as war broke out in 1939, the Government introduced food rationing.
This was because, by the late 1930s, as a result of decades of
under-investment in British agriculture, two thirds of Britainís
food was being imported from overseas. It quickly became apparent
that ships were going to be needed for transporting men, machinery
and arms, whilst German U-boats prowling the seas around the British
Isles and sinking what they could also meant that Britain would be
unable to feed itself. When rationing of food, to ensure
everyone had an equal share of what was available, proved an
invaluable tool in keeping the nation fed and believing that
"everyone was in it together for the greater good", rationing was
extended to cover other items such as clothes and furniture.
Introduced in June 1941, clothes rationing became an all important
part of the British war effort, and rationing books and the make do
& mend campaign dominated the 1940s. In response to the
shortage of fabric a range of utility clothing (known as Civilian
Clothing 1941 or "CC41") was introduced, which used the minimum
amount of cloth and was devoid of embroidery. Menís and boyís
jackets only had three buttons and two pockets and trousers had no
turn-ups. Womenís and girlís dresses had no pleats, elastic waist
bands or fancy belts. Utility shoes had a heel which was less than 2
To overcome the clothing ration people made their own clothes by
re-using material from old clothes, curtains, blankets and
furnishing fabrics which were sometimes available. Knitting was very
popular, and people were encouraged to knit gloves, socks and
scarves to send to the men in the armed forces. Old jumpers were
unravelled and re-knitted to create new garments, even shoes were
sometimes knitted. Resources were scarce and everything was reused
Today, in the 21st century, obtaining original wartime period clothing is not impossible, although
it is sometimes easier to find clothing which looks similar to 1940's.
Our re-enactors tend to scour charity shops and the internet, whilst
also visiting sellers who appear at many of the events we attend.
pages in this section will give you a brief guide about what to look