Monday, November 15, 2010

Authorised Economy Standards

I've been reading lots of old magazines this week, mostly knitting but some general "women's interest" as well.  There will have to be a post of "no, you really shouldn't have!" pictures, but for today my inner historian is sneaking out.

Starting with the 1940s - going by this booklet, wartime Wellington lasses were a stylish if slender lot, all those American G.I.s to impress:

I adore this, Knitted in Powder and Navy Blue:

All these designs are in one size, and that size is slender - catering to 32"-35" busts only.  And should you be "over-slim"?  "..a clinging jumper does accentuate your slimness.  "Rucking" on the other hand gives that essential touch of fullness".

I also love this, "A delightful frock for the girl of 16 or 17".  Those sleeves are perfect, but so much knitting at 6sts/inch.  (Could be worse, most of these patterns are at 7-8sts/inch).

This next little publication was produced in "complete conformity with the Authorised Economy Standards", placing it firmly in the 1940s.  I suspect late 1940s rather than wartime - several reasons, colour, glossy paper, and the overall look and styling of the clothes and photographs, and also the term "Authorised Economy Standards" rather than "War Economy Standard".  I haven't been able to find out too much about wartime paper rationing and book publishing restrictions, but apparently paper continued to be rationed in Britain until 1949.

I find it slightly unnerving that the world I was born into was much more like the world c1950 than the world of today.  In the 1970s we wore those brown leather shoes, Mary Janes or lace ups (Charlie Browns!), boys wore school shorts (even to no uniform schools) and we all had home knitted jerseys which our mothers handwashed in Lux flakes (and then tied up in an old pair of pantihose for a quick spin in the washing machine).

Lux in 1950, and Woolworths in the days when every department store sold knitting yarns, still stressing the "economy":

How exciting was 1950?

You've waited for it, you've asked for it -and here it is!  The Lux Knitting Book is back after 8 years of wartime restriction and paper shortage, to keep faith with its friends all over Australia and New Zealand.

But imagine knitting this in "crochet wool"?  Life can't have been that exciting...  Here's a graphic version of the same frock, looking very 1950s.

Things were certainly looking up in 1950, from Stitch magazine June 1950 (a new find for me, Stitch was published in New Zealand from at least the 1940s to the 1970s, an absolute treasure trove of social and fashion history in NZ, more on Stitch later...):

"There are definitely better supplies of "Viyella" and "Clydella" available, but unfortunately the stage has not yet been reached when all demands can be satisfied."

Of course, we all knew about wartime rationing, but this I hadn't thought about:

Now, you can't read that, but it says:

All knitting enthusiasts will have read about the tremendous price increases there have been in raw wool prices in the last 18 months.  Prices at the Australian wool auctions have rocketed.
  The effect in Britain has been that some knitting wools have become difficult to obtain and many new synthetic yarns have been introduced but these synthetics do not knit up the same as wool.
  All this has been a bit confusing for the knitter, so Stitchcraft, which always features designs in Patons yarns, is glad to be able to put the picture straight as far as these yarns are concerned.

The message goes on to explain that "the original Patons wools have been imperceptibly blended with a proportion of man-made fibres" and that the new blends are machine-washable, "which is quite an advantage".

Blend in synthetics, keep the price down.  Clever Patons!  Anyway, food for thought as surely the end of cheap reliable wool sources had an impact on the decline of knitting and the rise of synthetics in the 1970s.  A bit of quick Google "research" points to the establishment of the Australian Wool Board, which could buy up wool that didn't meet reserve, and later the introduction of an guaranteed minimum reserve, both measures intended to shore up wool prices that had slumped to an all time low by 1970 - much to the joy of British knitters, not so great for the Australian sheep farmers.  I also suspect it has something to do with Britain joining the EEC in 1973, but I can't quite put my finger on it (I must have missed that lecture and I don't seem to have an inner economist, sorry!). 

Finally, you reward for sticking with me this far, a warts and all depiction of nursing according to Woman and Home 1957:

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