Most people think of ‘branding’ as a relatively recent phenomenon. But during the Second World War, the Board of Trade introduced a rationing scheme called ‘Limitation of Supplies (Cloth and Apparel) Order 1941’. All items of clothing under this order were manufactured to specific standards and labelled with this mark:
It stood for ‘Civilian Clothing 1941’. Reginald Shipp, who worked at label makers Hargreaves, designed the logo. It quickly became known as ‘the cheeses’ for obvious reasons.
The CC41 logo was displayed in every Utility clothing item
Designs were commissioned from the pretty swish fashion designers of the day, including Hardy Amies, Norman Hartnell and other members of the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers. Here are some examples of what they dreamed up:
In 1942, the scheme embraced furniture, and the Utility Furniture Advisory Committee was set up, which consisted of Royal Designer Gordon Russell along with Ernest Clench, Herman Lebus and John Gloag. Between them, they oversaw the designs. Here are some pages from the official catalogue from which you could purchase furniture under the country-wide rationing coupon scheme:
There were just 20 designs of plain, functional, solidly constructed domestic furniture. As a kid, I remember our Utility wardrobe as a rather forbidding dark object sitting in the corner of the bedroom.
The Utility scheme was wound up in 1948, but furniture continued to be manufactured until 1952, during the lean post-war years. Much of it can be found in second-hand shops and still in some homes: check with granny. It is easy to identify as it displayed the distinctive CC41 mark literally branded into the wood:
Above one of the many government publications to encourage the population to be thrifty
Also a hang-over from the war years, ‘make do and mend’ still permeated the nation throughout the 1950s. People recycled, repaired, reinvented and saved items of scarcity.
Having just returned from my local dump, I am reminded what a wasteful society we are and how we could learn from our past in this new age of austerity.
To see some truly hilarious films about Utility dress making click here.