Today, Saturday 21st March, will be our last full open day. From next week, we will be open by appointment only. As the next few weeks will be a testing time (no pun intended), we thought we'd take a walk down memory lane at the fashion rationing during WWII. It turns out that during difficult times, people's ingenuity shines through. We can thank that useful 'Utility' clothing and those savvy war seamstresses for many of our most popular fashions today.
It's a little known fact, but during the war clothes were rationed, just like food. Fabric, factories and labour were diverted to the war effort so in June 1941 clothes rations were introduced until March 1949. The restriction prompted people to get creative at home - even boy scouts turned their hand to it.
You may think that there would be little use for make-up during the war, but women were exhorted to 'keep up appearances' as general shabbiness was thought to be bad for morale. Hats became fashionable, too, as they were thought to brighten worried expressions and lend a dash of verve to otherwise simple silhouettes.
Even gas masks got a makeover. Rather than carrying around your mask in a cardboard box, manufacturers designed handbags with mask compartments. Scarves, too, were used to signal patriotism or practical messages, such as this scarf encouraging people to recycle rubber for the war.
In 1942 the Board of Trade devised 'Utility' clothing, reducing clothes to a few essential styles. However, in order to reassure people that they were not 'fashion dictators', the Board hired leading designers to create the collection. Some unusual fabrics were used, such as parachute nylon repurposed into bridal gowns.
With nylon and silk hose hard to come by, women had to think outside the box with regard to stockings. Enter 'liquid tights' - that is nude-coloured make-up (or gravy!) that was painted on legs. New devices were even created to help draw a perfect seam up the back of the leg using a bicycle clip and an eyeliner!
Despite all the hardships of WWII, people were at pains to maintain their sense of style. That's because looking good helps us to feel good, too. And creating stylish looks is a small act of creativity and fun when other aspects of life are difficult. We hope the fabulous fashion you've bought from us over the years brings you a smile or two during the next couple of weeks.