Date: c. 1940s
Origin: Great Britain
Fabric: Parachute silk, embroidered tulle
Brand: Custom made
This trousseau-style set was home made, likely in 1940s Britain during World War II. This was a time of great restrictions, with fabrics and clothing being carefully rationed. Many people worked around these restrictions by making their own clothing at home and using unusual and non-traditional fabrics. The set consists of a bias-cut slip, soft bra and tap pants.
The base fabric of this set is a habotai silk, also known as parachute silk. Silk as a particularly restricted fabric, as it was needed for parachutes in the war effort. Due to the shortage of silks, many women would ‘recycle’ used parachutes (either those sent home by sweethearts from overseas or those captured from enemy airmen) to create wedding dresses and lingerie.
The set is clearly home made on a domestic sewing machine, with inconsistent and inaccurate stitching throughout. The fabric has been carefully cut to minimise waste, which is particularly noteworthy on the bias-grain slip which has carefully placed diagonal panelling. The tulle inserts on the garments are likely made from a fabric originally intended for home-furnishings rather than lingerie, as it is very stiff and scratchy. The elastic at the waist of the tap pants is of the single cord variety, usually intended for utilitarian use rather than actual clothing. It is likely that this was the best material available for the purpose and is a noteworthy example of the British ‘make do and mend’ mentality.
Although the set is not well sewn, it is clear that a lot of time and consideration went into creating it. The fabric has been very carefully cut to minimise waist, the edges are trimmed with narrow silk binding and the pattern pieces are French seamed. It is possible that this set was intended as a wedding trousseau at a time of great hardship and minimal resources.
From the collection of Karolina Laskowska