1st June 1941. Dearth.
Welcome to June, the first day of summer according to the weather men.
Today Whit-Sunday in 1941 it was announced that a strict coupon-‘points’- system for clothes would begin next day with the aim of cutting consumer spending and freeing resources for the war effort.
The clothes rationing however would not have had much affect on those five-million serving in the forces who would be clothed for free!
One quarter of the British population at the time was wearing a uniform of some description as apart from the forces, there were police and fire services, civil defence, ARP, women’s auxiliary services and voluntary organizations, such as the WVS, not forgetting the Home Guard.(1)
However clothes rationing though inconvenient for the general public, was just another aspect of wartime, bearing in mind it came at a time when the last of 20,000 troops were being evacuated from Crete as the Axis forces moved in.(2)
Importation of all materials had become increasingly difficult through enemy action, and now the Points System at least allowed one new outfit a year: initially.
As the war progressed the allocation of Points was reduced so that the purchase of a coat constituted almost an entire year’s clothing allowance.
Style and fashion was affected by the use of less fabric and fewer colours as chemicals dyes were diverted to explosives. Silk, nylon, elastic and metal for buttons and clasps were scarce.(3)
The picture on the right of an obviously ‘superior’ couple shows the lady’s ‘top’ modelled on a soldier’s battle dress, but where did she get the nylons?(4)
The man’s ‘turn-ups’ would soon disappear and why isn’t he in uniform?
However in reality and for practical considerations of comfort and and warmth and with women ‘doing their bit’ for the war effort, many wore slacks, head scarves and turbans, with zipped, siren-suit ideal for quick dashes to air-raid shelters.
To save on millinery women were allowed to go hatless to church! So the lady’s hat above would have to go. Also she would be reduced to pencilling lines on the back of her leg to suggest she was wearing stockings.
The man no doubt would soon be propping up a bar in the officers’ mess.
(1) ARP: air raid precautions. WVS: Women’s, later royal) Voluntary Service.
(2) Axis forces were Germany and Italy.
(3) Private Walker in Dad’s Army had a supply of knicker elastic for a price.
(4) Nylons were one of the precious items brought over by the Americans, for a price!
Ref: historic-uk.com/culture/uk/fashion/Pic Image/1938 and 1941.
Ref: iwm.org.uk/history/how-rationing-affected-fashion. Ed. Laura Clouting/Pic Image of siren-suit.