Lesley Blanch was Features Editor of British Vogue 1937-45. During the Second World War, she was on the front line of women journalists covering a wide range of topics. She covered various aspects of Britain at war for the Ministry of Information, and documented the lives of women in the forces with her friend the photographer Lee Miller.
It is an indisputable fact that occupations and professions breed their own particular type. There are occupational faces, as there are occupational diseases, except in the case of the bored, spoiled, overfed idler, now fortunately rarely seen, save at luxurious hotels in ‘safe’ areas, where the face, and its accompanying malaise, might be described as non-occupational.
The ostler cannot be mistaken for the chauffeur, though doctors and lawyers, like poets and scientists, often pair indistinguishably. But the soldier, the sailor, and the airman are each distinct and apart front each other.
Already I observe that these type distinctions are crystallising in the women’s services. The W.A.A.F. product is entirely different from that of the A.T.S. The Wrens, in their turn, have produced an individual type: a face, manner and spirit as much their own, and the outcome of navy traditions, as the ‘bell-bottom serge’ uniforms they wear so well.
[. . . contd.]
Lesley Blanch wrote about everything, but fashion. Her articles can be viewed by appointment at:
The Vogue Archive,
National Art Library, first floor,
Victoria and Albert Museum,
London SW7 2RL
tel: 020 7942 2000
Rights enquiries, contact:
Director of Editorial Administration and Rights,
The Condé Nast Publications Ltd,
London W1S 1JU.
British Vogue was the ultimate fashion-and-society bible which showcased a pot-pourri of the best artistic and literary talents of the contemporary avant-garde: Aldous Huxley, Nancy Cunard, Clive Bell and Virginia Woolf; Noël Coward, Vita Sackville-West and the Sitwells . . . while Cecil Beaton, Hoyningen-Huene and Horst turned fashion photography into an art.
Opinions expressed in the press dominated all classes in a time before TV, radio or the internet. By the end of the 1930s, British Vogue began to cater for a mass readership, showing women how to dress stylishly on a budget and weighing up working girls’ wardrobes.
After Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, Londoners settled into chaos, living day-to-day in an atmosphere of danger, but they pulled together. Air-raids enforced night-long blackouts, but it was business as usual at theatres and restaurants although they closed early, so after-hours clubs sprang up in the reinforced, shored-up basements of hotels and restaurants.
Lesley Blanch wrote about ballet, theatre, cinema, books . . . the movers-and-shakers of the time. A selection of her articles were published in her posthumous memoirs On the Wilder Shores of Love: A Bohemian Life (Virago, 2015).
Part Two – Scenes from the Home Front
‘Spotlight’: writing from the Vogue Years (1937 – 1945)
Lesley Blanch / British Vogue © The Condé Nast Publications Ltd.
The Years Between – British Vogue, September 1941, pp. 115–19.
A Babel of Tongues – ‘Spotlight’, British Vogue, November 1939, pp. 119–20.
Living the Sheltered Life – British Vogue, October 1940, pp. 120–3.
To Have or to Hold – British Vogue, April 1941, pp. 123–5.
War on Winter – British Vogue, November 1941, pp. 125–7.
Blitzed Britain – ‘Spotlight’, British Vogue, October 1941, pp. 127–8.
Noël Coward’s New Medium – British Vogue, November 1942, pp. 54, 72.
The True Story of Lili Marlene – British Vogue, April 1944, pp. 142–6.
Some of all the Russias – British Vogue, March 1942, pp. 31–2, 86.
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