Fashion On The Ration

May 12, 2015

Fighting the war against sartorial limitations at the Imperial War Museum, London.

On this occasion the 'fashion vs. fashion victim' score is Gianvito Rossi 1-0 Jasiminne -- five inches of leopard print wedges made for a precarious crawl of the museum and its gardens, although my adversity pales by comparison to those of the fashionable women of post-war Britain as they struggled to stay stylish during rationing. Forget the hackneyed adage 'Keep Calm And Carry On', it's the 'Make Do And Mend' attitude of the 1940s that is a true exhibition of the admirable craftiness and creativity of a nation in want. Jumpers spun from dog hair, wedding gowns made from parachute silk, jewellery crafted from airplane parts, and garments created from off-ration blackout fabric -- although extravagance was seen as dangerous and unpatriotic at the time, letting standards slip simply would not do. Appearances had to be kept up, even if it meant drawing a line down the back of your leg with eyeliner to give the illusion of seamed stockings (a precious and rare commodity).

What did I learn from 'Fashion On The Ration: 1940s Street Style' at the Imperial War Museum? That a lady and her looks are not to be easily parted. A sentiment my blisters share as my new shoes broke me in from Lambeth to Shoreditch.

Can you believe this photo was taken on an iPhone? I didn't even have to use a filter, or even try. More proof that our enslavement at the wily, wiry claws of the machines is inevitable...

Please ignore my chipped nail polish (Henry: "Is that gangrene?!" Me: "No, it's Black Satin by CHANEL...") and general grubbiness of my cloven hooves. A pedicure has been booked, I swear.

No photos of the actual exhibit because I stupidly asked about the photography policy before entering (should've done what everyone else does ie. keep mouth shut and play dumb when caught snapping away) but you can see for yourself - Fashion On The Ration: 1940s Street Style is on till 31st August (Malaysia's Independence Day, yay!) at The Imperial War Museum. Find them at Lambeth Road, London SE1 6HZ. £10 entry, free for members like yours truly (this is mine and Henry's first joint museum membership. Should we just get married already? But I don't trust myself to not get fat)

I'm wearing:
Aquascutum trench coat (similar) // Chanel Boy handbag // camo trousers // Gianvito Rossi wedges (similar here and here)

The austerity of post-war Britain, the challenge to remain fashionable in the face of rationing, and the need for clothing to be made to last has inspired me to confront my wardrobe; think about what is truly necessary, do away with everything that isn't practical or sentimental, then make the most of the little I have left. I'm on a bit of a wardrobe overhaul and am looking forward to showing you what changes I've made, both in the way of spring-cleaning and also myc hoices of what to add to what I hope is a well-curated selection of clothing that will last for many decades to come. More on that, tomorrow! x

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  1. This reminds me of my late grandma who always looks put together in her handmade dress or kebaya, even during hard times when clothing were not a priority. She always wear makeup and style her hair. It's just something ingrained in her to look her best when she step out of the house. It's amazing that women in the time of war and rationing managed to look that groomed while now many of us (myself included) looks like we just roll out of bed when clothing are plenty and affordable :D


  2. Looks like a great day to me! I really want to see this exhibition, definitely going to make an effort over summer to pop down.

    Lauren xx | The Lifestyle Diaries

  3. Lauren, you should! Get the Imperial War Rooms membership too and make the most of it - Henry and I are going to Churchill War Rooms, HMS Belfast, and Duxford before this month is over! x

  4. YES I AGREE! I really admire the pride in appearance our parents' and their parents' generation. You'd think we'd surpass them in style, given all the advantages we have, but no - it seems that it's made us lazy. x

  5. Oooooh that sounds like a great idea! xx

  6. Those camo trousers with the wedges are just PERFECT.

  7. Ooh I literally live 5 mins away from here and haven't seen the exhibition yet, although I did visit the gardens bit... Let us know Churchill War Rooms will be like, I've always wanted to go! Also HMS Belfast is actually surprisingly fun too so :D

    Cherie x

  8. I cant believe these are iphone pics! I'm still on the iPhone 4 so they must've seriously upgraded their cameras lol

  9. I've heard such great things about this exhibition, it really does bring home how lucky we are now. Impressed with your iPhone pic of the exterior!

    Suze | LuxuryColumnist

  10. Thank you Suze! I'm amazed too - never knew an iPhone could produce such a photo! x

  11. It's just the one photo that was taken on the iPhone 6, the rest are from my Canon 600D! x

  12. Oh what's HMS Belfast like? x

  13. They have separate sections of the ship to explore (also I think best to wear super comfy shoes because there's lots of climbing!! LOTS) - and basically a reenactment of how life on the seas was like, different setups and models around the rooms, boilers, engines.... I didn't think I'd like it (I thought I wouldn't be able to understand!) but I really enjoyed myself! Plus it has a great view overlooking Towe Bridge :D x

  14. I love discovering new blogs to read, firstly those shoes are incredible

    and going against those pants!

    Also hello from Malaysia, looking forward to the spring clean.



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  16. LOVE the shoes! The trench coat is beautiful too :)