Free learning resources from arts, cultural and heritage organisations.

Making the Most of Materials After WW2

A mid-length short sleeved dress in navy blue with white dots
1940s Utility Wear Blue Dress

Clothes rationing started in June 1941. A coupon system was introduced for clothing, based on the amount of fabric needed to make the garment. M&S textile technologists worked with the government to devise the regulations for Utility clothing - this helped to make sure that high quality standards were maintained.

A roll of clothing labels for M&S textiles under the Civilian Clothing 1941 scheme
CC41 (Civilian Clothing 1941) Mark for Marks & Spencer Garments
Working with fewer materials, designers had to be creative to produce attractive and well-designed garments. Trimmings, pleats, pockets, buttons and turn-ups were restricted. All Utility clothing carried the CC41 (Civilian Clothing 1941) mark. The M&S Company Archive holds one of the largest collections of Utility clothing in the UK. 
Full length picture of short sleeved green dress with blue floral pattern
Rayon Crepe Utility Wear Dress From Marks & Spencer, 1940s
The green dress pictured above is from the Utility Wear collection. It's made of rayon crepe with a purple and white floral print. The dress has shoulder pads and short sleeves. M&S worked hard to provide clothing that met the CC41 regulations, but that was also well designed and attractive. 


Black and white portrait photo of a woman holding a bunch of flowers and wearing a stripy M&S dress
Mrs Edwards who Worked for M&S for 40 Years

Mrs Edwards (pictured above) started worked at the M&S Dudley store age 14, and worked for M&S for 40 years. She kindly donated this photo of herself wearing an M&S dress to the Company Archive. She had worn a similar dress on a date with a young man who eventually became her husband! She said:

I bought a Marspun dress from the M&S store in Dudley in 1947, when I was 18. It had the Utility mark ‘CC41’ because clothing rationing had carried on after the war. I had that dress on when my husband invited me out on a date for the first time, and kept it for sentimental reasons. Unfortunately I lost a button off it so I replaced it with the nearest I could find. I loved that dress and wore it many times when I was young. I am 82 now. The dress I'm wearing in the photo is another M&S one I had at the time.

Folded pair of men's pyjamas with peach and white stripes
1941 M&S Men's Pyjamas