Fashion On A Ration: 1940s Street Style is a brand new exhibition which documents the style of 1940s Britain, charting the trends and revealing fascinating stories from what is often just thought of as a dark period of history. On Saturday I was invited to the Imperial War Museum North, home to the exhibition, to attend the Fashion On the Ration Weekender and take a peek at this exciting exhibition.
The exhibition, which commemorates the 75th anniversary of clothes rationing, reveals that far from being superfluous beauty and fashion was seen as a duty in war torn 1940s Britain. Bombs may have been dropping but women were still encouraged to keep up appearances and show Hitler that he couldn’t destroy the British spirit.
But of course with rationing in full swing ladies had to be resourceful and the phrase ‘make do and mend’ was born as women repurposed blankets to make colourful dresses and created fashion on a shoestring. To aid their people to look their best the Government even drafted in top couturiers of the time to design a range of affordable Utility Wear, which turned out to be a huge hit because it made high-quality fashion available to the masses.
The exhibition is packed full of wonderful period clothing, letters and original documents, painting a really great picture of how, despite being such a turbulent period in history, fashion flourished on Britain’s streets.
After touring the exhibition there were some special activities for the Fashion On The Ration Weekender including a T Shirt Turban making workshop with the Queen of vintage upcycling, Mary Jane Baxter, and a talk from Julie Summers who has written the books Fashion On The Ration and Jambusters, the inspiration for the ITV drama Homefires.
The final event of the Weekender was a scented tour through the 1940s with Lizzie Ostrom, aka Odette Toilette, who introduced us to the most popular fragrances of the era, many of which are still with us now like Yardley Lavender and 4711 Cologne.
If you are into vintage fashion, design, or social history this exhibition is especially worth a visit. You can also explore the rest of the fascinating museum while you are there and even nip over to The Lowry gallery or do some shopping in the outlet, making it a fabulous day out!
You can get involved with the exhibition yourself by digging out any wartime family photos and sharing them with the museum on Twitter with the hashtag #WhatMyFamilyWore. Some of these photos may then be featured on a screen in the exhibition!
The Fashion On the Ration exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North is open until 1st May 2017. To find out more and to purchase tickets visit the Imperial War Museum Website.