Where to Start: Clothing, Cleaning, and Personal Items

When I bought my house, I wondered about the closets. Or rather, I wondered why the closets were so small, if there was a closet at all. The front bedroom didn't have a closet (I shaved a few feet off one end, adding a walk-in closet for the bedroom and a coat closet that opens onto the living room), the corner bedroom didn't have a closet (It is now our office), and the master bedroom and the bedroom opposite it across the hall have closets exactly half the width of the hallway, back-to-back, and about 5 feet long (I couldn't do anything about this. No room to make them larger. Sigh.) Didn't people in the 1940s have clothes?!

Well, no, they didn't. At least, not like we do today. Check out this "recommended wardrobe," covering all seasons, for women:

10 pr panties
5 slips
3 bras
4 pr tights
5 pr socks
10 shirts
2 sweaters
2 pr jeans
4 pr trousers
4 skirts
2 formal dresses
2 summer dresses
2 pr heels
1 pr flats
1 pr casual shoes
2 dressing gowns
2 nightgowns
dress coat
casual coat

No wonder they could get their entire wardrobe in those tiny 1940s suitcases! They didn't have any clothes! I am nowhere near the clothes-horse of most people I know and I have at least two to three times that many clothes (except for my Christmas dress. I don't have that yet. It's waiting for me on my wish list on Amazon.) And the men's wardrobe is just as bad:

10 pr boxers
10 undershirts
10 pr socks
4 pr jeans
4 pr trousers
2 suits
16 shirts
2 pr dress shoes
2 pr casual shoes
2 bathrobes
2 pajamas
dress coat
casual coat

Okay, okay, calm down. Breathe. We can do this. Danny and I can weed down our clothes and pack the extra away. It might be fun, kinda like shopping without going shopping. Except you already own everything. But there would finally be room to fit all our clothes in our closet. And if I'm in desperate need of some item of clothing, it turns out that used clothing wasn't rationed. I ain't too proud for Goodwill. As long as I get my Christmas dress, it's a win-win.

About that dress...

Clothes were strictly rationed during the war. Everyone was give just 60 clothing coupon points for the whole year. Here's the list for women:

Here's the list for the men:

So the dress is do-able-ish. I might even be able to swing a pair of shoes. I'm still in. Let's see what else war time rationing covered.

"Beauty is a Duty." THAT, my dear readers, was a war time propaganda slogan. Women were encouraged to always wear makeup, or at least lipstick, in an effort to look their best; to always wear their hair neat and stylish; and to stay in shape with daily exercises as part of their Patriotic Duty. Pamphlets of recommended exercises were printed by the government. News reels were distributed, demonstrating the latest hair, make up, and fashions. Hats, lipstick, and shaving soap were off ration, so women could still look stylish on bad hair days, and men could be clean shaven.

Daily exercises, wear lipstick, keep hair neat and stylish. Check. (whimper.)

Speaking of soap, it turns out soap was rationed during the war!  Not just rationed; RATIONED!

4 Soap coupons were issued per person, per month. One coupon was good for:

4 oz bar soap  or
3 oz toilet (facial) soap   or
1/2 oz liquid soap  or
6 oz soft soap   or
3 oz soap flakes   or
6 oz powdered soap.

Think of how much soap you use in a month. Bath soap, shampoo, dish soap, laundry soap, household cleaners. I just checked my bottle of Ivory dish soap. It has 24 oz. I use about two of those per month. We go through probably two bars of soap in the shower per month. And a bottle of shampoo, the big bottles, with the pump, every couple months. And what about conditioner? Is it considered a soap?  And what about the laundry?!?! Even if we hardly have any clothes, I'm still going to have to wash them sometime!

This is going to be an issue. I'm not sure how to solve it. Let's move on. What else could there be...?

What do you mean, one roll of toilet paper, per person, per week?!?! Who do you think I am, Gwyneth Paltrow?

Let me get this straight. Hardly any clothes, even less soap, next to no TP, but I'm supposed to do my Duty and always strive to look my best. (Grumble, grumble.)

(Sigh.) Well, the women of the 1940s were elegant, sophisticated, even chic. And there was a war going on when they were doing it. If they managed, I can do it.

But daily exercise?! Isn't that against the Geneva Convention or something?


Gorges Smythe said...

LOL - After four years of poverty, those guys had more clothes than I do if they had that much!

Gorges Smythe said...

BTW, rationing is why feed sack clothes and lye soap stayed popular.

Catherine said...

Gorges--My husband said much the same thing. He looked at the list (while I was hyperventilating in panic) and said something to the effect of, "Yup, that's plenty of clothes for me." How do men DO that?!?!?

As for feed sacks, they're all woven plastic fiber now...and if someone buys lye now-a-days, they're liable to have the DEA show up on their doorstep. (Lye soap would have been cheap to make, but collecting that much spare fat might be problematic.)