Friday, 20 March 2015

Fashion On The Ration

A brilliant Mothering Sunday- it began with breakfast in Cornerstones with Liz [talking about knitting] church at Dereham, then lunch with old friends, Chris, Margaret and Jean, then down the M11** to end with supper at Steph’s place. It is years since I have seen both daughters on MS!

On the Monday morning, Steph went to her Sports Physio, and the problem with the leg has been sorted [it was a muscle problem causing the Achilles pain, and she’s much happier now – thanks for all your supportive comments] We met for a coffee and then went to the Imperial War Museum to view their latest exhibition.

Fashion on the Ration poster

Fashion On The Ration  [subtitled 1940’s Street Style] began a couple of weeks ago and runs through to the end of August. IWM entry is free, but tickets for this exhibition cost £10 [£7 concs]

It’s a little bit pricey – but if you are really keen on fashion [Steph] or sewing [me] you certainly get your money’s worth.No photography allowed, these pictures are from the net.


There are displays of uniforms from WW2 – the Wrens outfit was perceived as the most stylish, so boosted the numbers signing up for that. We were informed that many people resented the flattering cut of the US military apparel.


We saw printed ‘patriotic’ fabric decorated with motifs of the British Isles, war slogans, and Union Flags – this was made up into dresses and head scarves. Because most of the photographs were in black and white. it is easy to forget that there were these splashes of colours to brighten the room, and lift the spirits.

Morale was very important- so if you couldn’t afford lipstick, splash on some beetroot juice [now that’s an idea for you super-frugal-bloggers!] Necessities of war were disguised as modish accessories [such as stylish ‘gas-mask-handbags’]

Everyone was encouraged to Make Do And Mend. Fabric was far too precious to throw away when a garment wore out.If you needed to evacuate your cosy bed for safety of the Anderson Shelter down the garden, then a Siren Suit was de rigeur “Is this an early sort of Onesie?” asked Steph.


We watched a helpful film showing how “hubby’s suit” could be cut up and turned into trousers for the little boy, and a pinafore dress for the little girl - and how his trilby could be cut down and resewn into a natty little titfer for the little wife. There were an awful lot of ‘little’ words, all spoken by someone who had learned elocution from Celia Johnson [he was too, too kind!!]


Dear old Mrs Sew-&-Sew was there to encourage us to patch and darn. Two elderly ladies in front of me were bemoaning the fact that nobody has a darning mushroom any more. “I’ve got threeI whispered to Steph “And they all get used - one is at Cornerstones, and the other two are in Ferndown- one upstairs and one downstairs. I am a truly sad case!!”

I loved seeing garments which were recycled and made from other things – Lady Mountbatten’s underwear[from maps printed on silk] Children’s clothes made from adult garments, blankets turned into capes…


The exhibition ends with a video featuring a number of contemporary fashion experts and historians talking about how WW” fashions and trends affect us today – it was interesting to hear the views of designer Wayne Hemingway and tailor Patrick Grant [Sewing Bee] The recession has made people more concerned to choose styles that will last, and repair and recycle garments.

I came away with a head full of ideas about stuff in my wardrobe which may get revamped this spring, and the urge to do more knitting [now I have both hands fully operational again].




We enjoyed bowls of soup in Four Corners for lunch, then spent a while meandering and musing in I knit London before going to Waterloo to catch the tube back to Wimbledon. Two glorious days!

**happy to report that the wrist coped well with driving- no pains at all. Doctor says that wearing the velcro splint has supported it and helped it to heal. I am truly grateful for that.


  1. wish I could get to the exhibition. Right up my street! You should have seen my mums darning, you could have framed it as it was so neat in beautiful. seems not much changes, lots of us out here revamping garments. I have got a pile of sirs uniform tops that are due to be skirts and the odd sun hat this summer. meant to say how wonderful that you could sort the wedding dress out for the young lady in the charity shop. sort of action that makes the world a better place.x

  2. Fascinating exhibition - I mist get up to London to see it. I remember so much of all that stuff! My mother used to use custard powder if she hadn't any face powder as it is a pale pinkish colour - not sure what happened if it rained though as it would have gone bright yellow! I remember her wearing a scarf tied like the lady's in the poster too and I grew up with Make do and Mend and Waste not Want Not as my mantras. Glad your wrist is better now.

    1. If your Mum painted fake 'stocking seams' with gravy browning too, then if she was caught out in the rain, she'd have turned into a very Saucy Lady!!

  3. What a fascinating exhibition. I'd love to have seen it. I remember my grandma wearing dresses so like the ones in the photo. And I also remember having a nightie made from parachute silk!

    1. My Mum told me that the church ladies were scandalised when one young chap in the RAF sent his fiancee a set of undies made from parachute silk!!

  4. Sounds like a lovely day. What an interesting exhibition at the museum too - thanks for sharing the pictures. I always think that Britain was at its most resourceful back then, and we can still learn a lot from the social history of the times xxx

  5. had to giggle when I saw the bit about the undies. Ma was a teenager at the time and managed to buy a pair of art silk French knickers on which she very proudly embroidered her initials in red. The knickers were made with a placket, waistband and button fastening as elastic was in very short supply. unfortunately the button went just as she was getting off a bus. Cockney bus conductors being what they are yelled after her 'oi miss, you dropped something'. Mas face was as res as the embroidered as she picked them up and shoved them in her pocket!

  6. that would be so interesting to see. I enjoy things like that. Glad your wrist is feeling a lot better.

  7. A lovely time. That exhibition was made for you! I'm at Corrymeela this weekend- I'll be thinking about you and your knitting while I do some crochet- although with the whole site booked for a massive church group, you may get more done than me!

  8. Wren's uniforms were still the same in the 1980s..we were so stylish,our uniforms were tailor made..the shoes ,however...
    Jane x

  9. That'd be amazing to go to!!!x

  10. I was laughing at Lady Mountbatten's knickers too. Well, obviously, one couldn't wear anything but silk when there was a war on! Goodness sake. I also heard that since stockings were in very short supply, you would paint a black line up the back of your legs with eyeliner to represent the seam!

  11. I've got two darning mushrooms too : )


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