One of the most popular era’s for clothing and styling with our customers is the 1940’s. In particular, it is the design and quality of clothes that came about as a result of the ‘make do and mend’, or as Vogue preferred to describe it “you must skimp to be chic” war years period that produced a range of styles and designs that still generates a passion amongst vintage collectors and fashion designers of today.
Driven by the wartime economy, and government rationing, the new female silhouette produced a slim shape created by an economy of cut, nipped in waist and narrow skirts. Vogue described the look in 1942 as “sharp cold and even bold”. Jackets were single breasted, short, often unlined to save on material, and without cuffs or patch pockets to comply with the “no fabric on fabric” guidance. Even the number of buttons were restricted to three or less. Skirts had a no nonsense look often with a front and back pleat to again minimise the amount of fabric required.
Driven by the wartime economy, and government rationing, the new female silhouette produced a slim shape created by an economy
Due to the lack of materials and new fabrics to make fashion garments, magazines promoted the recycling of garments or reworking of other fabric items to create clothing. Noted examples are a pillow case made into summer shorts or wedding dresses from parachute fabric or bleached blackout material.
Although these were austere years and materials were in short supply the tailoring and double stitching during this period was magnificent because, as you might expect, the public demanded that any clothing that was produced had to be not only fit for purpose, but made to last for several seasons.
The Government wanted to ensure a fair distribution of what limited new clothing that was being produced and so it introduced the CC41 label in 1941. The label was designed by Reginald Shipp and looks like two round cheeses with a small wedge taken out of each. The two Cs standing for Clothing Control. It was the clothing version of rationing that had been introduced for food and could only be purchased with coupons and additional money.
There was an initial annual allowance of 66 coupons which reduced to 36 coupons per person in 1945. A short jacket or wool dress would cost seven coupons. Clothing which was worthy of the CC41 label had to be both well made and conform to the government strict guidelines which even regulated the length of skirt and the total yardage of material allowed for a garment.
In Britain, the Board of Trade worked with a number of leading designers to produce the kind of fashions that fitted the framework of the CC41 label. The group included famous designers such as Norman Hartnell, Edward Molyneux, Bianca Mosca and Hardy Amies who famously once said “The urge to make love is perhaps the biggest incentive to dress well”.
This group of designers designed a range of 34 Utility designs all bearing the CC 41 label. The collection contained four basic items ; a coat, suit, afternoon dress and suit dress for the office. These items were sold in stores such as Marks and Spencer and although required a substantial number of precious coupons were still cheaper than any clothing which did not bear the CC41 label. The Government continued issuing ration books until 1949 and the ultimate demise of rationing did not take place until 1952.
Vintage to Vogue has stocked a great variety of CC41 clothing including men’s collarless shirts, pin stripe de mob suits, woollen underwear, ladies jackets, suits, skirts, and an apron. Currently in the shop are these wonderful men’s leather gloves retailed by Marks and Spencer plus a pin stripe suit, so why not pop in and have a look at this iconic war time label.