War and Dress
During World War II rationing was a serious issue, and fashions evolved around this concept. Patriotism and austerity were two of the most important aspects of dress. Restrictions were considered supportive of the war effort, and one could use clothing to show devoted patriotism. The CC41 regulation in Britain restricted the quantity and quality of materials and fabrics, while the L-85 and L-217 restricted clothing and accessories in America.
In Britain most styles of dress were mandatory with the introduction of the utility prototype, which followed strict government rules regarding the Controlled Commodity 1941 or CC41 issue. The CC41 limited the types and amounts of fabrics and trimmings used to create dress and included a rationing system based on points. In 1941 one person was given 66 points for clothing per year; however by 1945 each person was given only 24 points, which really wasn't much considering a wool coat was equivalent to 18 coupons, shoes 7 coupons, dresses 11 coupons, and so forth. Therefore, the "Make Do and Mend" campaign took place, which supported recycling fashions.
The L-85 order in the United States did exempt wedding gowns, maternity clothes, infant wear, and religious vestments. However all other clothing followed the rule, which included the use of one and three-fourths yards of fabric per dress resulting in shortened hemlines and jacket lengths that created a slim and narrow silhouette. Other restrictions included the ‘no fabric on fabric rule' forbidding double yokes, pared cuffs, hoods, and any extra yardage. The L-85 was put in place to ensure that the bulk of labor efforts, and textile resources were directed toward the war effort.
The fashion restrictions in Britain were much more stringent than in the United States. Constraining the use of important materials such as wool, cotton, and leather for the troops was essential; therefore, leaving the rest of the nation to be more "efficient" with their purchases. Creating this economically savvy style of dress, which included short skirts, squared shoulders, and flat sensible shoes certainly displayed patriotism. In fact, civilian garments followed a strict sample style of military influence, creating a sense of uniformity amongst people affected by the war. These types of limitations ended in the United States in 1946; however, in Britain utility styles continued until 1948.
Exhibit Research and Installation by:
Rhonda Jaber and Bryana Prout
Fashion Retail and Merchandising 2012
The Joan Weiler Arnow '49 Professor
Curator of the Lasell Fashion Collection