Submitted by Dick Martin
In today’s wasteful throw-away world it is hard to imagine the steps our parents took to save or repair items to enable the military to have adequate supplies for their efforts in WWII. For example, wartime clothing restrictions required that hems be limited to two inches.
As soon as the US entered WWII, it became evident that the military material demands would cause shortages of civilian goods. Rationing of food, gasoline, and other items became necessary. Many organizations were formed to ensure equal distribution of goods. Among these were the economics bureau of the US Department of Agriculture, the War Production Board, the Works Project Administration, and The Office of Price Administration. Private organizations and companies such as the Woman’s National Democratic Club, Pacific Factag Fabrics, Reagan County High School, and Paris-Herald Tribune did their part too.
Despite the military’s huge demand for clothing, it took a gamble and made rationing and clothing restrictions voluntary. Posters and pamphlets were prepared and speeches given extolling and promoting conservation of clothing as a patriotic duty. It worked! There arose extreme pressure to dress patriotically. Wool linings were eliminated, socks were darned, cuffs, pleats, ruffles, and hoods were eliminated, pockets and lapels were limited, and skirts shortened, just to name a few of the voluntary conservation measures taken. The only exceptions were maternity clothes, religious vestments, and bridal gowns.
Many of these conservation measures survived the war. In my family, for example, socks were darned and reused till they wore thin or fell apart. Existing clothes were redesigned using the same material. Hand-me-downs and hand-me-ups were a fact of life. Nothing was wasted.