15th March 1949. Make Do and Mend.

Look through your wardrobe: ‘Make Do and Mend’, WWII Ministry of Information Poster.


Clothes rationing ended today in 1949, when Harold Wilson was President of the Board of Trade.(1)


Ration Book.

Ration Book.








Shopkeeper cancelling a ration book.

However the Utility Scheme based on cloth quota continued (not to be replaced until March 1952 when the Kite Mark took over). Department stores had ‘celebratory sales’ the following morning.(2)

Back in June 1941, three businesswomen, a housewife and a buyer had decided women’s requirements when Oliver Lyttelton, President of the Board of Trade, announced that clothes rationing would be introduced the next day.(3)

Unlike food, clothes rationing used a Points System where each person had 66 coupons which could be used for any item of clothing. However a reporter in Petticoat Lane, London watched 400 articles of rationed clothes sold with not one coupon being exchanged in a Black Market.

On July 1st 1941 a new official list of coupons was issued for clothing and footwear by the Board of Trade included leggings, gaiters, spats, galoshes and one-piece ‘shelter suits‘ (‘onesies’).

By 1942 women were no longer required to wear hats in church. Sixty-six coupons bought a man an overcoat while eleven bought a woman’s dress. Maximum clothes prices stipulated that a suit must not cost more than £4 18s 8d, a week’s pay.

Embroidery was banned on women’s underwear and nightwear, whilst ‘bare legs for patriotism’ became the slogan. To simulate stockings, women painted liquid silk on their legs or even applied Bisto or Oxo, drawing a pencil line for a seam.

Hemlines went up as new utility cloth and style meant fashion was out, and menswear included no double-breasted suits, no sleeve buttons and no turn-ups. For weddings some were able to get discarded parachute material.

The watchword was ‘make do and mend,’ a practice encouraged by instructive leaflets from ‘Mrs. Sew-and-Sew’, a character full of handy hints from the Ministry of Information.

‘Plus-four trousers would make two pairs of shorts for a schoolboy; pyjama legs will make children’s vests’. People who through enemy action lose their clothes were allowed two years’ supply of coupons.

In 1943 the measures were said to have saved the country £600 million in imports, according to the Board of Trade. It was also revealed that the average family spent around £30 a year on clothes.

500,000 tons of shipping was saved and thousands of workers were released for war factories.

In February, a year later clothing restrictions were lifted and men could now have turn-ups and double breasted jackets; women could have pleats and more buttons.

The lifting of the ban follows a decision to make unrestricted ‘demob’ suits. Unsold austerity suits were distributed to European refugees.

Utilitarian fashion for women.

Utilitarian fashion for women. Laura Knight.

(1) He made the announcement on Monday March 14th.

Tories reminded the House of Commons that voting on the Sowerby by-election was on Wednesday.

Wilson said there would be no sudden plenty and prices would remain high.

(2) March 14th 1952.

(3) June 1st 1941.

Ref: iwm.how-rationing-affected-fashion/Laura Knight.

Ref: merrynallingham.com/Pic Image. Ration Book.

Ref: wikipedia.org/end_of_clothing_rationing/Pic Image of shopkeeper.

Ref: amazon.com/reproductions of war posters. Make do and mend.




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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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