A BRIDESMAID’S dress made from parachute material, a bracelet made from aircraft components, and a bra and knickers set made from RAF silk maps for Countess Mountbatten.
These are just a few of the 300 items on show in a major new exhibition exploring how fashion survived and even flourished during the Second World War.
Fashion On The Ration at the Imperial War Museum looks at how people found new ways to dress as austerity measures and rationing of clothes took hold during the Second World War.
It shows the amazing adaptability and ingenuity people had in adopting more casual styles and by renovating, recycling and creating their own clothes – and how the “make do and mend” mantra was born.
The Lambeth Road museum has brought together clothing, accessories, photographs and film, official documents and publications, artworks, wartime letters, interviews and ephemera, some of which have never been on display before.
The exhibition has been divided into six sections and focuses on what people wore, their sense of identity and how they coped with the demands and deprivations of wartime restrictions and shortages.
Among them is Functional Fashion. This explores how the demands of wartime life changed the way people dressed at work and at home, inspiring retailers to sell innovative and stylish products, such as gas-mask handbags, blackout buttons and siren suits, all of which will be on display.
Rationing And Make do and Mend looks at why clothes rationing was introduced in 1941, how the scheme worked and how it changed people's shopping habits.
With limited options for buying new clothes, people were encouraged to be creative and make them last longer by mending, altering, knitting and creating new clothes out of old material.
Beauty As Duty examines the lengths to which many women went to maintain their personal appearance – and the pressure they felt to do so.
On display will be adverts promoting war themed make-up such as Tangee’s lipstick for ‘lips in uniform’. Cosmetics and clothing often had a patriotic edge to them as shown in a colourful display of scarves by Mayfair fashion house Jacqmar, with wartime slogans such as Switch That Light Off. By wearing these items women were able to overtly demonstrate they were doing their bit for the war effort.
Fashion On The Ration is on at the Imperial War Museum until August. Tickets cost £10 for adults and £5 for children aged 15 and under. Visit www.iwm.org.uk or call the box office on 020 7416.