Make Do and Mend

make-do-and-mend-1940s-ration-fashion

At the outbreak of World War Two in September 1939, almost a quarter of the British population was entitled to wear some sort of uniform. The increased demand for uniforms put enormous pressure on Britain’s textile and clothing industries and rationing was introduced in June 1941. Silk was one of the first fabrics to go as it was needed for the war effort, so Into The Unknown’s Kate Sheridan was very lucky to have been bought two sets of silk lingerie by her aunt Helen to replace her embarrassingly old-fashioned underwear.

Rationing worked by allocating each type of clothing item a value in points. Every adult was initially given an allocation of 66 points to last one year, but this allocation shrank as the war progressed. Eleven coupons were required for a dress, two needed for a pair of stockings, and eight coupons for a man’s shirt or a pair of trousers. Women’s shoes meant handing over five coupons, and for men’s footwear seven.

Despite these shortages, people were encouraged to keep looking fashionable in order to keep up morale and the ‘Make Do and Mend’ campaign was launched to encourage people to make their existing clothes last longer. The ability to repair, alter and make clothes from scratch became increasingly important as the war went on. Kate would have studied needlework at school in Ireland, so she wouldn’t have found making clothes from a pattern too daunting a task.

Over 40 million gas masks had been distributed around Britain by the outbreak of war. The population were told to carry them at all times in the standard-issue cardboard box tied up with string. Fashion designers quickly saw a gap in the market, turned the ugly boxes into handbags at the top and a space at the bottom for the mask, and these were snapped up by many women like Kate.

Make-up was never rationed, but was taxed and very expensive. As with their clothes, women found imaginative ways around shortages. Bright red lipstick was a way to look glamorous, even if you couldn’t afford any other cosmetics. And when it just couldn’t be found, beetroot juice was used instead of both blusher and lipstick and boot polish instead of mascara. When stockings were in short supply, an eyeliner was used to draw a ‘seam’ up the back of the legs—which may also have been carefully painted with gravy browning to appear like a tan shade of stockings. So, instead of being moth-balled for the duration of the war, fashion became more inventive and individual—the colours brighter and the colours bolder.

* * *

London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen year old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will the horrors of war bring Kate and Charlie together or tear them apart?

Read An Excerpt…

Following Helen into a department store’s lingerie department, and into a changing room, Kate stripped right down to her embarrassingly old-fashioned underwear. Catching sight of the shop girl’s smirking face in the mirror, Kate wanted the ground to open up and swallow her. The girl measured her before bringing a selection of bras and knickers for her to choose from. Kate stared in consternation. How could she choose? They were all beautiful. Thankfully, Helen decided for her.

“We’ll take the peach set and the white,” she said. “Would you like to wear the peach set now, Kate?”

Kate had been running her fingers over the silk in awe and jumped. “Yes, I will. Thank you.”

She changed into the lingerie and stared at herself for a long time in the mirror. Silk. She had never felt anything so soft before.

“Let’s see, Kate.” She heard her aunt’s voice, opened the curtains, and both women stared at her. “Good Lord.” Helen seemed astonished. “You do have a figure, after all.”

Passing a boutique a little later, Kate stopped and gazed at a suit in the window. Helen had walked on but returned to her and smiled. “That’s very smart, isn’t it? Do you want to try it on?”

“Oh, no, it looks very expensive.”

“It doesn’t cost anything to try it on.”

So the suit was tried on and Kate paraded up and down the shop examining herself from all angles. The suit was deep green and flattered her curvaceous figure.

“Do you like it?” Helen asked.

“Oh, yes, it’s lovely.”

“That’s just as well because it’s yours.”

“Mine?” Kate’s mouth fell open. It must have cost a fortune. “Oh, thank you.”

“Nonsense, you’re starting to look feminine at last. Shoes and a handbag next.”

They found a black handbag and matching shoes in a shop across the street. Again, Kate paraded up and down, but this time to get used to the high heels. Standing up in them for the first time, she had almost toppled over. Kate tottered along the street, finding herself much taller than Helen, and followed her into a hair salon.

“Your hair isn’t too bad, actually,” Helen told her before turning to the stylist. “A trim, and style it, please.”

Within an hour, Kate’s hair had been swept back from her face into a chignon. Her aunt leaned forward.

“Cheekbones, too,” she murmured and nodded. “Beauty salon next.”

A further hour passed with various powders and lipsticks being tried and tested before Kate opened her eyes and gazed at the film star in the mirror, hardly recognising herself.

“Oh, Kate,” Helen breathed. “You’re beautiful.” She turned to the three women standing behind Kate’s chair. “Whatever she’s got on, we’ll take it.”

