Friday, 21 October 2011

Ration and Fashion

It’s a Monday morning on the 17th October, and I have talked my friend Eloise Coyle into taking part in the gravy browning stocking challenge (I actually just made that up but I liked the sound of it).
Many of you will be aware that during the 2nd World War just about everything was rationed including materials. Silk and high-grade rayon was needed for parachutes, wool needed for military uniforms, and basically every type of fabric was in short supply worldwide.
In the UK rationing was very strict, the British government introduced a coupon system for clothing that started on Sunday the 1st of June 1941. Rationing continued until 1949, and some forms of rationing didn’t end until mid 1950’s.
I remember my Grandmother talking about how some women would paint their legs with gravy browning when they were unable to get stockings. So it was with this in mind that we went along to the Abingdon Wellbeing and Resource Centre to see how it was actually done.
Eloise like myself had been told stories from various relatives about such improvisations. Eloise like me was interested in finding out just how difficult this process would be.
So like many of the fashion conscious women of the time. Eloise used gravy browning and water to paint her legs with some help from Josie. I would later attempt to use eyeliner pencil to draw a seam up the back of her leg.
Two of the members Mary and Ruby had done this themselves during the rationing. Mary explained to me that she and her friend had painted each other’s legs earlier in the day. They then had gone out only to have the heavens open on them both - it absolutely poured with rain and the gravy browning legs were washed away.
Mary and Ruby told me that ideally you would have help from your friend, and do each other’s legs. I’m pretty certain they wouldn’t have been impressed with my help. I made Eloise look like she had wonky stockings on and when Renee saw what we had done we got the big thumbs down. The line was too think, the gravy not even.
It must have been very difficult to apply such things as gravy or Coco. I’d like to find out if anybody else has tried this more recently and filmed it.
So I would like to set all you ladies the Gravy Browning Leg Challenge. Can you apply gravy or Coco to your legs evenly with the eyeliner running up the back of your legs to simulate the seam? If so please send me the link it would be great to share this and see how other people have got on.
‘Down Memory Lane’ is seeking further funding for this oral history project.
Big thank you to:
Eloise Coyle (gravy browning model)
Jackie Bowler - Resource and Wellbeing Centre
Abigail Brown - Arts Development Officer, Vale of White Horse District Council
Forum Chairs:
Renee Zarecky, Josie Kinduich, Doris Hurley, Janet Churlish and Sylvia Pead

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