The Imperial War Museum: Fashion On The Ration
Sunday was a dreary day. The weather was atrocious with torrential rain that hardly let up all day. I was supposed to be clearing out cupboards in readiness for the boiler man coming but I decided that despite the weather I needed to get out of the house. I grabbed an umbrella and caught the bus to Elephant and Castle.
For years and years I boycotted the Imperial War Museum on the basis that I didn't like imperialism, I didn't like wars and I wasn't too keen on the military. This was very foolish of me as the IWM is an excellent museum full of exhibits that I am very interested in indeed. In my defence I suspect that most people from my background growing up in Northern Ireland when I did had a little bit of a problem with the British Army. I also suspect that the museum has improved over the years and is much less gung-ho than it once was. In any event I always find it tremendously interesting when I go there.
I hadn't been for a couple of years and some improvements have been carried out. There is now a tea room which is rather nice. I think it may be a Peyton and Byrne.
I wanted to see the Fashion On The Ration exhibition before it closes at the end of this month.
It was a small exhibition and much of what it covered was familiar to me through the stories that my mother told about that period. What I did find interesting was the section on uniforms. I was struck by how a lot of them could actually be worn today and not look particularly out of place or at least not out of place in Shoreditch. The shoes in particular are very similar to the kind of flat lace-ups that have been ubiquitous for the last few years. I suspect that Margaret Howell must have got a lot of her inspiration from the war time period.
The section on rationing and make do mend was also interesting. My mother was a young teenager when the war started but was soon working in a mill. They contributed to the war effort by making cloth for uniforms and parachute "silk" which was in fact a mix of nylon and rayon. It was much sought after for making fancy clothes and occasionally could be bought in the factory shop. I remember my mother telling me how exciting it was when it was on sale. Rather pleasingly this was covered in the exhibition. I did feel a bit sad as I would have liked to have told my mum about it.
Following the exhibition I went for a quick look at the war paintings including a couple by Ravilious and then I went into the Holocaust exhibition which was a bit of a mistake. I was in the mood for plucky young ladies drawing stocking seams on their legs and using beetroot juice for lipstick not unrelenting horror.
It made me think about the randomness of it all. My parents growing up in northern Ireland enjoyed a great deal about the war. I don't know how much fun my aunts had who ended up working in munitions factories in England or the cousins who were bombed out of their homes in the Belfast blitz but compared to many people they all had a good war.
A rather sobering end to my day out.
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