Book review: Fashion on the Ration

A couple of years ago the Imperial War Museum in London ran an exhibition on wartime fashion. I had the best intentions to visit Fashion on the Ration but it never quite happened. So I was delighted to come across the accompanying book in my local library.

Written by Julie Summers, it chronicles how women’s fashion in the UK changed during the Second World War. She discusses services’ uniforms, the use of coupons and clothes rationing as well as ‘make do and mend’ and the immediate post war era of Dior’s ‘New Look’.

Fashion on the Ration is a fascinating study of a period in British fashion when everyone dressed equally. Once clothes rationing was introduced in 1941 the entire population was restricted by what they could buy, regardless of income. Even Princess Elizabeth had to save up her coupons for her wedding dress in 1947.

By 1942 the number of clothing coupons allocated each year was just 48 as material shortages and labour redeployment became more desperate. With a woman’s winter coat costing 14 coupons this wasn’t much to work with. In 1942 the Utility Scheme was introduced which worked to restrict the amount of fabric used and reduce workers’ time (after all factory labour was needed for war essential work).

Under the Utility Scheme the government dictated the number of pleats in a skirt, buttons on coats and jackets, length of men’s socks and prohibited the trouser turn-up, among other things. It seems remarkable, nowadays, that the population accepted these dictates, although sometimes there were grumbles and even defiance (Montgomery carried on wearing his army trousers with turn-ups).

But, as with food and fuel rationing, and so much more, clothes restrictions were seen as the right thing to do to save labour and finite resources.  Even removing 2″ from the bottom of men’s shirts and getting rid of double cuffs could save four million square yards of cotton each year, as well as 1,000 clothes labourers. Utility Clothing was also well-made, originally from designer patterns, and price controlled, meaning nearly every woman could now afford a designer item.

Rationing and ‘making do’ was seen as patriotic and Fashion on the Ration discusses how women weren’t supposed to admit if they were wearing something new. Ingenuity and resourcefulness dominated the war period. With the men away on active service, wives and daughters would re-work male outfits so that they could now wear them. Materials that weren’t rationed, such as blackout cloth, muslin, cheesecloth and curtain net, were used as clothing fabrics. Even old blankets were turned into coats and jackets, and these coats could then be turned into jackets and then into dressing gowns etc. etc.

Wartime Fashion on display at Fashion Museum Bath l-r: wartime wedding dress, evening dress partially made from blackout material and Jaeger tweed suit produced under the Utility design scheme of 1941

 

The WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service) and WI ran ‘make do and mend’ classes (at one point it was considered that these should be made compulsory), and produced a booklet on how to mend cuffs and collars, darn socks etc. There were even pop up booths that could fix stockings.

Social attitudes towards clothing and appearance also changed during this period. It became more acceptable for women to go bare legged and they were no longer required to wear hats in church. However by the end of the war, with rationing still continuing, women became increasingly fed up with this “tiresome necessity”. No wonder they looked to the Paris collections of the post war years and yearned for the glamour of Dior’s ‘New Look’.

Dior’s New Look, Fashion Museum Bath

Dress worn by Princess Margaret, late 1940s, on display at Fashion Museum Bath. Created by Norman Hartnell the cotton dress was designed to promote the domestic cotton market after World War Two.

Yet the introduction of mass manufactured clothing at reasonable prices sounds something we are familiar with today. What was created due to wartime necessity is now something we expect on the High Street. However the outfits we buy now are only expected to last a season – if that – and their cheap price tags mean we no longer need ingenuity or the skills of ‘make do and mend’ to make them stretch much further.

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (22-29 April 2018)

 

Thrifty FindsI’m not sure how we’ve reached the end of the month and I only managed to write one Thrifty Finds post! That certainly wasn’t the intention but time has just flown by this April…

This past week my Thrifty Finds have been:

  1. Having had a good clear out we donated about half a dozen bags to a local charity shop.
  2. Following the clear out I was also able to sell some children’s books to a second-hand book stall in Bath.
  3. My youngest daughter picked up this pretty summer dress from Oxfam:

 

4. We were also given a couple of items of children’s clothing from a friend.

5. About a year ago we were given a second-hand Wii from grandparents. However the girls never played it and, while having our clear out, we decided to sell it to our local CEX Games Exchange shop. We were given an £80 store credit in exchange, which will go towards buying a second-hand ipad for the younger children. They will have to save up some of the money themselves and look at selling their unwanted dvds in exchange for more store credit.

