Suit, Utility Scheme

Suit, Utility Scheme

Suit (jacket and skirt)
Digby Morton (1906-83, designer), for the Utility Scheme
1942
London
Grey herringbone wool, fastened with metal buttons, trimmed with a grosgrain bow
Museum no. T.45 to B-1942
Given by the Board of Trade

The buttons on this tailored ensemble bear a wartime message. They are stamped with the Utility symbol CC41, which stands for Civilian Clothing and 1941. The Utility Scheme was introduced in 1941 to ensure that consumer goods were produced to the highest possible standards at 'reasonable' prices. These standards complied with restrictions and rationing of raw materials. Utility clothes were usually identified by a distinctive double crescent CC41 (Civilian Clothing) label. Reginald Schipp designed the symbol. He was asked to disguise the 'CC' so that the public would not recognise the letters as such. This stylised motif became known as 'the cheeses' and was also printed on to clothing labels.

The Board of Trade commissioned the design for this jacket, skirt and blouse from the Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers. It was one of 32 stylish yet economical outfits intended for general production. In October 1942 Vogue magazine published the following description of the collection: 'All the designs are, of course, within the New Austerity specifications: only so many buttons, this much cuff and that much skirt...but they are an object lesson in the power of pure style over mere elegance'.

Although the designers of individual pieces were not publicised, this suit has Digby Morton's initials inked on a paper tag. The label also identified it as 'No 16 Original DM 92/10' with a maximum price tag of just under £5.00. There is a Morton label inside the blouse, making it one of only two Utility prototype garments labelled by the original designer. The other piece is a Bianca Mosca blouse.