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.
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.
The green dress pictured 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.
Mrs Edwards (pictured right) 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.
Try some of the discussion and activity ideas about this resource.