Make Do And Mend

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Supported through
'Their Past Your Future 2' (TPYF2) Programme


The beginning of rationing

Whit Sunday Bank Holiday had been cancelled in 1940 but the Government allowed it to take place in 1941.
It was useful because shopkeepers could re-label their clothes with 'coupon - value' tickets.

On the evening of the 1st June 1941 many listened to the radio broadcast of the President of the Board of Trade, Oliver Lyttelton.
"I know all the women will look smart, but we men may look shabby. If we do we must not be ashamed. In war the term "battle-stained" is an honourable one. We must learn as civilians tp be seen in clothes that are not so smart . . . When you feel tired of your old clothes remember that by making them do you are contributing some part of an aeroplane, a gun or a tank"

Clothes rationing succeeded in closing down small firms and releasing 450,000 workers for the munitions industries.

Petrol Rationing

Was introduced in late 1939.

Food Rationing

The Government introduced Food Rationing to try to ensure everyone had a fair share of basic food essentials. By November 1939 Ration Books had been issued and, four months after the war started food rationing came into force.
Adults and school age children were issued with ration books with buff covers and green ration books for expectant mothers provided them with extra rations.
Some food items were rationed in January 1940.

The rations per person per week from 8th January were:

Butter or lard: 4 ounces (100g)
Sugar: 12 ounces
Raw bacon or ham: 4 ounces
Eggs: 2
Cooked bacon or ham: 3.5 ounces

Meat rationing started 11th March 1940 and butter and sugar were also added.

Tea followed shortly afterwards.

In July 1940 the making and selling of iced cakes was banned, quickly followed in September by candied peel and crystallised cherries and so traditional wedding cakes became almost impossible to make.

1st December 1941 a points system was introduced to ration canned meat and similar items.
Canned fruit, condensed milk, breakfast cereals, biscuits and rice followed. One egg every two months was supplemented by powdered egg rationed by points.

26th July 1942 sweet rationing was introduced and, except for a period of 15 weeks in 1949, remained in force until 4th February 1953.

Bread, vegetables, fruit, fish and potatoes were not rationed during the war although some were often in short supply.
Bread was rationed 1946 - 48.
Potatoes were rationed briefly in 1947/8 after the severe winter.

1948 rations.
Bacon and ham: 2oz per person a fortnight
Cheese: half an ounce a week
Butter/margarine: 7oz a week
Cooking fats: 2 oz a week
Meat: a shilling's worth (5p) a week
Tea: 2 oz a week
Sugar: 8 oz a week
Milk: 3 pints a week
Sweets and chocolates: 4oz a week
Preserves: 4oz a week
Eggs: often in short supply, one per ration book when available

Soap was rationed and bananas ( which were rarely available).

The points system ended in 1950.
In 1951 meat was still rationed to 10d worth (4p) a week.
Meat rationing was the last to end in 1954.

Clothes Rationing

Was introduced in June 1941.

In 1942 a man might:

  • buy a pair of socks every four month
  • a pair of shoes every eight months
  • a shirt every 20 months
  • a vest and a pair of pants every two years
  • a waistcoat every five years
  • an overcoat every seven years


Utility is a word that has cropped up in a lot of Memories Mornings. Some have remembered Utility Clothing and one lady was adament there had been a Utility Loaf!

Not surprisingly after months of drought in the summer of 1945 was followed by a bad harvest. The global food crisis led to rationing being put in place to conserve grain supplies and on 21st July 1946 bread and flour were rationed for the first time - a measure that had not been necessary during the whole of the Second World War. Nine bread units were allowed per week. Bread coupons covered all flour products from cakes and buns to bread. A large loaf was four units and a one pound bag of flour was three units while items termed as 'flour confectionary' took two units. Those in heavy manual jobs and agricultural workers were allowed extra bread units. There was only three weeks warning that the new scheme was being introduced and gave little chance to hoard supplies. Bread rationing continued for two years until July 1948. We were told the Utility Loaf was advertised as 70% less wheat and was rumoured to contain sawdust and other less savoury ingredients and looked rather grey. Does anyone have more information on the Utility Loaf?

Utility Clothing

Towards the end of 1941 Utility Clothing was introduced as there was an increasingly short supply of raw materials. The range was designed to provide reasonable quality while keeping prices down. Choice was reduced and styles were chosen that would create less waste. The length of such things as men's shirts was specified and turn-ups on the bottom of new trousers was banned. The number of pockets was dictated too and the clothing was stamped with a piecrust Utility brand symbol. Clothing coupons were still required and later the scheme was extended to include furniture and continued until 1952. A similar scheme was adopted in America in 1942.

To conserve coupons people were encouraged to 'Make do and Mend'. Classes were held to teach people how and these also provided a chance to socialise. Cartoon characters such as Mrs Sew-and-Sew also helped spread the message.

Utility clothing was supposed to show 'practicality and simplicity'. Guidelines included the restriction of pleats, tucks and folds, no turn-ups, lace and trimmings were to be avoided, velvet fur and leather trimmings were banned, skirts were to be knee high and ladies jackets were to have no more than three buttons. Men's jackets were no longer allowed to be double breasted.

Magazines tried to make the Utility Brand sound glamorous. Women and Beauty came up with the slogan "They're Beauties! They're Utilities."

Knitting, mending, darning and sewing led to many womens sewing groups being set up. Many women found they could easily tailor pre-war fashions to the new austere lines - but were devastated after the war to find there was no way they could adapt them back to create post war fashions!