Imperial War Museums (IWM) North in Manchester has opened a new exhibition titled Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of clothes rationing during World War Two.

London 1941

Source: IWM

London in the spring of 1941.

Groups visiting the exhibition will be able to explore how fashion survived and even flourished under the strict rules of rationing.

They’ll also discover how, despite the restrictions, austerity did not put an end to creative design or fashionable trends on the British home front.

Fashion on the Ration brings together clothing, accessories, photographs and film. Other artefacts on display include official documents and publications, wartime letters, interviews and artworks, some of which have never been on show before.

Each part of the exhibition has a different theme; such as World War Two uniform; practical fashion; making do with limited materials; and utility clothing.

The Into Uniform displays look at how World War Two Britain became a nation in uniform, which was one of the biggest visible changes to how people dressed at the time.

Many key pieces of uniform, both from the men’s and women’s services, will be on display revealing the pride and even jealousies felt by those stepping into uniform for war service.

Functional Fashion, meanwhile, explores how the demands of wartime life inspired retailers to sell innovative products such as gas-mask handbags and siren suits, examples of which will also be on display.

Practical work wear features in this section including original overalls worn by Edith Forsdyke at the A V Roe aircraft factory in Chadderton, Manchester.

Groups can also enjoy the Utility Clothing section; this type of attire was introduced in 1941 to tackle unfairness in the rationing scheme and standardise production to help the war effort.

Utility fashion collections were made from a limited range of quality controlled fabrics, so this section will feature a catwalk of pieces, ranging from women’s summer dresses, underwear, and a tweed sports jacket to a winter coat and twin set, and a girl’s green velvet winter dress.

Fashion on the Ration: 1940s Street Style will be open at IWM North until May 2017. 

Group travel organisers should call 01223-499353 to make a group booking.

For further information visit

(Photo credit: IWM)