Make Do and Mend

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A "Make Do and Mend" flyer


In 1941, during World War II[1], clothes rationing was introduced in the United Kingdom and designers, along with ordinary men and women were forced to become more resourceful with their existing garments.

In 1943[2] the Ministry of Information[3] released a booklet aptly called 'Make Do and Mend'[4] which gave families tips on how to recycle their wardrobes. Certain fabrics were unavailable to manufacturers as they were set aside for the war effort. The garments that were produced were very simple and often showed a military flavor.[5]

In 1942 the British government introduced sumptuary laws under the Civilian Clothing Order that forbade manufacturers from embellishing clothing for sale, adding fancy trimmings, unnecessary buttons or more than was essential to function.[6]

In order to boost morale the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers, under the direction of Charles Creed designed the 'Utility Suit', which was officially approved by the Board of Trade for manufacture. It featured squared shoulders and a shorter skirt length.

A similar coupon system was setup in the United States in 1942.[7]

Common recommendations to 'make do and mend' included[8], recycling wedding dresses amongst friends and family, turning pillowcases in summer shorts. Skirts were often made from men's old trousers. Women would add collars or trims to existing items from scraps. During this time makeup was considered a frivolous item and women would often use their lipstick as both a lip product and rouge. Vaseline, cocoa powder and charcoal were also used as cosmetic substitutes.[9]

In Australia, under the National Council of Clothing Styles, women needed twelve coupons to purchase a dress and six for a hat. A man required 38 coupons for a suit and a further twelve for a shirt. There was an annual ration allowance of 112 coupons.[10]



  1. BBC
  2. BBC
  3. NLS
  4. Total Beauty
  5. Curtin University
  6. Fashion Era
  7. Fashion Era
  8. Queens of Vintage
  9. 100 Ideas that changed fashion, Harriet Worsley, p101.
  10. Curtin University
  11. V&M
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