Wartime Britain and Rationing

In wartime Britain clothing became rationed and materials such as elastic, rubber and silk were requisitioned for military purposes. The 1941 utility scheme provided economically produced good quality clothing. The strict code promoted the use of less fabric and minimal fastenings and trimmings.

The CC41 symbol

The British Government urged women to go through their wardrobe and make do and mend, while in the USA women were encouraged to support the war effort by spending as much as possible on their clothes. At Revival we have a selection of vintage UK and American forties dresses. Look for the CC41 symbol which stood for Controlled Commodity and 41 for the year it was introduced. We have stocked dresses and shoes with this symbol.

CC41 Symbol

CC41 Symbol

Utility to Dior

Attempts were made to brighten up the utilitarian look with frivolous little hats which were constructed from raffia, ribbon, curtain fabric, even paper. Old straw and felt hats were expertly remodelled and trimmed with feathers or homemade silk flowers. Brightly patterned silk headscarves bound round the head like a turban were very popular.
When the war ended in 1945 the shortages worsened if anything. In 1947 Christian Dior unveiled his New Look and provoked anger in Paris. He used yards of fabric and abundant ornamentation to accentuate a small nipped in waistline.

Utility continued in production until 1951 but after enduring all the restrictions of wartime everyone wanted the Dior look.

Mens 40s costumes and fashions during the wartime were relatively stationary and somewhat dull dominated as they were by military uniforms. However men still looked great in their suits and hats. For more on this subject click over to our blog mens 1940s style guide.

1940s Diors New Look

Diors New Look


  • Utility clothing - Make do and mend recycling clothing, minimal buttons and fastenings
  • Military - Square shoulders, straight knee length skirts
  • Dior's New Look - Full skirt, narrow waist, large picture hats.


Revival 1940s Dresses

Examples of Revival 1940s Dresses