The Tea Dance has a long history in the UK - dating back decades. In the 20th century it was seen as the staple event of gentile society and very often an opportunity for ‘tween-agers’ to court under the eagle-eyed supervision of their governess.
During World War Two, however, the scene had changed. Tea dances and swing dances were a way to cut loose, to forget about austerity and to dance like crazy! With dances popping up in all kinds of venues, they featured live swing bands and plenty of energy.
Tea dances in the 1800s had perhaps been seen as the height of sophistication and wealth when it came to dressing for the occasion. But the war meant both women and men had to make the most of what they had using everyday items to create the effect they wanted.
Ladies - some things to know in preparation for your Tea Dance!
Women at the time coveted an ‘hour glass’ figure. Fashion introduced shoulder pads wide enough to put Sue Ellen to shame, nipped in waists and flared or A-line skirts. Women’s trousers not seen before the 1940s were also being worn - high at the waist, cuffed or wide-legged. They had originally been worn for manual work during the war and symbolised by Rosie the Riveter but later worn as a general fashion statement. They were also the perfect accompaniment to the Tranky Doo!
Hair was super tidy (no beachy waves here!) worn pinned back with victory rolls and often gathered up in a ‘snood’ at the back. The iconic head scarf tie was born here, again, a legacy from Rosie providing workers with a clever way to keep hair back, and utilised later on as a fashion accessory.
As with many products, make-up was scarce during the war with shortages of petroleum and other essential ingredients. Stock up on beetroot if you want to be totally authentic, as many women used the juice to stain their lips. Women were encouraged to use make-up to keep their look fresh as well as to keep spirits up. Foundation was thick and matte, to enable a heavy layer of powder to literally stick to the face, eyes were natural and lipstick was red. It’s worth looking out for matte products if you want to perfect your 1940s look.
Put these all together and what have you got? The perfect recipe for your Tea Dance look!
Show off your new digs at our Tea Dance fundraiser - Saturday 18 March. Find out more here >>>