Fashion on the Ration at IWM North

25 May 2016

LECTURERS at Manchester Metropolitan University are involved in an exciting new exhibition at the Imperial War Museum North.

Staff from Manchester School of Art and the Department of Apparel at Hollings will be contributing to IWM North’s Fashion on the Ration: 1940’s Street Style, opening on 27 May 2016 and running until May next year.

With the 75th anniversary of the announcement of clothes rationing in Britain, the exhibition will explore how fashion survived and even flourished under the strict rules of rationing and how despite the restrictions, austerity did not put an end to creative design or fashionable trends on the British home front. Wartime uniforms and utility became commonplace on the streets of 1940s Britain and clothes were rationed for the first time. Make do and mend, customising and general creativity still allowed men and women across the country to assert their individuality and personal style.

Amanda Mason, IWM Curator of the exhibition said: “Exploring the clothes that people wore throughout the 1940s gives us a whole new understanding and insight into life in Britain during and immediately after the Second World War. The exhibition also makes us think about the way we dress today and how British style is still influenced by wartime and the changes it brought to the fashion industry.”

Manchester School of Art

Dr Alison Slater, Lecturer in Design History at the Manchester School of Art, will be delivering a guest talk and tour at the Fashion on the Ration weekender where the Museum will host a weekend of exciting and exclusive talks, events, tours and activities on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 June.

  • Guest Tour: Dr Alison Slater on Fashion on the Ration, North West Experiences
    Available to Fashion on the Ration exhibition ticket holders. Exhibition tickets are available here.
  • Meet the Researcher: Dr Alison Slater on wartime dress in Lancashire
    Free talk, places are limited (ideal for ages 14+)

Alison said: “I’ve really enjoyed working with the Imperial War Museum and the IWM North. I was interviewed for the film that forms part of the Fashion on the Ration exhibition to share findings from my research, which gives a regional perspective of wartime dress and considers experiences from working-class women.

“My guest tour at IWM North in June will look at selected items in the Fashion on the Ration exhibition and consider how oral histories from northern working-class women map onto these exhibits. My ‘Meet the Researcher’ talk will explore some of the personal stories collected through my research, including interviewees’ memories of wartime dress that challenge existing accounts about experiences of rationing and mending and making-do and a factory worker from Oldham whose diaries reveal how clothing and textile activities were a central part of her wartime life.

“The Fashion on the Ration Weekender promises to be a fantastic event for families and fashion enthusiasts alike and the exhibition is well worth a visit.”


As part of a private view of the exhibition, Hollings lecturers, Zoë Hitchen, Elizabeth Cardwell, Tina Ball, John Earnshaw, Julie Williams and Georgina Housley, will be holding interactive workshops.

Special guests will be invited to 'make do and mend’, learn darning techniques, traditional 1940s lingerie pattern cutting using contemporary seam-free technology and a headscarf styling workshop – using recycled materials and end of line fabrics donated by Liberty London.

The headscarf styling workshop will feature an interactive two-way ‘selfie’ mirror, where guests can be seated on one side of the mirror and recorded from the other side, with the footage being used to create a 'fashion film’ produced in a contemporary format to add relevance for society now. Guests will also be encouraged to share their selfies using the hashtag #FashionontheRation.

On the evening of the private view, final year Fashion, Design and Technology student Megan Johnson’s dress made from an old parachute will also be on display.

For more information on IWM North’s Fashion on the Ration: 1940’s Street Style exhibition, visit the museum website.

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