30th December 2022

Victory Suits: Part 1

The declaration of all-out war on 3rd September 1939 would immediately start changes to most aspects of the day to day running of the societies involved, including manufacturing and fashion, although the extent and duration of those changes could not be conceived at that stage.

Britain was hit particularly hard, being an island nation that imported much of its food and with shipping under attack. Food rationing started in January 1940, only several months into the war. The requirement for coupons to purchase clothing followed on 1st June 1941.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 21st October 1941 page 3.

The individual was initially allowed a total of 66 coupons per year, but this dropped as the war dragged on. To put this in perspective, a lined coat for a lady required 14 coupons, shoes 5  and ankle socks 1. However, infant and work wear were coupons free, and so were requirements for mending such as mending thread or wool, etc.  These restrictions were further enforced by sumptuary laws in 1942 when it became illegal to add any  unnecessary embellishments, trimmings or detailing other than was functionally required. The result in Britain was the “utility suit”.

Border Mail (Albury, NSW), 6th June 1942 page 4.

Similarly, in Australia and America there appeared the Government mandated ‘Victory Suit” during 1942.

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 5th March 1942 page 3.

Interestingly, the term was adopted by tailors and retailers even before the Government mandates.

The Age (Melbourne), 5th June 1940.

Truth (Sydney), 17th August 1941 page 17. The concept of patriotism and tailoring are being linked.

The Sun (Sydney), 2nd October 1941 page 18. A “smart little Victory Suit”.


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