I knew about rationing during WWII – gas, sugar, butter, meat, rubber, but I didn’t realize that there were actual laws passed about fashion that in effect not only rationed clothes, but mandated style!
The impact on the garment industry was so huge that VOGUE magazine even did a feature article on it in 1942.
Here’s some stuff I learned that appealed to the dry cleaner in me that I think you’ll also find interesting:
1- In 1942 the War Production Board passed Regulation L-85:
– rationing all natural fibers,
– dictating the amount of yardage that could be used in a garment and
– even placing restrictions on drastic changes in fashion styles!
This last item was an effort to remove temptation from the path of fashionistas, who might be tempted to buy what they didn’t need just to be stylish! In fact, the Board deemed it the patriotic duty of every designer to produce fashions that would remain stylish through multiple seasons.
2- Pant cuffs were banned in order to conserve fabrics.
3-There were restrictions on the length of skirts and on the fullness of pants and jackets.
4- These restrictions are what prompted designers to introduce separates, which afforded people the luxury of having more outfits with fewer clothes. It was the birth of casual wear; an outgrowth of Yankee ingenuity.
5- Color choices were limited, nylon stocking production was halted (in favor of parachutes), rayon production was geared up (it was used in stockings – see image below) and rubber was no longer available for use in women’s foundation garments (frankly, I think this was probably a blessing in disguise for women across the nation!).