Black rayon dress with black rayon bodice and skirt, sleeves and collar of black and white checked rayon. Bodice features shoulder pads and loose, waistcoat-style front attached at shoulder seams only, with small bow decoration and 5 self-covered buttons centre front, ties at waist to fasten in bow at centre back; short sleeves trimmed with narrow cuff of black rayon at lower edge; skirt in four flared sections.
Wars have inevitably required considerable sacrifices from the civilian populations as well as the armed forces. War has always had an influence on fashions of the period, particularly in the case of conflicts as extreme and protracted as the two World Wars during the first half of the Twentieth century. The Second World War was particularly dramatic in the demands it made on the British economy and clothing production was therefore restricted by the Utility scheme, a governmental directive intended to conserve fabric for the war effort. All clothing was controlled by the scheme, to avoid excessive use of material or trimming, and to ensure that garments were hard-wearing and practical. Approved clothes usually included the distinctive CC41 label, standing for "Civilian Clothing" and the date of the initiation of the project, 1941 (see stockings below). 1940s clothes were also influenced by the style of uniforms, so that men's and women's garments usually incorporated the charactistic shoulder-pads, double-breasted boxy styling, and robust woollen fabrics. Hemlines for women were knee-length, and shoes and hats were neat and hard-wearing. Wedding outfits tended to be coloured and practical suits, such as the lilac crepe dress and coat shown here. Other fabrics were printed with jingo-istic propaganda slogans to encourage the civilian population to further effort and commitment. The detail of the scarf pictured below has faintly disturbing images of shells and guns, and the logo "combined operations". By the end of the decade, dresses had been influenced by Doir's "New Look" so that they had fuller skirts, nipped in waists and no shoulder pads (as seen in the 1949 printed cotton dress and detail).
Circumference (hem): 297.5cm
Place of creation
© Manchester Art Gallery