Sunday, 17 February 2019

Fashion on the Ration - Julie Summers

I have to give credit to someone on the money saving expert forums (or fora, as a former boss of mine in the passport service HR who thought being erudite was more important that being comprehensible, used to insist) for this one. I’m a long term lurker over on the old style board, in particular on the decluttering thread, which I creepily haunted without registering all last year (if you’re wondering how decluttering is moneysaving it is because a) it’s quicker, easier and cheaper to clean what you have if you have less and b) when you are about to buy something you think ‘do I want to give this houseroom’ which I find a bigger deterrent than cost, strangely enough.  Also you don’t buy duplicates of things you already have (tights, sellotape, ink cartridges) because you mostly know what you have and where you’ve left it.

Anyway that’s a tangent. Over the last year I’ve read Stuffocation and Marie Kondo and Tara Button and am not, and never will be a minimalist (I have 5 handbags and must own 3000 books, for example) but I have moved much of my crockery and cutlery into another cupboard (forcing me to wash up before it feels like an impossible mountain) and I do have a system for shifting out books I’ve read rather than defaulting to putting them back on the shelves (Kondo has her oddities but one thing she is right about is that a lot of this is psychological. I’ve been hanging onto books I’ll never read again, or glanced into and didn’t fancy, simply because I like having a mass of books. That’s fine, but not past the point where the shelves are full to bursting.)   

Fashion on the Ration is not a minimalist book – the frugality of wartime was plain necessity rather than preference. The book covers clothes rationing, of course, but also what Vogue was doing in the war years (cut off from its parent paper in the states), the amount of cloth saved through banning things like turn ups, how Barbara Cartland sourced second hand wedding dresses for women in the forces to borrow for their wedding day, and a great deal more besides. Summers is particularly good at mixing hard stats and personalities and letting the women and men who lived through these times speak for themselves, whether through diaries and letters and articles written at the time or later interviews. And she doesn’t dramatise or fall into the trap – which is a particular hate of mine – of rosy tinted nostalgia for what must have been very difficult circumstances.  

I'm now halfway through another of her books - Jambusters - and am finding it just a little less engaging, but no less fascinating. I may have to seek out more. 

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