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Wartime Wardrobe Challenge

I’ve written before about how rationing forces me to distinguish between needs and wants but as the second year of my clothes rationing experiment draws to a close, I am gaining new perspectives on both.

Waning wants

I have not bought a skirt (or pair of trousers for that matter) in over four years. I could quite easily justify a new one. As I’ve been wearing my two staples pretty much continuously for the last few years, they will probably need replacing before too long. The denim skirt may struggle on for another year before the seams perish; my black corduroy one will hopefully last two more (if I get it relined).

Why have I not modestly splashed out on a new skirt or pair of trousers for so long? Is it due to the rationing? In a way, yes, but not in the coupon counting sense. I have not bought a new one of either as I simply haven’t seen anything that I liked enough to tempt me, so why waste coupons?

Mulling it over, I’ve realised that rationing has not necessarily dissolved the desire for certain garments but it has certainly eroded my longing for most of the currently available incarnations. In many ways, this clothing experiment has changed my baseline. Much like I have lost the taste for nuts and ice cream due to lethal allergy and a mild intolerance, the desire for many colours, shapes, fabric… has evaporated entirely.

Rethinking needs

If wants are fading, where do I stand on needs? Obviously, in its narrowest meaning, needs cover the clothes on my back and a change of clothes in the wardrobe but that extreme was never the intention of wartime rationing and neither is it mine. I’m thinking of needs in terms of enough to be pleasantly comfortable.

So how am I getting on with balancing my needs with rationing, particularly as stock starts to wear out. This year, quite a few undergarments, socks and stockings have given up the ghost as elastic has perished or darns have worn through again. More items are threatening to go the same way. The leather on my long winter boots is perilously thin; there’s the denim skirt that’s on its last legs; and my black trousers are clinging on thanks to some strategically placed iron-on fabric.

On that basis, I can definitely justify some new undies, a skirt or pair of trousers and new boots. Despite this list of ‘needs’ I have actually struggled to spend all my coupons this year, not least of all because I can’t find any staples that I like enough to consider, let alone that pass muster in terms of quality, environmental and ethical considerations.

I suspect my wartime peers did not have the luxury of being this picky about style and colour due the level of shortages and the likelihood of the coupon allowance being slashed in subsequent years – by 1945 resources were so short that it had shrunk to a paltry 24 coupons! With such constraints, I imagine people thought of all purchases as essential stock (rather than in terms of needs or wants), stocking up when they could and making do with colours and shapes that may not have been their first choice before the war.

Although I am still fussy about the shape and colours of my outerwear (even though it really should not be a problem to find a classic pair of side-zipped wide legged black trousers!), I too increasingly regard clothes shopping as sensible acts of stock replenishment, with a bit of frivolity once in a blue moon. Quite a healthy view and a very satisfactory outcome from two years of rationing!

This ‘information’ film is unconnected to this post but I’m quite amused at the lengths wartime ladies could go to make the most of one dress. I suspect the tailored cut helps!


Coupon update

So what have I actually spent coupons on in recent months? Restocking accounted for most of my remaining purchases: undies (4 coupons), leggings that function as tights (2 coupons), cosy homemade socks (1 coupon), a sensible, dark, warm cardigan (still on my knitting needles but accounting for 5 coupons).

A new scarf/shawl accounts for a further two. This is unashamedly an indulgence as I have several already but due to my chilly disposition and its warmth and ability to transform wardrobe staples, it is one I have no qualms about allowing myself.

Total coupons spent in 2014: 56.5 coupons

So with only a few more weeks of the year left, I still have 9.5 coupons, enough for a pair of trousers – should I spot those elusive classics – and a bra or a pair of boots – if I find any that I like and are comfortable -, a bra and another pair of socks.

I also managed to avoid purchases by my ongoing make do and mend efforts – or make, do and mend, as Jackie, a fellow ‘rationee’, has redubbed it. Darning the darns on two pairs of socks saved two coupons and a T-shirt from a charity shop a further five. I’m also working on a pair of multi-coloured stripey fingertip-less gloves, using up odds and ends of skeins (2 coupons). They’ll hardly be the height of elegance but they’re only intended for use around the house to keep my hands warm whilst I work on the computer.

Total coupons saved by making, doing and mending: 22.5 coupons

  • jackiemania December 10, 2014, 4:26 pm

    I love that video — I’m glad you included it 🙂 How creative! Maybe I should make a few of these things to give different looks to my new black dress!

    I also like your idea of coupons that you avoided spending — I will try and use this concept for 2015. I like the added dimension of value it brings to the project.

    I also appreciate that you are a year ahead of me on this project. I’ve learned so much by the trail you’ve already blazed.

    • Meg and Gosia December 11, 2014, 9:16 am

      Yes, there were a couple of ideas in that video that I actually quite liked too. There go any ‘cool’ credentials I may have had. Oh well 😉
      I’ve picked up quite a few ideas from your journey too. It’s good to see what solutions others find and watch the exchange of experiences and explorations. E.g. Alexandra of http://sewyourboat.blogspot.se/ in Sweden has thoroughly embraced making her own lingerie!


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