"As a little girl I used to stare at old photos and got sad because things used to look so pretty and things were so ugly when I grew up, it was the 1970s, a very ugly time!"
Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse is a very passionate Historian Consultant from Amsterdam that has worked as a researcher and consultant for several historical film projects, included a series for the Discovery Channel. Jo not only knows about how folks from the 1930's lived, but she has taken her fascination for history to another level by embracing a vintage lifestyle called Neo Traditionalism.
Where are you from?
Born and raised in The Hague, seat of government of the Netherlands, living in Amsterdam the capital for many years now.
How many languages do you speak?
I speak Dutch and English fluently, my German is reasonable.
When did you started your passion for history?
I don’t remember, it has always been there. It probably has something to do with growing up in big old houses filled with old furniture and books about the past and having a very overactive imagination.
How did you become a historian?
I am not really a historian, but went to Film School and was a film/tv director and writer for a while.
Everything I worked on had a historical theme, if it didn’t I didn’t enjoy the project. I soon realized my passion for history was greater then for film/tv and when I was asked to work on a Discovery Channel series as a researcher and consultant. I loved this and decided to concentrate my career on this kind of work. I started my own Historical Consultancy and that’s what I’m doing now.
How long have you been an Historical Consultant ?
I became a Historical Consultant around 2004.
Tell us about your work. What does it entail?
People contact me about all sorts of historical projects and I help them out. Film, tv, museums, historical events ask me to provide research, services, objects, etc.
What is your best and favorite thing about your job? And what is the least thing that you dislike or find it difficult.
The best thing is that you get to share your passion for history and also make sure productions avoid the mistakes that always annoy me so much. Being able to help someone find something they have been looking for for a long time is great but even better is talking to kids and noticing you’re making an impact, seeing in kids eyes that they suddenly find history a little more interesting. The less glamorous side is of course the paperwork, making sure people pay their bills, etc.
Tell us about Netherlands 1940-1945 your study history group. And about your website.
After visiting several Living History events I realized the civilian side of WW2 was not being represented.
I was very interested in Living History, it is a great way to make history more interesting to kids and to fight common misconceptions. I decided to start our own group, specialized in portraying daily life for Dutch civilians during the Second World war.
How many members do you have in your history group? Are they also historians?
We have about 25 members but are also linked to a group in Germany who we often work together with.
Most of us are not historians, just people with a passion for history.
Tell us about your history reenactment events. Describe the different events that you have done.
We see a difference between reenactment and Living History, we don’t see ourselves as a reenactment group as to us that is more about reenacting battles and historical events.
Living History is more about portraying daily life in the past in every detail. We do several events per year, from national liberation parade, to memorial events, to historical shows. Generally we act out scenes like refugees between the front lines, people trying to cross checkpoints, etc. Sometimes we work in museums where we get to build a display showing a living room where we can let people see how life was back then.
How can anyone around the world start a history group like yours? What does it entail?
Just do it. We are not a official organization or club, I just started doing this and people joined me, we build a website and a forum, but that is all.
When and how did your passion for vintage started?
I can’t really say. I have always had a passion for history. As a little girl I used to stare at old photos and got sad because things used to look so pretty and things were so ugly when I grew up, it was the 1970s, a very ugly time! For most of my life I had some old things in my room or house, pictures, objects, just things that somehow fascinated me. I never really felt at home in the present, music, fashion, society, it never really appealed to me.
In the 1980s suddenly the 1950s were very popular in my country, Levi’s commercials brought old music back on tv and suddenly I heard and saw things I liked. As a teenager I decorated my room in fifties style and dressed like a “bobbysoxer” when I went to Rock ‘n Roll parties.
When the 1950s went out of fashion again I decided to stick with it, even better, I discovered older music and that there were people with a passion for the 1930s and 1940s. Suddenly all the puzzle pieces came together, the music I loved, the fashion, design, architecture, movies, everything I really loved came from that era.
I contacted other people who loved the era and realized they had a 1930s lifestyle.
I was totally amazed and when they invited me to a party I went. It was one of the best times of my life and I was sold. At this time I also worked on historical tv shows and had become involved in Living History so my life was full of vintage and I decided to go all the way.
After a while I gathered people around me with the same ideas and I started Club Interbellum.
Soon it became more then just a way of dressing, it became a lifestyle that we call Neo Traditionalism.
Just like the kind of architecture that takes the best from the past and uses it in the present by building 1930s houses with modern comforts.
Tell us about your passion for retro style and fashion.
I was never interested in fashion or even appearances at all. I wore jeans and a t-shirt, never wore makeup, never cared for my hair. I never read fashion or style magazines, watched shows about such programmes, etc.
But when the 1950s became ‘hot’ in Holland, I started looking at old magazines and for the first time saw women with a certain style that made me think; “I’d like to look like that!”.
So then I started experimenting with my image.When I started participating in Living History events and working for film/tv, I started collecting vintage items and clothing and wearing it outside events. One day I just got rid of everything modern.
Describe your vintage style. Which are your favorite fashion year styles?
