If my last post was dour and a bit on the negative side, I am now going to tell you the up-side of it all. You may be wondering if there was an upside but there certainly was! but you may have had to look for it.
In the main, rationing was only an irritation to the better off in society. The wealthy could dine very well thankyou on the 5/- limit on restaurant food [often flouted] and clothes rationing probably only meant they were behind the fashions slightly, they already had full wardrobes that could be adapted. The rest certainly had to ‘make do and mend’, but mend what? People coming out of the 1930’s didn’t usually have extensive wardrobes [even idyllic Milly Molly Mandy only had two dresses]. The scene in Gone With Wind where Scarlet makes a dress from the green velvet curtains would have rung a bell in many a household. So what was the upside? The obvious is that women discovered skills and strengths they never knew they had and interests that could sustain them in bleaker times.
Whilst I certainly can’t speak for everyone around my own age and there are exceptions to everything, not only rules, in the main my generation learned to look after things and be satisfied with what we had. Now that may sound very trivial but it is the core of conservation today and I think perhaps the cure for a lot that ails us all. We learned to keep our feet firmly on the ground whilst recognising that the sky was the limit if we worked hard at whatever we wanted to do,..this was certainly a first in the psyche of many women. We learned resilience, – we had learned from our mothers that there was usually a way round and a solution to most of the problems thrown at us “as long we have our health” they would say. We had good teeth! – no sweets and little sugar – I didn’t need dental treatment until in my 30’s and then for extracting a tooth broken accidentally. We learned what a good diet was [no fast or ‘convenient’ foods] and how to shop wisely and in the main we could entertain ourselves. Reading was an entry into a glorious wide world that could be shaped and coloured into what I wanted – no secondhand images on a screen for me.
You would think that with all the difficulties that women would just relax and let standards slide for the duration. The opposite was true. No slopping around in track suit bottoms and tee shirts for that generation. Pride in appearance was even more important. Clothes were cared for, mended, cleaned and pressed. Styles were soft and feminine [within the constrains of the restrictions in force] Sloppiness of any kind was abhorred and culprits soon found criticism levelled their way. Seams of stockings just had to be straight and shoes clean. Hair was curled or set every night and styled the next day. You didn’t go out without dressing properly and putting make up on. Girls in factories who had to wear headgear or turbans often used to put up their hair in hairpins, curled ready for the evening, but covered by a turban and the face beneath would be wearing at least powder and lipstick. Women have always loved clothes – and never more so when they are harder to obtain. Window shopping was often the only shopping therapy many could enjoy, but oh the bliss when something new could be made or obtained, I wonder if we would get the same degree of pleasure today? They were all valuable lessons, learned early and invaluable in times hard to deal with. They were there if you wanted to learn them. They can still be learned today with a little effort but only if we lose the need for instant gratification – and this is ultimately where sewing your own clothes comes in! Oh yes, and we were the first to enjoy Rock and Roll and welcome Bill Haley, the Beatles and Rolling Stones!