It was not only food that was in short supply during the war years; many basic raw materials such as cloth, leather, wool etc. were in high demand for military use, consequently the Government intervened
In order to smooth the progress of the war effort, the British government took control of the import and production of raw materials and provided fabrics to clothing producers. Clothes makers were encouraged to manufacture clothing in a narrow range of styles. Utility garments were like military uniforms in that they were simple and standardized. They were labelled with a "CC41" insignia.
There are a number of interpretations, ie "Civilian Clothing 1941" or "Clothing Control 1941", or according to an article from an American newspaper from the 40’s, “Controlled Commodity 1941”.
Given that it applied to furniture, linen, sports goods and housewares; “Controlled Commodity” is more likely the correct term.
The CC41 design was created by Reginald Shipp; commonly referred to as 'the cheeses'.
In 1942 the Making of Civilian Clothing (restriction order) was passed by the British Government. This prohibited wasteful cutting of cloth, and set a list of restrictions that tailors and dressmakers had to work to. Dresses could have no more than two pockets and five buttons, six seams in the skirt of a woollen dress, two inverted or box pleats, or four knife pleats. No unnecessary decoration was allowed.
In an effort to boost morale, and make the clothing more appealing, the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers led by Captain Molyneux, Norman Hartnell, Digby Morton, Victor Stiebel, Angèle Delange, Peter Russell, Madame Bianca Mosca and Hardy Amies also created 34 smart Utility Clothing designs in 1942. They were officially approved by the Board of Trade and a selection was mass-produced.
The focus was on line and cut, and the collection was elegant and simple. This tailored and slim line silhouette, with pronounced shoulders and nipped in waists became the standard wartime look. Jackets were short and boxy, or long and lean.
Skirts were straight with a kick pleat or gently flared, and hemlines were 18 inches from the ground, just below the knee.
Surface interest was created by imaginative placement of pockets or buttons which sometimes featured the CC41 utility motif.
Some designs copied the military style with breast pockets or belts and small collars. Utility clothing also extended into children's wear, which also bore the same CC41 label.
Clothes rationing came into effect in Britain from 1 June 1941. It lasted, albeit in a gradually reduced format, until March 1949.
Black woollen Utility Atrima dress, costing 11 coupons.
As with food rationing, the main aim of the scheme was to ensure fair shares. But it was also intended to reduce consumer spending, to free up valuable factory space and release workers for vital war industries.
When buying new clothes, the shopper had to hand over coupons with a 'points' value as well as money. Each item of clothing had a points value, usually displayed alongside the price. The more fabric and labour that was needed to produce a garment, the more points required.
Many women used furnishing fabrics for dressmaking until these too went on the ration. Blackout material, which did not need points, was also sometimes used. Parachute silk was highly prized for underwear, nightclothes and wedding dresses.
The 'Make do and Mend' campaign suggested ways to repair and recycle old clothes, although cheaper clothes inevitably wore out quicker than more expensive better quality clothing. The 'Utility' scheme, launched in 1943,
Featured on the display stand are two dresses, the one on the right costing 60/-. Behind these is a rail of 'Berkertex Utility frocks', and to the right of the photograph, a rail of skirts. All these clothes were designed by Norman Hartnell.
A display of Utility clothes in a shop, somewhere in Britain.