I am still not very glamorous, most of the time I wear common day dresses from the past. I concentrate on the late 1930s and war years. So a simple dress, stockings and hair in a roll. When I go out I wear a long dark coat and of course a hat and handbag. Of course for the odd party I wear something a bit more pretty.
Where did you get your vintage clothing?
From flea markets, people give them to me or I get them online.
How do you achieve your retro look, your hair and makeup? Which are your basics beauty products.
I simply roll up my hair and pin it. I don’t use any makeup, sometimes a bit of powder and lipstick for special occasions. I guess Sunlight soap is the only product I use a lot!
How did you decorate your retro living space? Describe some of your retro style furnishings.
I have decorated my entire house (although not yet completely finished) in a typical late 1930s lower middle class style. So not full of super modern expensive Art Deco but more a mixed combination of early 20th century furniture. I try to get it as authentic as possible, so it is not like a museum or a house filled with a collection. It is just where I live and where I try to make it look like a real 1930s home.
A style very popular in the 1920s and 1930s here in the Netherlands was “the Amsterdam School”.
Perhaps best described as working class Art Deco. Straight lines but build with wood. I have a great sitting corner and dining set in that style.
There is also a radio in my house, I used to have several but in the 1930s most people (especially of my class) would have more then one so the others were moved to the attic. My radio is a 1920s Dutch model.
What inspires you in life?
The people who lived trough the war, their stories, their attitudes, their sacrifices. They are my heroes and I feel honoured every time I talk to them. But also the look in a child's eye when I teach them something they actually find interesting, something that may ignite the spark of passion for history, that is priceless.
Do you consider yourself as a Timewarpian?
For starters I am not a wife, I am a independent woman who runs her own company and who works too hard. I consider myself a Neo Traditionalist, I think we can learn from the past and make the world better by combining the best of then with the best of now.
I am not a Domestic Goddess or a lady who loves to look pretty in fancy dresses. I am more like those countless women from the 1930s who had to work, didn’t spend all their time looking after family or home. My lifestyle is very authentic, I have almost nothing modern in my home. No washing machine, no TV, no mobile phone, no microwave, no bath. All I have is a fridge and a computer that I need for my work. The fridge will be replaced asap.
Do you have a favorite vintage place or thing that inspires you?
One of the things that inspired me most, especially in the beginning, is the website my German friends made;
www.swingstyle.de. It introduced me to the vintage way of life.
Besides that there is just so much that inspires me, history is all around us if you are willing to see it. But a letter signed by Otto Frank (Anne’s father), letters by a unknown 1930s couple madly in love, movies like ‘Brief Encounter’ and oh so many songs from that era, they all inspire me.
Got to mention Al Bowlly and The Ramblers in particular, the best Dutch Big Band there was and still is because it is officially the oldest still playing Big Band in the world.
Have you attended a vintage event? And if you have, what kind of event was it? And what did you like the most about the event.
Yes I have attended many vintage events. One of the first and still best was the Trocadero Ball organized by my German friends from the swingstyle group. In a fantastic 1930s hotel with dance floor we all gathered in vintage clothing and danced to lovely old tunes.
Another highlight is the annual liberation parade in Wageningen where we get to show our gratitude to our Canadian liberators. But being allowed to sit in a early 1930s DC2 plane in our vintage clothing was also amazing.
Not to mention seeing a 1930s movie in the amazing cinema theater Tuschinski was superb. But perhaps simply sitting by the radio or playing records and board games in my old living room with friends in vintage clothing is even better.
There are too many to mention!
If you had a chance to go back in time, what year would that be and why?
I would probably go back to 1938, before madness pulled the world into war but after the worst effects of the depression were over. Fashion, music, movies, all very interesting from this past. Although I would be tempted to go a bit earlier so I can fly on the Hindenburg, not its last flight though.
What would you like to bring back from the past?
A zeppelin and Lots and lots of stockings and general clothing and shoes! To be honest, I’d probably not come back or I would fill a entire container ship with all the things I want to bring back.
Do you have a favorite old film, music, singer, movie actress or actor from the past? And tell us why is it your all time favorite.
It is hard to choose, I can’t say what my favourites are but here are a few that come to mind.
A movie high on my list is “Brief Encounter”, perhaps the last romantic story made that I actually understand!
Most movies made after this has people behaving in a manner I just don’t understand.
One of my favourite actors is James Stewart, do I have to explain why?
Marlene Dietrich is probably my favourite actress/singer, again, no need to explain really, I mean… Marlene Dietrich! The Dietrich!
As for music, gosh so hard to say. One that comes to mind is ‘Midnight, the stars and you’ by Al Bowlly, because I’ve loved it long before I became old fashioned after hearing it in ‘The Shining’.
Describe yourself in one sentence.
Moving forward by looking back.
Copyright © 2010 Time Warp Wives
Jo Hedwig Teeuwisse
Websites & Contact Information
This is the portal to all my websites.
This is my Historical Consultancy website.
This is my WW2 living History group website
This is the website for our club of Neo Traditionalists, people with a vintage lifestyle.
Watch a video interview with Jo done with English subtitles:
Interview with lady from Amsterdam with 1930's lifestyle.