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15 October 2014
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Clothes Rationing

by culture_durham

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Mrs Monica Flook
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03 June 2005

Clothes Rationing Civilian

On a purely domestic and selfish level, food and clothes were hard to come by during the war. If you were near any shops and you saw a queue (wartime was famous for its queues) you joined it quickly, then asked what people were waiting for. Very often people at the end of the queue had no idea, but you stood in line anyway, in case there was an orange, a punnet of strawberries — or even (big treat!) a rabbit! Red meat was rationed, but rabbit was not, and chickens were mainly sold to restaurants.

All clothes (expect I think hats) were rationed by coupon, 26 coupons every six months. A fully-lined coat was 18 coupons, a half lined one 15. Stockings were 3 coupons a pair silk, 2 a pair lisle. Even underwear cost coupons. I can’t remember about shoes, whether coupons were required, or their very scarcity was a form of rationing. Large shoe shops like Dolcis and Saxone would open at 9.00 a.m., admit the first say 10 people in the queue, serve them, then shut up shop till the next day. Once I queued in the town centre 3 days running at 8.30 a.m. to get a pair of shoes to wear with my “going-away outfit” after my wedding.

There was one good thing about living in Leicester, it was famous of its manufacture of boots and shoes, and hosiery and knitwear. During the 6 years of war I was lucky enough to get 2 pairs of shoes “off ration” — and not quite on the Black Market. A family friend worked in a shoe factory, and once a pair of shoes in my size had a serious mark in the leather and she was able to buy them for me, as shops wouldn’t accept them. The other time was when another friend’s son, who was unfit for the Services, was learning the shoe trade and he had to make a pair by hand. He provided the leather soles, and uppers were from a blue linen skirt. I was discarding. I didn’t cultivate “friends” just because they were useful, but a third family friend often springs to mind. He was too old for military service, and had a small knitwear factory. He made rolls of “Lock knit”, mostly white but some coloured, and tightly woven 1 inch wide strips which were sewn round cardigans to accommodate the buttons and button holes, or round the necks of men’s pullovers. Occasionally a short piece would have a pulled thread, or it might get slightly soiled by machine oil. These pieces were seized upon by his wife and her friends and her friend’s children and their friends. My sister and I, over time, amassed a few yards of white edging, and some red, some green knitted pieces. Sheer desperation helped us to make a kind of bikini each, hers red, mine green, to take on holiday — and the weather was warm enough in Devon to wear them!

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