As the Great Depression ended and the U.S. delved into production mode at the outbreak of World War II, imports on certain items became scarce, and the production of many items halted, calling for the nation to ration its supplies. Food, clothing, and gasoline were areas of major rationing, mainly because factories transformed their productions to aid the war effort in some way. Additionally, ships carrying supplies were destroyed as they made the crossing to U.S. ports. The government placed an intense focus on families to work with their community to become self-sufficient, but provided ration coupons to make the purchase of goods fair. Movements such as ‘Dig for Victory,’ ‘Make Do and Mend,’ and ‘Sew for Victory’ took hold.
World War II and rationing revitalized sewing, and brought it back to the home. Women repurposed old clothes and made new ones. Fabric sales shot up 50 percent between 1941 and 1942, and in 1943, 70 million patterns were sold over the counter, which was up 25 million from 1939.
Booklets like this one along with the following Singer sewing manual illustrate the push for women to do their duty toward the war effort.
While the sewing manual doesn’t contain any kind of propaganda for ‘Sew for Victory,’ its 1941 publication date hints at the movement.
When my brother-in law and sister in-law came to visit a few weeks ago, they brought this little manual and a handful of other items with them for me to look at and photograph.
I particularly like the box the buttonhole equipment and various odds and ends were in.
These things were tucked inside the seat of a Singer machine they bought from a CHKD thrift store. They painted it and reused the desk in their home. Unfortunately, the cable providing power to the machine was in two pieces, but they’re thinking of splicing it back together to make it functional.
The individual or family who purchased this little machine in 1941 lucked out, since Singer stopped production on the family sewing machine in June of 1942, under the Limitation Order L-98.
One lesson I think we should take from this generation is their will to make do without, constantly reusing and reinventing old or tired items. Our culture today is too materialistic, and as a result, we waste. I’m going to attempt to take the Victory challenge, and live thrifty in any way I can, instead of going out and buying immediately. If you want to learn more about living thrifty, check out Victory Living on simple ways to incorporate thriftiness into your daily life. My first attempt at this will be modifying my out of date, bell-bottomed khakis that I’ve had since high school into skinnies! Now I just need to go find that manual on how to use my sewing machine and stop procrastinating…
Ames Historical Society. ‘World War II Rationing on the U.S. Homefront.’ Ames Historical Society. 27 September 2013. Web. 15 December 2013 http://www.ameshistory.org/exhibits/events/rationing.htm
Cohen, Stan. V for Victory, America’s Home Front During World War II, Missoula: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co, 1991. Print.
Gottschalk, Nathalie. ‘The Make Do & Mend Movement.’ Make do & mend. 2013. Web. 11 December 2013 http://make-do-and-mend.org/make_do_mend.html
Harris, Mark Jonathan. The Homefront : America during World War II. New York: Putnam, 1984. Print.
Higgs, Robert. ‘The Two-Price System: U.S. Rationing During World War II.’ The Freeman. 24 April 2009. Web. 11 December 2013 http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/the-two-price-system-us-rationing-during-world-war-ii#axzz2nCncRmss
Ketteler, Judi. ‘Sewing History.’ Sew Retro. 2013. Web. 13 December 2013 http://www.sewretrothebook.com/sewing-history.html
Lindpop, Edmund. America in the 1940s. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2009. Print.
Lucy. Make Do and Mend American Style!’ 1940’s Style for You. Blogger. 18 January 2012. Weblog. 11 December 2013 http://fortiesknitter.blogspot.com/2012/01/make-do-and-mend-american-style.html
Mason, Andy and Darla Trenner. ‘Singer’s Role in WWII.’ Singer Featherweight 221. 2000. Web. 15 December 2013 http://home.roadrunner.com/~featherweight/wwii.htm
Mason, Meghann. ‘The impact of World War II on women’s fashion in the United States and Britain.’ Master of Arts Theatre Thesis from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. 2011. Web. 15 December 2013 http://digitalscholarship.unlv.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2391&context=thesesdissertations
New, Rochelle. ‘Sew for Victory!: A 1940s Sewalong.’ Lucky Lucille. 4 February 2013. Weblog. 11 December 2013 http://luckylucille.com/2013/02/sew-for-victory-a-40s-sewalong/
N.Y.C. W.P.A. War Services. ‘Sew for Victory.’ U.S. Propaganda Poster. 1941. Image. 11 December 2013 http://womenshistory.about.com/od/worldwariiposterart/ig/World-War-II—Victory-Home/Sew-for-Victory.htm
Reynolds, Clark. America at War, 1941-1945 The Home Front. New York: Gallery Books, 1990. Print.
Singer Manufacturing Company. Singer in World War II, 1939-1945. New York: The Company, 1946. Print.
Victory Living. ‘Make Do and Mend.’ Victory Living. 2012. Web. 13 December 2013 http://www.victoryliving.co.uk/make-do-and-mend