Fashion on the Ration at IWM North

LAST week, lecturers at Manchester Metropolitan University shared their knowledge of 1940s fashion at IWM North’s new exhibition Fashion on the Ration: 1940’s Street Style.

IMG_2565As part of a private view of the exhibition, lecturers Zoë Hitchen, Elizabeth Cardwell, Tina Ball, John Earnshaw, Julie Williams and Georgina Housley from the Department of Apparel at Hollings held interactive workshops.

The faculty has a rich history and the Hollings name is synonymous with creativity, innovation and function – all themes that tie in with the exhibition. With the 75th anniversary of the announcement of clothes rationing in Britain, the exhibition will explore how fashion survived and even flourished under the strict rules of rationing.

The workshops explored traditional wartime looks and techniques as well as their contemporary counterparts. Guests were invited to learn darning techniques, traditional 1940s lingerie pattern cutting and look at pieces made from today’s seam-free technology.

The headscarf – an iconic accessory

Donned in sparkly dungarees, lecturer Elizabeth Cardwell spent the evening styling the guests in headscarves made from recycled materials and end of line fabrics donated by Liberty London. She said: “Wartime fashion was innovative and sparked imaginations. People used their initiative, their eye for colour or fabric, to create looks that are still inspirational today.

“The headscarf has particularly come into it’s own as an iconic accessory since the war. It was spawned from necessity and function, worn by munitions workers and land girls and these women turned it into a fashion statement.”

Guests taking part in the headscarf styling were filmed tying their scarves in front of a specially designed two-way mirror to create a fashion film. Zoë Hitchen said: “Guests were seated on one side of the mirror and recorded from the other side. We also encouraged guests to share their own contemporary headscarf selfies using the hashtag  #FashionontheRation. It was important for the project to have contemporary relevance – Thanks to the Digital Innovation staff and technical faculties at Innospace we are able to create such work.”

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Make do and mend

Wartime uniforms and utility became commonplace on the streets of 1940s Britain and clothes were rationed for the first time.  Make do and mend, customising and general creativity still allowed men and women across the country to assert their individuality and IMG_0009personal style.

The silk from parachutes became a particularly desired material during the war. As inspiration for her piece on display at IWM North, final year Fashion, Design and Technology student Megan Johnson created a dress made from an old parachute.

Megan said: “My dress isn’t made from a 1940s parachute as they are incredibly difficult to get a hold of. The parachute I used was much more modern but I used traditional draping techniques, similar to the dresses displayed in the exhibition.”

This weekend, Dr Alison Slater, Lecturer in Design History at the Manchester School of Art, will be delivering a guest talk and tour on Sunday 5 June at the Fashion on the Ration weekender at the Imperial War Museum North. Read 1940s fashion: Talk & tour by Dr Alison Slater for more details.

For more information on IWM North’s Fashion on the Ration: 1940’s Street Style exhibition, running until May next year, visit the museum website.