Wolsey weekending

Wolsey advert 1949 by Miles Chance

Shelf Appeal is a fan of Wolsey advertising from the first half of the 20th century. It came in two main forms: humorous (after all socks need a light touch) or feminine or both. And in this case it is a delightfully rosy take on proper English life. Except it’s a lifestyle that was well on the wane in 1949, if it ever existed for more than a handful of Cecil Beaton’s friends. Still, advertising is often about aspiration and I do love a picture of a garden. A nice wicker trug, an immaculate dress, a gardener in his corduroys and suede (we must hope) apron.

Wolsey, most known for its underthings production, were on a ready to wear kick in the 1940s. A lot of ‘tailored jersey’ clothing was advertised. Here a woman is rocking a shirtwaister dress, deemed ‘chic yet practical in the garden of a weekend cottage.’ It may not be our definition of a cottage, if they mean the house in the background with the extensive garden. But that dress is certainly chic. Those pleats for a little new look fullness. That Dior-ish waist. And lovely turned back cuffs. And surely it must be navy?

This is a great illustration, in a period that was perhaps the final flourishing of great fashion illustration in advertising. This one is signed ‘Miles’ and it is unusual enough to have a signed illustration in an advertisement. Miles is, as far as I can tell, Miles Chance. A Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, Chance was a war artist of some weight. They have four of his works at the Imperial War Museum, purchased by the War Artists Advisory Committee, a propaganda initiative out of the Ministry of Information. The four works include the evocative and masterful watercolour ‘A Court-Martial : Prisoner in the witness box’ below. With his block of margarine and an untold story.

Chance supplemented his fine art with advertising illustration, much of it via advertising uber agency WS Crawford Ltd, for clients like Yardley and Liberty. He was represented by The Artist Partners Organisation, as it was then. And I can’t help but wonder if they had anything to do with getting his signature on the advert? Other than this, I can’t find out very much about Chance. Which is the fate of many artists of this period. Such a shame, as I for one would like to see more of his work.

Miles Chance watercolour A Court-Martial : Prisoner in the witness box

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