World 45

In World 45, window coverings – rather than personal wardrobes – are the focus of fashion. Since the development of power looms in the Industrial Revolution, people have been superstitious about cutting newly woven cloth; consequently, all textiles are initially used as curtains. It is considered bad luck to make a curtain into garments or other items until it has been hung for at least a year. 

With textile production inevitably limited, fabric is highly valued and remaking is a necessity. A garment made directly from curtain fabric is kept for best, while ‘everyday’ items are typically remade from other worn-out clothes.

What if …

customs meant that fabric was valued and reused?

Issue targeted:

overproduction and overconsumption


people expressing themselves and connecting with others via items in their windows during 2020 lockdown; the design-for-sustainability idea of a cascade of use, with multiple iterations; instructions for cutting children’s clothes from adult garments

This World was contributed by Amy Twigger Holroyd (located in Nottingham, UK) using a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International licence which allows others to share and adapt the work in any medium and for any purpose, providing that they credit the author and share their material using the same Creative Commons licence.

Response to World 45

The World reminded me of the below comments, in a review by Mary Frances Gormally of the ‘Lace in Fashion’ exhibition at Bath Fashion Museum in 2017, published in Fashion Theory:

“An arresting moment in the exhibition is provided by two dresses. The dress in cream coloured tatting lace was made by Annie Goodwin for her granddaughter Marjorie. The caption tells us that it took a year to make using a small shuttle producing a type of knotted lace of loop motifs all joined together. We see the dress as Marjorie restyled it for her 1946 wedding. This dress and the 1970s Nottingham Lace Curtain Machine ensemble trigger moments of nostalgia, not only for me but numbers of visitors of a “certain age”, recalling Britain of the late 60s and 70s. For me, reading Simone de Beauvoir and Frances Moore Lappé, finding our voices as women on the campus, wearing bargains from London’s Camden Market and sharing the pleasures of knitting and crocheting shawls to accessorize our 1930s tea dresses. It seemed a hopeful time. The 1970s cream lace curtain ensemble is an example of the fashion for reusing old fabrics. It was designed and hand painted by Catherine Buckley. The top, with “butterfly” style short sleeves and a floor length tiered skirt of five flounces, is a familiar 70s style reminiscent of a Thea Porter design. Clearly visible are the eyelet holes for the curtain rail, returning us to an imagined past, a less hopeful time in the nineteenth century. A time when people moved out of the countryside into the grim industrial cities of London and the North of England seeking employment; they also sought some form of privacy in their back to back terraced houses. Nottingham lace curtain fabric supplied one answer until demand decreased in the mid twentieth century.”

For the full article, and an image of the dresses described, see Mary Frances Gormally (2019) Lace in Fashion, Fashion Theory, 23:3, 459-477, DOI: 10.1080/17498430.2017.1392151

– Ruth Mather

Response to World 45

A ‘Make Do and Mend’ Dress

Curtains turned into clothing? I immediately think of The Sound of Music, however there is an example of such a dress in archive of Worthing Museum and Art Gallery (Museum No. 1962/3071).

Throughout World War II (WWII), a significant reduction in the availability of raw materials was a trigger for the collective resilience of the British people. The introduction of civilian rationing in June 1941, followed by the Utility Clothing Scheme (late 1941) and the Make Do and Mend Campaign in 1942, had a profound effect on the British public (Reynolds, 1999). Promoted by the Board of Trade, as a concrete way of contributing to the war effort, was the reuse of clothing, household linen and accessories. One of the many suggestions promoted by the Make Do and Mend Campaign was to remove the good parts of one garment to construct another (Woods, 1983). Consequently, many surviving garments created during this period have been imaginatively constructed/and or repurposed using interesting and alternative materials.

The Worthing ‘Make do and Mend’ dress is a similar style to many constructed in Britain during WWII. The museum’s day-book describes it as a ‘Grey homemade dress, with curtain material inserts’. It has wide padded shoulders, a flared gored skirt with a hemline that falls just below the knee. Research conducted on the dress revealed that the hand embroidered curtain material bore a resemblance to British Arts and Crafts embroidery of the late 19th Century.

Whilst the Make Do and Mend campaign may have appeared novel but for many families on low incomes, this was not a new concept. Left over fabrics had always been made use of; good clothing was turned, and old garments were remodelled (Reynolds, 1999).

Reynolds, H (1999) ‘Your Clothes are Materials of War’: The British Government of Promotion of Home Sewing during Second World War: In: Burman, B. (ed.) The Culture of Home Sewing. Berg: Oxford.

Wood, M (1989) We wore what we’d got: Women’s clothes in World War II, Warwickshire Books: Warwick.

– Matilda Aspinall

Does this World remind you of something?

I am keen to hear about any historical or contemporary real-world examples – whether individual practices, subcultures or mainstream activities – that this fiction brings to mind.

Please share any such examples using this form. Thank you!

Published by Amy Twigger Holroyd

explorer of Fashion Fictions