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iloresses, Evelyn Dunbar, 1943, IWM

ilor and ATS Ta

An Army Ta parachute cord, Constance Howard records, in Twentieth Century Embroidery that "much imaginative work" was produced.

In the Imperial War Museum, Duxford is an outstanding piece of post-war work needlepoint, The Work of Women in Wartime, was designed by Sybil Blunt and worked by the members of the Women's Institutes of England and Wales. Starting in 1946 with demonstration classes so that participants could pass on the skills into their regions, it was worked from 1948 until 1952, when it was first exhibited at the Women's Institute Exhibition of Handicrafts at the V&A. Eighteen border illustrations plus three larger central panels show women at their wartime work. The work is breathtaking, perfect despite the large number of different hands that formed the 2,000,000 stitches. The colour and design has a fitting grandeur for its subject – a celebration of the part played by women during the Second World War. It expresses their fortitude, skill and dedication and the role sewing played by providing – in Eustace Wood's own words – “an escape from a sad and troubled world”. Suzy Griffith

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On September 11 1941 the Utility Apparel (Maximum Prices) Order came into force. Utility Clothing was introduced by the British government for several reasons. Raw materials – cloth, wool, leather –

were in short supply and had to be conserved. Manufacturers had to become more efficient as much of the skilled labour force had left to fight. Rising clothing prices needed to be kept down so that the civilian population could afford clothing of a reasonable quality.

The government took control of the import and manufacture of raw materials and supplied cloth to the clothing manufacturers.

They were encouraged to produce a limited range of garments in longer runs using 'utility' material. This increased efficiency but reduced choice, and initially there was a great deal of hostility from the general public. The style of garments was subject to 'austerity'

regulations. The amount of cloth, number of pockets and length of a man's shirt were all restricted and a ban on turn-ups for men's trousers caused heated debate.

Yet in October 1942 Vogue declared that “all women have the equal chance to buy beautifully designed clothes suitable to their lives and incomes. It is a revolutionary scheme and a heartening thought.

It is, in fact, an outstanding example of applied democracy.” Fashion designers such as Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell were on board creating coats, suits, formal and everyday dresses that were then mass produced. People were surprised to discover that the clothing varied in style and colour, and was generally hard wearing and of good quality. The utility concept was extended to include furniture and continued well past the war, finally being withdrawn in 1952.

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