 

What were your Thrifty Finds?

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (1-8 April 2018)

 

Thrifty Finds

Hope you had a great Easter break. We had a very laidback Easter weekend. The girls received two eggs each which means we didn’t have loads of chocolate in the house (thank goodness!). They are currently half way through the school holidays but the wet weather means we have been mostly housebound. My eldest is also studying for her GCSEs so we have made these holidays very low key.

So far, my Easter Thrifty Finds have been:

1. We made use of a McDonalds voucher for a cheap lunch when we went out.

2. I finally sorted through a pile of old gift vouchers that had been stored in a cupboard. It turns out we had a total of £6.50 to spend at Claire’s and a £6 book voucher. I gave the Claire’s voucher to my younger daughters and used the book voucher to buy a book I had wanted for a while. All three girls had also been given Claire’s vouchers by their grandparents, in lieu of Easter eggs, but my eldest very kindly passed her card onto her sisters 😊

3. I finally found a set of Easter cookie cutters in a charity shop. These had been on my list for ages. They were brand new and only 99p. Although, technically, Easter is over we will still make use of them.

 

4. The primary school is running its Easter Trail around the village. This is a very cheap activity to take part in. There are 50 odd clues dotted around the village and the aim is to guess them all. This year’s theme is TV Programmes. The cost of the trail sheet goes to school funds.

5. Finally, when we have been out in the car we have found ourselves over paying for parking tickets, as we didn’t stay as long as intended. In both cases, I left the ticket by the parking meter so that other people  could use the extra time we had already paid for.

What were your Easter break Thrifty Finds?

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (19-25 March 2018)

 

Thrifty Finds

Hello and welcome to another week of Thrifty Finds. This past week I have:

1. Donated a bag of clothes to school for a fundraiser.

2. Saved £12 off a supermarket shop with a voucher I had.

3. For the first time I made a homemade waffle mix, which turned out really well! We have a sandwich toaster which also has a waffle plate. I hadn’t made waffles before and – for some reason – I thought they would be difficult. In the end I googled a simple recipe and discovered the waffle mix is very much like pancake batter (I don’t know why I didn’t think of that before!). I ended up making a double batch which lasted us two days :

4. A friend lent me the book for our reading group so I don’t need to buy it, or source it from the library.

5. Finally, my proudest achievement of the week: I took part in our annual Community Litter Pick. About 30 volunteers turned up on Saturday morning to help clear the village of rubbish. I went off to the Recreation Ground and spent about 90 minutes clearing the hedges around the football pitch and the skate park. I came across three footballs, one bike and lots and lots of plastic drinks bottles and crisp packets. I created two bags of rubbish. The total for the village was 40 bags of rubbish – 10 more than last year. But maybe this means there were more volunteers and more was cleared, rather than an increase in the rubbish that was produced?

IMG_2202What were your Thrifty Finds? Do you have any ‘thrifty’ plans for Easter?

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (12-18 March 2018)

Thrifty Finds

 

We had an unexpected snowfall at the weekend which meant that, once again, the village was cut off.

Here are my Thrifty Finds from last week (before it snowed!):

  1. I did a job that I’d been putting off for ages and registered the warranties for the new appliances we had bought for the kitchen. For some reason I’ve never done this before.
  2. We went shopping to Bristol (before the snow came) and took advantage of a free parking space that my husband gets with his job.
  3. My youngest daughter is studying Greek myths at school and really enjoying it. My dad bought her a couple of second hand Usborne books on Greek and Norse myths:

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4. I had a lovely surprise from a friend who went to see the musician, Brett Anderson, in conversation. She bought me a copy of his new autobiography which was such a generous thing to do 🙂

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I’m also reading a book that a work colleague bought for me because she enjoyed it so much: ‘A Boy Made of Blocks’.

