Rationing, during World War II, affected everyone and everything. Women, in particular, became adept at creativity when it came to their appearance. 'All for the nation's morale', they exclaimed, believing that, by looking good, they helped boost their own morale as well as the morale of other women, of men away at war and the morale of everyone at home, trying to survive day to day.
Reversing its initial decision to stop the manufacture of cosmetics, the British government realised how important it was for women to 'look good' and supported the production of cosmetics throughout the war, although made with inferior ingredients and in reduced quantities.
"It would be an added calamity if war turned us into a nation of frights and slovens," admonished Vogue magazine. Women's magazines and other media encourage women to keep chic. To do so became patriotic.
In the Forties, blush or cheek colour was known as rouge. Companies like Bourjois, Coty and Mury packaged compressed powder, in shades of pinks and reds, in delicate, feminine cardboard pots. Some came with fabric puffs and others came without (but with an explanation!).
Many of the major cosmetic companies (such as Coty, Max Factor, Helena Rubinstein, Yardley, Mury, Rimmel) marketed their products to target specific patriotic needs. In the US, for instance, Max Factor sold a powder called ‘Pan Cake', an early version of foundation that was originally used as theatrical make-up, 'in six lovely shades all compatible with service uniforms'. Max Factor also sold Lip Pomade, made from petroleum jelly, which added a gloss finish to matte lipstick (the only kind of lipstick available at the time).
During times of severest rationing, women, who refused to be beaten, turned their creativity into 'fun' that stoically united them: beetroot juice was used as a stain for lips; burnt cork or boot polish as mascara; and gravy browning, watered down chicory coffee or cold tea-stained legs made for stockings.
All this, on top of everything else they had to do, was in an effort to 'keep up appearances'. How empowering!