It is no secret that I love vintage fashions, particularly from the forties and early fifties, and I am also very interested in the history of this period. Those living in that time were certainly “The Greatest Generation”! Last weekend, I read an intriguing article in the British newspaper, The Telegraph. The title of the article was Fashion On The Ration. The article announces an upcoming exhibit at the Imperial War Museum . I immediately went to the museum’s website and learned that the exhibit…
…opens 5 March and runs until 31 August 2015. To mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in 1945, the Imperial War Museum London is launching this major new exhibition, exploring how fashion survived and even flourished during wartime.
“Clothes may be practical, but it is inexcusable for them to be dull” Vogue told the women readers of wartime Britain in April 1942. “A well-cut topcoat in raspberry red will keep you just as warm and twice as chipper as one of poor-house brown”. I love these Vogue quotes and can only image the response of the tough, yet glamorous women of that time in history.
During the Second World War British men and women (as well as American men and women!) had to find new ways to dress as austerity measures and the rationing of clothes took hold. The exhibit at the IWM brings together 300 exhibits including clothing, accessories, photographs and film, official documents and publications, artworks, wartime letters, interviews, and ephemera. The exhibit will provide visitors with a sense of what life was like on the home front for both men and women during wartime Britain.
One section of the exhibit that I find to be a wonderful concept is called
This section examines the lengths to which many women went to maintain their personal appearance and the pressure they felt to do so. A lipstick called “lips in uniform” is a great example of British humor.
I found it most interesting that the government allowed the production of cosmetics to continue throughout the war, and the media encouraged women to keep looking chic! No doubt that these same types of efforts were also of priority to American women during the war. By wearing these items, women both in America and in England were able to overtly demonstrate they were doing “their bit” for the war effort.
Other sections of the exhibit include…Into Uniform , Functional Fashion , Rationing and Make do and Mend, Utility Clothing , and Peace and a New Look. I found the Functional Fashion section interesting, as it speaks to how retailers were inspired to sell innovative and stylish products, such as gas-mask handbags, blackout buttons and siren suits! I really hope to be able to get to London before August to see this intriguing exhibit!
Fashion and war seems a strange combination, but fashion does survive and even flourishes during wartime. Women found creative ways to dress given their very limited circumstances. They became much more creative and did lots of recycling and renovating.
I would like to look further into this idea of creativity and what influence the wartime rationing had on fashion design after the war. So stay tuned for more on the impact of War on 1940’s and 1950’s fashion!
Images : Telegraph.co.uk and Imperial War Museum London and Google Images.