Cutting their cloth, counting their coupons: clothes rationing and British film production in the 1940s

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

Abstract

Clothes rationing, which began in June 1941 and was not fully repealed until March 1949, had a pronounced impact on British film production during and immediately after the Second World War. Producers were obliged to submit detailed applications to the Board of Trade, the government department responsible for clothes rationing, in order to access the coupons needed to buy or make outfits for their films, thereby introducing an additional and very time-consuming element of bureaucracy into the filmmaking process. Costume designers were expected to restrict their usage of fabric as far as practicable, a diktat that affected the ways in which they created clothes for the screen. Yet not all films were understood as equal, and the Board of Trade gave preferential treatment to productions with special propaganda value in overseas markets or which could earn foreign currency either through international distribution or by stimulating the export of British fashions and textiles. Films intended primarily as entertainment for British audiences were more likely to have to make do with smaller numbers of coupons. As such, the British film industry’s experience of clothes rationing was determined by the interplay of artistic endeavour, austerity, economics, and propaganda.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalScreen
Volume65
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Mar 2024

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