Out on the street, Kate found herself being stared at and even attracted wolf whistles from a group of soldiers. It felt strange—embarrassing—but flattering, too.

new image cover 1

Into The Unknown is currently unpublished and will be republished in due course.

newsletter-295x300

facebook-48x48  twitter-48x48  pinterest-48x48  mewe-500-2  goodreads-48x48  Wordpress  instagram_app_large_may2016_200  newsletter  BookBub Icon

Advertisements

The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force during World War Two

waaf

The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) was established in 1939 by King George VI and was linked with the RAF so that RAF personnel could be substituted for women whenever possible.

Originally the roles of the women in the WAAF were domestic duties such as cooking and driving. Women were not allowed to fly and their general capabilities were often doubted in the early stages of the war. During the Battle of Britain, however, the RAF were under huge strain and this led to a change of role for the WAAF. It became crucial for the WAAF to take on more technical tasks, and they were trained in operating teleprinters—like Into The Unknown’s Kate Sheridan—radar plotting, the maintenance of barrage balloons and the interpretation of photographs.

There were approximately seven thousand WAAFs based at Fighter Command airbases such as Biggin Hill during the summer of 1940. These bases were targets in raids by the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain and without the diligent work and bravery of the WAAF, the RAF would have struggled to cover all necessary roles which could have had a bearing on the British victory. Through their outstanding work the women in the WAAF proved that women were fully capable of aiding and contributing to the British war effort but also to the general role of women in British society.

* * *

London on 3 September 1939 is in upheaval. War is inevitable. Into this turmoil steps Kate Sheridan newly arrived from Ireland to live with her aunt and uncle and look for work. When she meets Flight Lieutenant Charlie Butler sparks fly, but he is a notorious womaniser. Should she ignore all the warnings and get involved with a ladies man whose life will be in daily danger?

Charlie Butler has no intention of getting involved with a woman. But when he meets Kate his resolve is shattered. Should he allow his heart to rule his head and fall for a nineteen year old Irish girl while there is a war to fight?

Private conflicts and personal doubts are soon overshadowed. Will the horrors of war bring Kate and Charlie together or tear them apart?

Read An Excerpt:

At the Sector Station, Kate sank down on her bed and groaned. Jean had followed her into their hut and stared.

“You look awful, Kate,” she commented.

Kate rubbed her eyes. “So would you if you had on average only three hours sleep per night in a week.”

Jean nodded. “I heard it was bad.”

“It was awful. The first night, Charlie and I were nearly killed. A bomb landed only a couple of gardens away.”

Jean winced. “How is Charlie? Still as handsome as ever?”

“Yes.” Kate smiled, remembering that night in the shelter. “But he’s so tired now. Any gossip here?”

“Daniel ‘Paddy’ Connelly’s gone.”

“Gone?”

“Posted away. He tried it on with Wilma, Rachel and Teresa. He’s in bombers now, somewhere in Group Twelve, but away from here, thank God.”

“Yes.” Kate closed her eyes. “I thought he was dead.”

“I thought you hated him?”

“I do, but I wouldn’t wish him dead. Oh.” She groaned again. “What time is it?”

“Half past seven.”

“Right, I’m going straight to bed,” she told Jean. “I need a good night’s sleep, I’m all in.”

“All right, we’re going to need all the sleep we can get. I think we’re going to be put on nights.”

Kate stared at her friend in dismay before flopping back onto the bed, too tired to even swear.

Unfortunately, Jean was right. They were put on the night shift. Reports flooded in on the teleprinters, and Kate found herself too busy to be tired.

“We’ll be on the go tonight.” Squadron Leader Brown reached over, taking a bundle of reports from her, and hurried into the Operations Room.

Inside the room, she could see the map of her sector, then a couple of rows of raised seating where messages were passed down to the map plotters. Behind those seats sat the officers who made the decisions. Where was Charlie, she wondered as another report began to come through. The report was from Fighter Command HQ. “Here, sir,” she called to Brown as he came out again and handed him the report.

He scanned it, then frowned. “Damn,” he muttered, but smiled at her anxious face. “Take a break, Sheridan.”

She nodded and gave her seat to Wilma Pinner. She went outside, taking a breath of fresh air, and glanced to the horizon. She stared, her heart leaping into her mouth. The horizon was lit up by an orange glow. It was as if all of London was on fire, and somewhere in the middle of it all was Charlie.

The night was long and demanding. By six in the morning, Kate and Jean were exhausted, but they concluded there had been worse nights, before falling into bed.

Night after night at the teleprinter followed before Kate and Jean were put on day shifts and told, to their delight, that they had leave due.

new image cover 1

Into The Unknown is currently unpublished and will be republished in due course.

newsletter-295x300

facebook-48x48  twitter-48x48  pinterest-48x48  mewe-500-2  goodreads-48x48  Wordpress  instagram_app_large_may2016_200  newsletter  BookBub Icon