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Can we Make do and Mend?

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

For many of us, the start of a new year is a time to make resolutions and plans for the future. I recently read an article about the "make-up and repair" ethos and skills and techniques that women in the UK used during World War II to cope with the privations they faced, and I was subsequently struck by a similar sentiment.

The enthusiasm and ingenuity of the British in 1916, when hopes of a short war were fading, inspired this "make do and mend" philosophy. Their revival in today's society is based on a conflict that lasted from 1914 to 1918 or the Great War.

The enthusiasm and ingenuity of the British in 1916, when hopes of a short war were fading, inspired this "make do and mend" philosophy. Their revival in today's society is based on a conflict that lasted from 1914 to 1918 or the Great War.

" The importance of adapting this ideology of "making love and repairing"


Many factories were busy with war production at that time, and there was scarcity for most things. The importance of adapting this ideology of "making love and repairing" is clear in the letters people sent to the newspapers of the First World War. These leaflets offered housewives tips and ideas for reusing materials they already owned.

Dress rations were also introduced in Britain to help the situation, and Vogue offered vouchers to cut evening dresses into chic black - silk day dresses - which didn't help much if you didn't have a black silk dinner - but it did apply to anyone who received coupons for the ration. Do-it-yourself home fashion was encouraged, so buying new fashion was limited by coupons that encouraged people, especially women, to take their own clothes and find creative ways to make them.

You may have heard the phrase "make do and mend," but most of you probably know it comes from wartime Britain. For a time in the early 1940s, fashion designers in London and Paris rushed to develop clever clothes for women during the war. Some of these designers, including Hardy Amies, stepped in, and tailor Turnbull Asser made a flawless one-piece siren suit, copied by other designers, such as the designer of the much-copied "one-piece siren" suit in Paris, Jean-Paul Gaultier. At the end of World War II, some of them took part in a similar fashion competition, the "Make Do and Reparding" competition.

By contrast, people in war-torn Britain faced a shortage of clothing caused by the need to maintain the military's supply. Used clothing was made from war material, which required the nation's resources, factories, space and fabric. In other words, women and men could dress as best they could to find a home where they needed a sophisticated work wardrobe. People had had enough of rationing clothes, so the war ended, but unfortunately rationing of clothing continued until 1949. Austerity had weighed heavily on people, especially in the aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II.

The need to adapt an ideology of make-up - do - and - repair is evident in the letters people sent to the newspapers during the First World War.

The British government, for example, gave individuals a book full of vouchers to use for cloth clothing. Posters, leaflets and speeches proclaimed growing old, sewing and knitting as a patriotic duty.

But the standard edition soon became useless, and over the years of rationing we were lucky to buy a voucher to buy a coat or even a new outfit. The British government introduced a clothing rationing scheme to distribute the limited stock as fairly as possible, limiting the number of garments people could buy and ensuring that they were distributed. It was similar to food rationing, except that butchers were registered and could only be used for certain types of food such as meat, eggs, milk and dairy products.

After the end of the war, the production of utility clothing continued until March 1952 and strongly influenced the development of fashion. Shoes and boots became hard to come by and austerity measures were introduced for clothing to limit the use of fabrics such as cotton, wool, cotton wool and woollen fabrics. New advertisements encouraged the re-use of these substances, proclaimed "Make do, wear it, make it do" and created new austerity policies aimed at reducing their use by banning the purchase of new substances for use in clothing, shoes, boots and other items. There was a time of make-up fashion in the 1950s and 1960s when budget cuts hampered women's style.

The "make do and mend" campaign, supported by posters and advertising, called on people to repair and replace their clothes, thus creating generations of skilled repair shops.

The workers and volunteers were able to put this mantra into practice, help with rationing, organize clothing fairs, give sewing lectures, and organize savings contests. Volunteers held an exhibition on "thrift" in Worcester in February 1943, where members ran a make-up and repair stall in the city centre. The "Do and Mend" stand hosted competitions and awards for the public to participate and was shown on informational films produced by the Ministry of Information.

This usually consisted of redesigning old clothes into new ones and maintaining the fabric. These included how moths can attack clothing, stuffing techniques for socks and knitwear, reinforcing the areas of clothing that have suffered the most wear and tear, and making children's clothing from adult clothing. The Women's Voluntary Service Women Institute also held "Make Do and Mend" evening classes, in which women learned not only to renew and repair old clothes, but also to use other garments, blankets, and old curtains to make new clothes. This usually included sewing, knitting, crocheting, embroidery and other sewing skills, as well as a variety of other skills.

The government regularly issued recommendations on bracing, including "how to sew and patch a woman" and "how to sew." The government regularly issues "reinforcement proposals," which also included "how to damn and patch women."

In the autumn of 1943, WVS centres across the country took part in a "Make Do and Mend" competition, where the entries were judged on their usefulness, inventiveness and originality. The issue of rationing, introduced in 1941, was a symptom of the unfolding inequality in the United States and Europe during World War II. In order to meet the needs of citizens in both the US and Europe, to control the distribution of scarce goods and to allow factories to concentrate on the war effort, each country introduced its own rationing system, with varying degrees of success and failure as the war progressed.

If you don't know how to sew, take a short course that teaches you the basics, or if you do, teach yourself how to sew with YouTube videos. The Japanese perfected the repair techniques for beautiful boro (patchwork clothing) sewn in the late 19th century using the Sashiko technique.

We do not have vouchers or rationing today that force us to do something, so doing something and repairing it may seem like an old-fashioned concept, but this way of thinking could be very beneficial in modern times and better for the environment. The main motivation should be to halt fast fashion ideologies: it is much cheaper to buy new clothing on the high street than to repair the fabric of a garment most of the time. But sewing skills are beneficial if you choose to develop them, you can save your money and save clothing going into landfill by simple repair techniques.


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