Monday, 9 March 2015

Fashion on the Ration

CC41 clothing was not all drab and frumpy.

Last Wednesday I got the huge honour of representing PrettyNostalgic magazine at the press launch of the new ‘Fashion on the Ration’ exhibition at the Imperial War Museum in London. And I must just say a huge thank you to Nicole from PN for allowing some of us this amazing opportunity.

‘Fashion on the Ration’ is all about the role of fashion during WW2, how people coped with change in their lives, rationing and how fashion played an important part in the morale of the country. The exhibition includes not only some wonderful examples of clothing but also accessories, art, photographs and interviews. You can listen to the clipped tones of Oliver Lyttelton, President of the Board of Trade, as he announced the introduction of clothes rationing on 1st June 1941. It apparently came as a huge shock to most people.

Some more examples of the beautiful clothing on display.

Highlights of the display for me included a range of scarves, many of them by Jacqmar, which included bright colours and patriotic messages – a way for women to show their support for the War effort through their everyday clothing.

Two examples from the scarves - this one features propaganda cartoons by Fougasse.

I was particularly interested in the section entitled ‘Functional Fashion’. This had some examples of luminous black out buttons and brooches and the most stylish Siren Suit, to be worn in the air raid shelters. It even had a discreet flap at the bottom for comfort breaks!

Personal appearance was an important weapon in the fight!

Gas mask handbags and luminous buttons.

I want this Siren Suit!
 This section also touched on the vast numbers of women who found themselves working in the factories (by mid war 1:3 factory workers were women). They had to combine looking presentable with safety considerations, hence the popularity of the turban style hat and headscarves.

Workers getting ready for their shift.

My Nan worked in a torpedo factory in Bournemouth so this had a particularly personal appeal to me. Many of the women continued to wear their civilian clothing beneath their overalls and I always remember my Nan saying how she wouldn't go anywhere without her lipstick – a habit she carried on with throughout her life.

My Nan during the War.

As I was looking around the museum, I heard one lady say to another “The war wasn't all about killing people you know, it was about living” and this exhibition definitely captured that – how people carried on living, demonstrating inventiveness and adaptability under extraordinary circumstances. Fashion clearly played an important role in all of this.

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