One of the benefits of making your own clothes is that you can make [within reason, skill and budget allowed] whatever and how ever many items you want. Thus you can plan your whole wardrobe [in theory] to please and suit yourself. The only difficulties, apart from budget, would appear to be time constraints and finding suitable and pleasing fabric of choice.
Now imagine yourself trying to plan a wardrobe at a time when there was virtually no fabric to choose from, and even if you found some, your choice was severely restricted and you were only allowed to buy so much a year and no more, and if you did buy up your quota it meant you couldn’t buy any clothes until the next year. It could put you off making your own clothes couldn’t it? Now supposing you did decide not to make but buy and found that you could have a coat, but little else besides, that you had to toss up between a dress or a pair of shoes and that it could take you perhaps two years to get a whole outfit together. Whenever you feel nostalgia coming on remember this was the reality of the 1940’s wardrobe.
Clothes rationing came in force 1941 and it came in a rush when there were as yet no printed coupons for it and people already burdened with food rationing had to get their heads round yet more restrictions. At first they were pretty generous – 66 coupons for the year and you could easily get a coat for 18 points and still have48 left – a pair of shoes? – 7 points please and you still have 41 points – a dress? 11 points; leaving you with 30 for jumpers, skirts, blouses, underwear – don’t forget hats and gloves, and what if you needed new towels, sheets or other household fabric items? Sorry, you’ll have to wait until next year. By the time you could get the blouse to go with the skirt you bought, you had probably worn the skirt out.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the coupons went down almost every year, to 48, 36 and finally we had to do with 24 points – coats were then 16 points – so you see why I hemmed hankies [1 point please] and hunted through all the classroom lost property baskets for my lost ribbons [although I have to admit that my ribbons usually came from the man with a suitcase at the front of the alley next to Woolworths – no coupons, no questions]. People were pretty ingenious [by people I really mean women in the main] and whilst the golden standard was thought to be to own 3 of everything, it was hard work to achieve anything like that aim for many families.
Clothes rationing didn’t end until 1949, by which time most people’s wardrobes were pretty dismal and ‘make do and mend’ had lost its appeal [if ever it had any]. We could only look across the pond in envy and looking the other way, marvel at the ‘New Look’ of Dior with all those yards and yards of fabric and know that it would be quite a while before anything like it appeared in British shops.
The winter of 1947 was one of the severest on record and there was a ‘flu epidemic that killed quite a lot of people and if you hadn’t got a warm winter coat and shoes [and many hadn’t] then you suffered. In any event chilblains were the norm every winter – central heating was virtually unknown. Sounds depressing? sometimes it was, but not all the time, at least for us youngsters. We were mainly content with the little we had, the vast expectations around today were not on our agenda. Even Winter fogs and smogs [an annual event after every bonfire night] were fun and magical – we were invisible to grown ups in the dark and fog and we thought it exciting – such freedom! The men might have fought a war for six years but the women fought for their families for twice that number of years and kept us all going. Every coping mother deserved a medal – like the Russians used to give their women!! Nostalgia? Someone once said that “Nostalgia was a longing for a past and a life that you never had” – and I think that just about sums it up.
The above post was written for ‘linnyjcreations’ – I hope she enjoys it