5. Finally, I bought a Friends and Family Railcard to save money off our train fare to London in the summer.

Don’t forget to let me know what your recent Thrifty Finds are. Have a good week 🙂

 

 

 

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (26 February – 4 March 2018)

Thrifty Finds

 

 

 

Apologies for not posting my Thrifty Finds last week. I had planned to write them up last Friday but the snow came and everything stopped… Being snowed in for a couple of days was fun. Our village is quite high up, on the edge of the Cotswolds, and it’s not unusual for all the roads to be blocked by snow. We had a great time sledging, going to the pub (!) and making do with what we had. How was the snow for you?

  1. Because of the snow (and not being as prepared as I should have been) we had to use up what we had in the freezer. We managed to get by with enough family meals and used up all the bread products (wraps, bagels, buns) that had been stored in the freezer.
  2. Despite the snow we still ran our school’s Nearly New sale. It wasn’t very busy but I did manage to get a few bargains, including two tops, a Christmas jumper for one of the girls, and this amazing 80s dress (for just £1.50):

It has batwing sleeves and everything! However it is a little tight so I may have to shed a couple of pounds before I can wear it comfortably.

I also picked up these brooches for 50p each:

 

3. My daughters received their World Book Day tokens, which means they can get one of the special World Book Day books for free.

4. Speaking of books, I also bought a (new) guide to London: ‘1000 things to do in London for a tenner’. We are staying in London for a few days this summer and are hoping to do lots of cheap – or free – activities. This Time Out guide has some cheap places to eat, which is often a challenge to find when you’re in the capital. Ironically the book cost more than a tenner but I think we’ll get a lot of use out of it.

5. My husband put some finishing touches to the kitchen, Remember that old wallpaper we discovered? He covered it with some Perspex and added a piece of pottery that he’s found in the garden. I think it’s a great feature. We just need the floor to be tiled and then the kitchen is complete 🙂 The old key was found when clearing out the Parish Council offices a few years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

If you live in the UK I hope you survived the snow! Were you well prepared or did you have to do make do with what was in your cupboards?

Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (12-18 February 2018)

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.com

Last week was half term and, not having a kitchen, meant that we ate out a little more than normal. It wasn’t the thriftiest week but I still managed a few Thrifty Finds:

  1. We took a trip to Ikea. I know this isn’t a money saving activity BUT we hadn’t been for about 3-4 years (even though it’s only 40 minutes’ away). A new kitchen means we need to upgrade a few of our accessories so the Ikea trip was inevitable. We also ate lunch there and I was really impressed with their low waste dining. I paid 85p for a flavoured water served in a glass that could be refilled as many times as you want (my husband paid 95p for a refillable coffee). Real cutlery, plates etc is something I was impressed to find – bearing in mind that most low price cafes tend to use just disposable tableware. I also took my handy water bottle which could be filled up in the canteen too.
  2. The girls and I paid a trip to a local Dorothy House shop in one of Bath’s suburbs. It’s a large shop and we managed to pick up a game, cookery book and skipping rope – to keep them occupied during the holidays:

3. I also picked up a gorgeous Spring coat. Funnily enough, the waterproof coat I bought a few weeks ago here came from the same charity shop chain, but at a different location. That one cost me £15 (and I had to mend a rip), but this former Next coat was just £8. I wonder why there was a difference in pricing?!

charity shop find, Next, Dorothy House shop

4. The kids spent a lot of time stuck on screens last week – it doesn’t help being confined to one room, and the weather wasn’t great. However I made sure we spent some time playing games. We tried out the new (to us) Ghost game (a bit like picture pairs – match the ghost to the correct National Trust house), some other second-hand games and Cludeo (which we borrowed from my parents).

5. I had an eye test, which was free using a voucher from work. I was also able to get some money off my new pair of glasses using another work voucher 🙂

 

I’d love to hear about your Thrifty Finds too! Please  share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram