IWM: “Fashion on the Ration” is far from drab

Fashion on the Ration Title

I’m sure if you live in and around the London area you’ve been hearing about the Fashion on the Ration exhibit over at the Imperial War Museum! Last week I got the chance to visit it myself by tagging along to work with the hubby and taking a slightly faster train into the city (still £29.00 or the journey, but I digress). “You’re here for the ‘Fashion on the Ration’ exhibition, aren’t you?” asked the man checking my bag at the door. Clearly my clothing speaks volumes of my interests. Unfortunately the exhibit did not allow any photography, meaning all photos in this post come from other parts of the, equally brilliant, museum.

As you can probably tell by the above I was quite impressed with what the IWM had to offer. Other reviewers on the world wide web have called it too small and lazy, but I would call it small, yet perfectly formed. Yes, of course this is all information you can get online, but is that why you go to a museum? I may be able to see CC41 clothing in countless photos, but is that really the same as being in touching distance? A zoom feature can only do so much!

Fashion on the Ration 1

The exhibit showed rationed fashion under the premise of how even during hard, dialled back times people are creative with their look. The first section showed different uniforms in their gleaming glory ranging from the Women’s Royal Naval Service to the Auxiliary Territorial Service. As I hope to make one of the these at university next year this was especially interesting to me. Hopefully I’ll be able to find one to look at up close before embarking on this project. I have heard some museums allowing access to archives for costume and history students.

As part of the make do and mend section there was a very lovely suit with a novelty knitting print that definitely made my heart beat a little faster. I went straight to good old google but couldn’t find anything that didn’t look overly cute-sy. Alongside this was a bra and panty set made from a silk map- innovative and striking. “Needle and thread are things inspired,” called out a video installation of a make do and mend government issues propaganda film. Very sweet and effective as I myself thought about whether I could call my father and use some of his shirts to make myself a blouse!

Fashion on the Ration 2

CC41 was explained and shown in detail on a range of both men’s and women’s clothing ranging from shoes, suits to…you guessed it..unmentionables! I’m sure there were worries about clothing austerity regulations ruining individuality, but there was a great sense of variety and quality in these garments. At this point one lady walking alongside me said that the dress I was wearing could have probably been in the exhibition itself. She wasn’t wrong!

In closing contemporary fashion experts and historians talking about the difference between rationed fashion and our modern approach to clothing. A lot of them talked about fast fashion and how we could learn a lot from our ancestors, which is undoubtedly true, however I recently read this very interesting article on how we can’t look towards the past to fix the current fashion economy. Definitely worth a read!

Fashion on the Ration 3

The exhibition is still on 31st of August and I would whole heartedly recommend you attend if you can. Whilst the accompanying book by Julie Summers (of which I grabbed a signed copy) is great, it doesn’t include a lot of photographs meaning you may miss out on some beautiful garments!

Are you planning on seeing it over the next couple of days? What did you think of it if you have already? And how would you have coped with rationed clothing? I like to think I would have been okay but I do like being able to buy a variety of fabrics! Have a peek at my Instagram if you want to see some of my sewing related spoils from the London trip.

Gruß und Kuss,

Fräulein Nina

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