Today I am dedicating my blogpost to one little item. On first glance you are probably thinking it’s just a simple blue and white striped blouse. A vintage item most probably (this is me after all and it is highly unlikely to be modern), but this blouse is much more than it at first appears and also helps to tell a story about an important period in Britain’s fashion history.
There is one small label sewn into the side seam of this blouse which makes all the difference: A cc41 label. What I really like about this blouse is that it shows so many of the restrictions in one item.
First off (although difficult to tell by my picture) the blouse is really quite short. Now whilst the length of a blouse was not rationed many manufacturers made garments that were designed to be tucked in to quite a short length to save on fabric. When looking inside the blouse you can also see how tiny the hem is, again a fabric saving device. All of the seams in the blouse have very small seam allowances as is illustrated in the pictures, and again was a necessary fabric saving device.
Next is the collar (I’m a sucker for a Peter pan collar any day of the week). One of the rulings under utility was that a collar could be no deeper than 5” as illustrated here, this is a very short collar!
If you look at the sleeves you can see how they have been made to look like turnback cuffs, yet the “turnback” is actually a strip of fabric stitched on as turnbacks cuffs where strictly prohibited. The sleeves also do not have any buttons- this would make it easier to get into the blouse, but restrict the amount of buttons that could be used elsewhere, hence why there aren’t any.
I think the most canny part of the blouse though is the centre front button fastening. Under Utility restrictions a blouse with full length sleeves could have up to 7 buttons, whilst one with short sleeves was restricted to just 5. This blouse originally had just four (currently 3 as one is missing) and the rest of the blouse fastens with poppers. Two at the bottom of the blouse and one for security at the neckline. I feel that the ones at the bottom of the blouse actually act as a really good design feature, if you are tucking the garment in you would not have the added bulk from the button showing through your skirt.
And, whilst researching into utility I also found out something rather interesting about the manufacturers labels themselves, they could have “no more than one name tab and one drop ticket in addition to the size tab and utility label.” This blouse has its manufacturer label and then details about the fabric “moygashel” on the same label. It is interesting to consider how in 40s garments these details would often be on two separate labels, but under the utility restrictions only one label could contain all of these details. The smaller label underneath is the utility design no. which all utility items should have.
And on another note some may be wondering what is this mystery fabric moygashel? It is a particular type of linen fabric from the area of Moygashel in Ireland, it is quite a strong hard wearing fabric and was particularly popular during the 40s 50s and 60s before falling out of favour. I have to say that the vintage moygashel garments I have come across all seem to be particularly hard wearing and also they retain their colours rather well.
The label also states that it has “tubernised fused parts” (it too me a while to work out what this word actually said) basically this was a finish that helped garments to look “fresh and clean all day” and reduced the need to starch or boil your garments (in particular this finish was used for men’s starched collars.
So all in all a very interesting little blouse, and what is even better. I am selling it! Find it over on my ebay here. I’m selling a lot in the next few weeks and months including some amazing vintage Biba and Alice Pollock, so do keep having a look.
If you want to know more about Utility check out some of the restrictions here, http://cargocultcraft.com/knowledge/wartime-austerity-restrictions-on-british-clothing/womens-and-girls-wear-dresses-jumpercardigan-suits-blouses-skirts-and-slacks/ it really is an invaluable resource. Or, have a look at my previous post on the topic here.