Make Do and Mend-Then and Now

This thimble is commemorative of Clothes Rationing; a time hard to imagine by today’s standards. My mom found this thimble years ago while in Australia at the Imperial War Museum. In the early 1940’s, “Make Do and Mend” was a WW2 wartime slogan to encourage everyone to not waste anything. It was so extreme, clothing coupons were issued to each person each year showing the item and it’s value; the price fixed by law. The British government controlled not only what you wore, but how much you could wear.

If you had the money to buy clothing but you lacked the clothing coupon, you were forbidden to purchase more. As a result, an illegal black-market began to supply the desired items for a hefty price. All societal levels were now equal supporting the war effort. It is hard to imagine a ‘Rationing book’ but it existed to keep track of individual portions of certain foods doled out to people on a weekly basis. If you had been given your allotment, you had to wait until the following week to get more. Clothing and textiles were at such a minimum due to all resources being used for the war effort, pamphlets and sewing classes were available to encourage using old clothes or making new clothes out of old textiles.

Many women took on traditionally masculine jobs which demanded clothing that was durable and practical. Rosie the Riveter was considered the new chic and fashionable standard. The government controlled the look of fashion by dictating how to construct clothing by limiting the number of buttons, pockets, fullness or extra embellishments on each item. A great and personal account of this time is written by Lena of Queens of

Discovering various fashion and sewing blogs, I see current day efforts of a Make-Do-And-Mend campaign to Thrifty-To-Glam makeovers to no Ready-To-Wear (RTW) purchases for a whole year. One blog site I love is Goodbye Valentino where Sarah takes her designer garment to the sewing machine for a style change or alteration and commits to sewing all of her clothes for a year. Another great feat was accomplished by Erin of A Dress A Day on by ‘thrifting’ her way to a new wardrobe for just pennies.

Though we may not be forced into making do and mending our existing clothes, many have chosen to resist the temptation to buy new. In my opinion, it is a mindset and philosophy to reduce materialism or consumption in an effort to do one’s part to slow the fast-churning wheels of cheap clothing production and all that it may entail. Although I can’t be certain that my fabric purchases aren’t being manufactured/produced in the same flurried pace, it is my preference to make my clothes because I can. I still shop for jeans, grab a bargain here and there, maybe some inexpensive tees for working out, but the majority of my wardrobe is ‘me made’. Whatever your particular view on clothing and style, keeping up with trends (or not), it is good to look back at history and read about a time when the options were so limited and compare it to today. We can choose to participate in the fashion spectrum on many levels; from mending the few clothes we have, to buying designer originals, to sewing and fitting garment to our own unique tastes and preferences. This is just another reason why I’m a sewing evangelist.

Do you Make Do and Mend or go beyond?

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