The front and back covers of London Life, which appeared from 1920 to 1960, should suggest the dominant theme of this magazine. In the three issues from the early 1940s that we found at Jot HQ recently scantily clad young ladies feature prominently on two of the covers, while the third shows a lovely young thing in full pout. Between the covers images of more scantily clad ladies in the form of photos and line drawings jostle for attention with feature articles on such topics as corsets and shoes, paint-on stockings, and ear-rings. There are also serials featuring Tilda, ‘ the world’s most glamorous girl ‘.But most of each issue is dominated by correspondence from alleged ‘ readers ‘ discoursing on every aspect of dress fetishism from a penchant for corsetry , high-heeled shoes and long gloves to the pleasures of transvestism.
Compared with what can be found on the Internet today this material is pretty mild, but in 1932 the magazine was deemed too audacious for the Irish government, who banned it. However, during the war against Hitler ( who is mocked in one issue) a more sensible British government doubtless felt that it provided much-needed glamour for demoralised troops.
All tastes were catered for by the correspondents, including in one instance, a sort of male transvestism in which the correspondent recalls the experience of wearing a corset borrowed from a friend:
‘ He asked me if I would like to be laced, and suggested a comfortable tightness at first, and as it was a beautiful evening, we decided to go for a walk after I finished dressing. We went quite five miles, and I shall never forget how comfortable I felt; no sign of fatigue, and on my return I requested him to lace me in much tighter—and it was quite a thrill seeing what a small waist I could achieve. Needless to add that I have now spent some coupons on a pair of my own, and although I don’t wear them daily, I particularly delight in walking in them, and have become quite a tight-lacing fan.
Then there’s something for the foot fetishist as one ‘reader’ describes the outfit of his girl- friend Cynthia:
‘She had skilfully enlarged her full pouting lips with scarlet paint till they stood out all hot and glowing like Neon tubes. Her nostrils were tinted to match, and her eyes were heavily shaded pools of allurement. Triple icicles of crystal hung, tingling, from each of her lobes, and diamond studs sparkled in her upper piercings.’
Cynthia forbids her boyfriend from kissing her lips, but offers her feet instead.
‘ …My pulses were racing as I pressed my lips first to her silken, perfumed ankle and then to the curving cushion of her instep. I thought how outrageously high the heels must be that could force insteps into such arches, and I ran my fingers up a slim, tapering spike to judge just how high it was…’
Then there is the horse’s report of the ride it gave to the mistress of a ‘ reader’:
‘… After a while she generally starts swinging her strong legs strenuously backwards an forwards, so that I get glimpses of her pretty high-healed shoes as they swing high by my head. This procedure generally makes me a bit jumpy because I know what to expect: those spiky heals will soon turn inwards , and my mistress’s strong legs will soon dig and jab them into my flanks in her pleasurable excitement…She eventually slides off my neck to the ground (and) upon her return I notice that she has on those tight-fitting trousers called jodhpurs…I also notice that my mistress carries a whip, the lash of which I have long past learnt to obey with instant respect…’
The adverts, as one might suspect, are for ‘ alluring studies ‘ of ladies in lingerie and ‘ rare books ‘, such as Amours of an Old Fool and Love Adventures of Casanova. Doubtless Mr Mainwaring from the bank would not have approved, and indeed it all contrasts very markedly with that era of nightly air raids, black-outs and rations.