors Magazine’s Christmas issue, which was never printed. I wanted to share it with you all regardless. Apologies for the festive content, but thought it would be useful reading for present buying at any time of year!
Tis the season to be….stumped at what to buy WWII enthusiasts and 1940’s passionistas (like my wording?).
I thought it would be the easiest thing in the world by quoting the simple words “Just get me something Art Deco or 1940’s…” How hard can it be? So when my eyes are scorched with the site of such festive offerings as Scooby Doo bubble bath and a questionable ex-rental copy of Freddy Got Fingered, my clenched jaw grin does nothing for my yuletide spirit.
So for those of you who are struggling to buy reenactors and collectors suitable Christmas gifts, you will find this page ripped out of WWII Reenactors Magazine and thrust infront of your nose along with your car keys.
“With three Kings of orient are, smoking on a rubber cigar…” Those who are partial to a death stick or four (apparently they soothe your throat and give you a movie star voice if the old advertisements are correct!) will be thrilled to receive a 1940’s cigarette case for carrying to events. There are many different styles out there, from trench art to novelty patriotic, so head on out to the next flea market, antiques centre or Ebay. Remember that cigarettes used to be a lot smaller, so that these old cases are more for display, role ups or business cards. You may even find a women’s compact that includes a cigarette case in the design. And what about an ashtray for the home? Neither Mr. Mew or I smoke, but we do have a small collection including a Winston Churchill ashtray and a bakelite lamp with a match holder and ashtray moulded into the base. You may also find some matchbox covers made from enamel and metal baring the photos of great WWII leader or service men and women on the sides.
“It’s the most wonderful time, for a beeeeeeer…” Drinking gifts for those who like a tipple! A couple of bottles of Spitfire Ale twinned with an enamel mug and WWII bottle opener can be a fantastic offering. Dress you gift up by presenting it in a wooden crate filled with hay or you could even photocopy WWII newspapers on A3 paper and use it as gift wrap!
“A beautiful site, we’re happy tonight, walkin’ around in women’s underwear….” Now for the ladies! A 1940’s powder compact perhaps? Some seamed fully fashioned stockings from What Katie Did, or perhaps an original tilt hat or handbag! You will find many vintage clothing shops online, but sometimes auction sites are still where you can pick up the best bargains. Even if the seller doesn’t list UK shipping, you can email and beg. In most cases I have found that they will ship internationally! What about a pretty top from Heyday Online? Some things are currently around £20 in the sale, so this is the perfect time for early Christmas shopping (and won’t she be impressed at your organisation this year!).
A 1940’s sweetheart brooch or necklace can also be a wonderful idea. Sometimes these were made by soldiers to send back to their girlfriends and wives in WWII and you can find some lovely unique pieces at very reasonable prices. Knowing that they were made for a loved one makes each item a 1000 times more special than your Elizabeth Duke collection *shudder*. Why not pick out a reverse carved lucite brooch? Some of these were made from the windscreens of crashed aircraft in WWII and sold for the war effort. From roses to spitfires, these brooches are incredibly wearable and a fun thing to collect. Why not present it in an old jewellery box too? If you eagerly wish/ are forced by hair and teeth to go clothes shopping with your partner, make a mental note of sizes that she tries on and check online for its chest, waist and hip conversion. Vintage sizing is a lot different (especially when you get to 1920’s garments or international sizing), so knowing the equivalent in inches will help you buy items of clothing such as vintage dresses, suits or jackets. Just remember that you can take things in that are a little too big, but you can very rarely led things out that are too small, so play safe with your sizes!
“On the first day of Christmas my daddy gave to me, a Barbie and Im 33…” Childrens gifts are tricky. You don’t want your 1940’s themed home full of pink and garish blue plastic toys, but thanks to exciting TV advertisements and playground conferences about the latest craze, these flashing, beeping, peeing, talking, squeaking land fill accessories are all that they can think about. There are some super vintage and vintage repro toys out there. From train sets (imagine creating a WWII electric train set in your home for the kids?), military airfix sets, beautiful wooden toys, even doll making kits.
Traditional dolls houses can teach your little ones good house keeping on a miniature scale and the fact that you may come home every so often with a tiny wooden dresser or electric light fitting will make them feel like every day is a special occasion. Why not build an anderson shelter for the outside! Just remember that a lot of vintage toys will be painted with lead paint, so if your little ones are partial to seeing how many toy soldiers they can fit in their mouth at once, you may need to respray the items with child free paint. You may also wish to teach your children that Bernard Montgomery (plastic or not) would rather not survey the gruesome terrain of their molers.
If they are hell bent on modern toys, what about Sylvanian Families which use more realistic but traditional looking accessories (create your very own Dale Farm with a few Sylvanian Family Romany Caravans and a gaggle of BBC reporter badgers and a couple of political figure ducks. The kids will love it…
For those who are a little strapped for cash but not strapped for time, why not use your arts and crafts talents to create personal gifts of the ‘make do and mend’ kind! Pull out some ration recipes in an old book or online and attempt to recreate the biscuits or cakes from WWII. Grab an old felt beret and stitch a needlepoint design of flowers or swallows, or make an old fashioned toy. Another great idea is to buy a box frame and fill it with WWII insignia. You don’t have to use the originals, just go somewhere that can reproduce/ photocopy your images in high quality. From ration books to medals, to old family photos; you can create wonderful displays for friends or family with minimum effort. Why not get your Grandad’s medals framed for your parents or create a WWII military uniform for your son’s teddybear (this was done for me by a great friend and I was absolutely thrilled!).
So hopefully I have given you a few ideas for Christmas, Birthdays and more. Remember that you don’t have to spend a fortune, there are always bargains to be had. Pre-plan next year and buy things at WWII events to hide away for special occasions! This will spread costs and save your pocket from the inevitable Christmas rush.
I wish you all are wonderful Christmas and a purrrfect New Year. Thank you for your friendship, readership and support through a whole year of exciting events. Next year promises to be even more exciting!