Make Do and Mend

It’s the worst recession since WWII but don’t despair, just repair!

1941 was probably not the happiest year for the average fashionista, not least because of the impending war. With the advent of rationing and clothing coupons, shopping went unceremoniously out of the window. The 66 clothing coupons allocated to each person only added up to one outfit a year. Imagine the horror!

Luckily, wartime women wPic courtesy of Zanastardustere an innovative bunch and the Make Do and Mend mentality was born. Fashion remained close to these ladies’ hearts and crafting caps were donned in order to stay en vogue while doing their bit for the war effort. Curtains became skirts and dresses, parachute silk made excellent underwear and even wedding attire and old woolly jumpers were unpicked and transformed into something wearable. Sexy seamed stockings, a luxury of the past, were magically created using kohl drawn down the lengths of their legs – bawdy even by today’s standards.

The recession-ravaged 21st century has seen a resurgence of this Make Do and Mend attitude, with increasing numbers of women wanting to acquire the skills needed to revamp their tatty threads into something beautiful and new. These skills – sewing, darning, knitting et al – were previously passed on from mother to daughter as a matter of course but somehow these lessons have skipped a generation.

All is not yet lost for thrifty thinkers and their crafting capabilities. Exhibitions, workshops and sewing schools are growing in numbers by the day, springing up in order to help you stay in the black while looking your best. Elizabeth Pennington, a tailor with over 20 years’ experience, runs the Just Sewing School and has seen her pupil numbers rise in recent months.

“I think it is to do with the recession,” she says. “But it’s also because a lot of people can’t get what they want on the high street. Making vintage clothes is also getting popular as a lot of patterns from the 40s and 50s have been released.”

Pennington’s sewing school offers a variety of different classes for a range of different abilities – she’ll even come to your house for some one-on-one sewing action to help you look fabulous while keeping your precious pennies in your piggy bank.

Exhibitions, workshops, sewing schools – more and more are springing up daily in order to help you stay in the black while looking your best.

1940s a-go-go!

If you want to Make Do and Mend but you’re not sure where to begin, get started with an exhibition and a workshop or two.

Waste Not, Want Not
One of the UK’s quirkier museums, Notting Hill’s Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising is home to Waste Not, Want Not until March 31st where you can go to learn a lesson in frugality from days gone by.

Liverpool’s Foundation for Art and Creative Technology is, as part of its Climate for Change exhibition, holding fashion workshops throughout May, offering instruction as to how to customise, create and rework your old wardrobe into something shiny and new.

Brighton Frocks
Head to the seaside in 2010, not for a donkey ride but a brand new dress instead. The Brighton Fashion Weekend is, in addition to the famed Theatrical Catwalk Show, holding free fashion workshops for all who wish to make and mend.

The real deal
The Imperial War Museum has thoughtfully reproduced the original 1943 Make Do and Mend booklet that helped countless people in harsher times. Get on top of the recession the wartime way.

Daily tips
If you don’t have time in abundance and can’t make it to any exhibitions, Miss Thrifty is on hand with a prudent Twitter or two to help you make it through these stressful times without breaking the bank.


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