Exhibition time! Fashion on the ration at the Imperial war museum London. This week I went and viewed this second world war exhibition with a twist. The exhibition focuses on fashion and beauty in the UK during the second world war. The 1940s had always been thought of as an era of hardship overlooked due to war and almost a forgotten era in fashion and glamour. Or so I thought until I viewed this empowering exhibition.
When we think of war time clothing utility clothing comes to mind. Utility clothing was a form of clothing rationing which was introduced in 1942.This was an precaution as other essentials such as food and petrol had all ready been ration two years previously.Utility clothing was controlled by strict guidelines. Fabric choice was limited to only seven fabric types for all garments made,this was one of the regulation to make the garments available for all.
However this was not the only clothing regulations 1940s women had to overcome with when trying to create an outfit. There was also austerity regulations,which restricted of how much fabric was used each garment. With strict restrictions on pleats,pockets,turn up trousers and trimming. This limited choice and may design features.
However the working women of the 1940s were determined not to a let anything make their fashion and beauty standards slip. Not even a world war. As lack of interest in personal appearance could be seen as a sign of low moral. Something that could have detrimental impact of the war effect. This was such a concern the government made the decision to allow factories to continue producing make up but in low amounts to keep spirits high. Despite this cosmetics were in high demand and almost impossible to get hold of.
As I gazed around the exhibition space I was inspired by the level of commitment theses women had to looking presentable,perhaps doing there make up in the morning was one of the only things that hadn’t changed in there daily routine since the war began and it gave the women a sense of normality. Or maybe dressing your best was the way of showing the world that everything was okay and to carry on.
The 1940s woman had to become resourceful and creative with there beauty routines. Beetroot became a substitute for red lipstick,old tea bags and gravy power was just to give the impression of stockings,finished with boot polish line up the back of the leg to look like the seam line. Whether it was home made earnings,cloth bags made from old pillow cases ,underwear made from used silk maps, wedding dresses made from old net curtains. The women of this generation were empowered like no other and saw fashion and beauty as a duty! Although the 40s wasn’t an era of extravagance like the 20s or disability like the 60s. It was the era that fashion not only survived but thrived.