It's VE Day! And to celebrate we've found some amazingly fitting pieces to highlight for the second part of our virtual vintage museum! These items are entirely from our Wayne's personal collection and are some of the most important pieces we have stashed away, so unfortunately you likely won't find anything like these on our kilo rails....unless we miss the teeny tiny label, you never know! And that teeny tiny label we just mentioned? CC41!
The CC41 label indicates an item of clothing that was manufactured during WW2 when material was rationed as part of the war effort. With a lack of labour (many factory employees had gone off to war) and a lack of materials, clothing prices were steadily increasing and so the government intervened to ensure manufacturers could still produce reasonably priced clothing for the public.
This involved the introduction of the Purchase Tax in 1941, which listed different tax rates for different materials and goods - the more luxurious the item, the more expensive it was to manufacture and buy, but anything deemed a necessity was tax free. Utility materials fell into the tax free threshold so manufacturers were encouraged to produce cheap, no frills clothing for the public, and that's exactly what the 'CC41' label indicated. The cream dress pictured is a CC41 wedding dress, which is clearly a very beautiful but otherwise simple design, with just pleats on the collar and a few shoulder sequins for detail.
Items were limited with the number of buttons and pockets, metal zips replaced with tiny fasteners, jackets were single breasted instead of double, the number of pleats on skirts were reduced, no linings were added etc... we can see this in the floral dress pictured which has just one pocket and well spaced buttons, and the label indicates it's a CC41 by St Michael - yep, it's a WW2 M&S! These items were very basic, though they remained well made as the public still wanted items to last as you can see from the ones Wayne found!
Another similar label from this era is the 'Double Elevens' label, which has caused confusion ever since its introduction in the late 40's. Items with this label were not necessarily utility clothing and were manufactured with more expensive materials or had additional, non essential details. This meant they came with a higher tax and a higher price tag.
These garments were from the more expensive lines and so would have been treasured by those who owned them. The pink dress is an example of one of Wayne's previous Double Eleven dresses, compare the level of sequin detail and the thick crepe to the lightweight satin CC41 wedding dress with just a few scattered sparkles.
Clothes with these labels can readily be found and are often still in pretty decent condition - clearly pieces that were made fit for purpose and to last. Not only this, during the war years a lot of garments were upcycled due to material rationing, so it's not uncommon to find blouses made from pillowcases and wedding dresses made from parachutes!
People often find these clothes stashed away, long forgotten by elderly relatives, though many people may not understand the historic importance of the label. If you do find any vintage clothing, it's worth checking the neckline or waistband which is often where this label was placed, usually always in an obvious position in plain view. They can fetch a fair bit of money amongst vintage collectors, but if they belong to a relative you should consider treasuring them yourself as a piece of your own family history.