Clothing rationing and 'Make do and Mend' during the Second World War

Elen Phillips

Following food rationing in 1940, clothes rationing came into force in June 1941. The main reason was to reduce the need for raw materials and to redirect labour to war work. By 1941, it had become impossible to import goods from the continent. The factories that once produced textiles and clothing were also by then trying to cope with the new demand for military uniforms.

Everyone was given a clothing ration book with a quota of tokens to spend every year, with each type of garment having a points value. At the beginning of the scheme, every adult was given 66 points to spend, but as the war went on the quota had to be reduced.

Make do and Mend

In the face of these shortages the Board of Trade published a small booklet called Make do and Mend to encourage women to be creative and inventive with their clothes. As part of this campaign a character called 'Mrs Sew and Sew' was used to promote the message in newspapers and magazines. Sewing classes were set up in village halls and schools across Wales to help women with all aspects of home life.

There are several examples of make do and mend in the collection at St Fagans National Museum of History. One of my favourites is a cushion cover seen here, made from reusing an old sack and coloured threads.

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