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‘My entire wardrobe is 1940s-style, people call it ugly’

Jennie Devries loves 1940s and 50s style clothing (Picture: PA Real Life)

 Jennie Devries was told she was ‘ugly’ for wearing 1940s and 50s vintage clothing inspired by classic films.

For many, this would have put them off their passion, but the young blueberry farmer hasn’t let this knock her, taking the name in her stride and calling herself ‘the Ugly Dame’.

She now has a social media following on Facebook as well as an online blog.

After watching a 1939 blockbuster as a teenager, Jennie fell in love with how women dressed during World War Two, particularly German fashion , and she now has a vintage wardrobe of her own.

She’s crafted many of the period pieces herself and wears them as her everyday attire, even when picking blueberries on her family’s farm in Holland, Michigan.

Jennie even found love through her love for the 1940s, meeting her boyfriend Mike, 39, at a 1940s re-enactment in Rockford, Illinois.

Caption: Jennie found clothes from the 1940s an early 50s are better suited to her body type (Picture: PA Real Life)

Mike wasn’t aware that she dressed in vintage on a daily basis and was rather shocked when they met for another date.

She also often gets people commenting on her outfits, with one telling her: ‘Oh my grandmother had that dress, we buried her in it.’

While most of Jennie’s family and friends have been supportive of her dress sense, she has faced criticism from people who have said her style is ‘ugly’.

‘In the early days some people made fun of me for doing this and called me ugly,’ she said.

‘They weren’t very nice about it, so I decided to take The Ugly Dame and turn a negative into a positive.’

Jennie starting making her own outfits after buying a book with 250 patterns from 1940s Germany (Picture: PA Real Life)

Even when working on her family’s 30-acre blueberry farm, which involves scrambling around on her hands and knees, Jennie has managed to replicate some of the styles women wore while working in the fields and factories during the Second World War.

‘For some people it brings back a lot of memories,’ she said.

‘Not too long ago, I was at a funeral and one of the ladies saw my hat and was like “Oh my gosh, my mother had one just like it”.

Caption: Jennie even wears vintage clothing from the 40s and 50s to work on her family’s blueberry farm in Holland, Michigan (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘It’s really sweet that the stuff I’m wearing brings back all these happy, positive memories for people.’

Jennie’s obsession with vintage clothing began in 2012 after she started watching classic films and fell in love with what they were wearing.

This include her all-time favourite The Women, a 1939 American comedy-drama starring Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer.

Jennie prefers vintage to modern clothing which she finds lazy (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘I started watching these old movies and the women were just so well dressed and beautiful,’ she said.

‘I really liked that look and was like “why not wear it?”, there is nothing stopping me.

‘People are going out wearing what looks like their pyjamas, so why can’t I wear a nice knee length summer dress, with a hat, heels, gloves and everything to match?’

Mike had to adjust to Jennie wearing 1940s clothing too.

Some of the cloths in Jennie’s wardrobe could be worth hundreds of pounds (Picture: PA Real Life)

Jennie said: ‘Everyone was in 40s clothing so he thought I was just blending in, but then we met up again and he was like “oh she wasn’t kidding”.

‘The stuff you see in the pictures, that’s my real wardrobe.’

On one occasion, Jennie convinced Mike to dress in period clothing too while on holiday in LeClaire, Iowa, and the couple soon became the talk of the town.

‘Every ten feet someone would stop us and ask if they could take our picture,’ she said.

Jennie says her outfits remind people of ‘happy memories’ (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘We were very popular and it was really sweet, but we didn’t get very far.’

Finding affordable vintage clothes in Holland, Michigan, was challenging for Jennie who was forced to get creative.

‘I started picking up a piece here and there, but there really isn’t a lot of choice in my area, just a couple of antique and second hand stores,’ she said.

‘My early outfits were pretty haphazard – they didn’t look very good at all.’

Jennie Devries, 29, wearing 1940s work clothes on her family’s blueberry farm in Holland Michigan (Picture: PA Real Life)

But Jennie did not let this stifle her creativity and she soon started sewing her own garments based on patterns from 1940s Germany.

‘Most of my early pieces, I made myself because they were very difficult to find in my size or they were too expensive and outside my budget,’ she said.

‘So I went online and found this book which had around 250 German patterns and I loved the style – they looked great.

‘When I did the math, it worked out to 50 cents a pattern that always fit well because it was made to measure.’

Jennie has adopted the nickname ‘The Ugly Dame’ after some people insulted her unusual fashion sense (Picture: PA Real Life)

Jennie started researching German 1940s fashion but soon began experimenting with other styles from different periods throughout history.

‘I experimented with stuff from the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s – you name it, I tried it, because I wanted to try it all,’ she said.

‘I found the stuff from the 1940s and early 50s suited my body type and shape really well.’

Some of the items in Jennie’s wardrobe can fetch between $400 and $500 (£320 and £400), although Jennie often finds them for far less in antique and second-hand shops.

Jennie began buying and making vintage clothing 10 years ago after being inspired by classic movies (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘Some of the pieces are absolutely incredible and you’re never going to find a duplicate anywhere,’ she said.

One of the hardest outfits for Jennie to recreate was her 1940s style workwear, which needed to be both stylish and practical.

‘It had to have the look I wanted and be durable as I’m crawling around on my hands and knees for a good portion of the day sometimes.

‘In the 1940s, there were a lot of women working in factories and farms which were new environments and so their wardrobe adapted with them.

Jennie met her boyfriend Mike at a 1940s re-enactment but he didn’t realise she always dressed in vintage clothing (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘That’s why I really love the 40s, it’s beautiful and its practical.’

Jennie isn’t too impressed with where fashion is headed these days, branding a lot of people’s outfits as ‘disrespectful’.

She continued: ‘I believe in dressing well as much as possible – it’s respectful to myself and to others.

‘I think modern clothes are lazy and disrespectful and people should take more pride when stepping out of the house.

‘The quality of the clothes I wear and have made wear like iron.’

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