It’s been 70 years since living with less was viewed as one’s patriotic duty. But then it was a different time: the Axis and Allies were duking it out across Europe and Asia, and rationing was mandatory even in world superpowers like America and Great Britain. Access to food, gas, rubber, textiles, and even shoes were restricted when resources became increasingly scarce and factories were diverted to the war effort. In the U.K., where clothes rationing was in effect from 1941 to 1949, each civilian received an annual allotment of 60 coupons, a number that later dropped to 48. (Children received an extra 10 to accommodate growth spurts.) You had to be judicious in your selections; a petticoat or slip “cost” three coupons, a woolen dress 11, and a men’s overcoat an extravagant 13. Even a pair of socks required at least one coupon. Coupons only granted you permission to purchase said items, of course; you still needed the financial wherewithal to afford them.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

World War II, clothes rationing, slow fashion, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, fashion artifacts

MAKE DO OR DO WITHOUT

Only a decade after the Great Depression, “make do and mend” became a mantra out of necessity. The political situation may be less dire today, but scarcity, coupled with unfettered consumption, continues to be a problem. Inhumane demands, lax workplace standards, and routine abuse are the result of too much expendable income and too little social or moral accountability to rein in our impulses. Shopping has become something we do out of habit, boredom, or because we get a buzz from acquisition.

The political situation may be less dire today, but scarcity, coupled with unfettered consumption, continues to be a problem.

Dressing and adornment are part of the human experience, sociologist and author Juliet B. Schor once wrote. More than a frivolity that embodies our physical appearance, clothing is also a measure of our basic values—our culture. What would you purchase with your 60 coupons today, knowing you could buy nothing else for the rest of the year? And clothes rationing, voluntary or government-mandated, yay or nay?