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'Posh Utility' label- solved?

Discussion in 'PUBLIC Vintage Fashion - Ask Questions Get Answers' started by VintageFray, Nov 10, 2006.

  1. Uncontrolled pants :)
  2. Did the Posh Utility label ever get added to the label resource? I can't find it.
  3. Interesting that the ad says CC stands for "controlled commodity" - I've always thought it was "civilian clothing"...
  4. I've read elsewhere that CC41 stood for Clothing Control 1941 and the label was designed by the commercial artist Reginald Shipp
  5. lkranieri

    lkranieri VFG Member

    Yes, that was why I posted that article.


  6. I love a mystery!
  7. lkranieri

    lkranieri VFG Member

    From the Feb 1946 Wall Street Journal (from Proquest):

    "BRITISH FASHIONS: Top Dress Designers Trying to Put London Creations Back on Map; It's Part of Britain's Big Export Drive; "Show Window" For Textile Industry; Labor, Materials Are Short

    By John D. Leonard

    LONDON -- Britain's ten top-notch dress designers are trying to put London fashions back on the map.

    After six years of controls and restrictions, utility and austerity, leaders of London's "high fashion" have been allowed to spread their wings in Britain's newly opened export drive. They are aiming their non-austerity sights at the American market in particular and those of the world in general.

    Like other British industries, the fashion merchants are plagued by labor and material shortages but hope both will improve by next summer.

    Blessing But Not Much Backing -- The dollar-conscious British Board of Trade and Ministry of Labor have given the industry their blessing but only a vague sort of backing. The British bureaucratic mind is relatively unaccustomed to thinking of fashion as an important item in international trade and the show window for the nation's high grade textile industry.

    Leaders of the drive to market British fashions are organized as Incorporated Society of London Fashion Designers. Its membership boasts the world famous dress houses of London -- Norman Hartnell, whose ranking customer is Queen Elizabeth; Molyneux, couturier to the Duchess of Kent, and Peter Russell, designer for the Duchess of Gloucester. Others who also go in for a carriage-trade clientele include Worth, Digby Morton, Hardy Amies, Victor Stiebel, Bianca Mosca, Charles Creed and Angele Delanghe.

    These designers' creations are the cream of the British dress-making crop. So are their prices, which range from about $168 to $210 a dress. They pride themselves on the original designs, which their skillful cutters, tailoresses and fitters translate into tailored tweeds, street dresses and evening gowns for Britain's most elegant women -- and in normal times for those of style-conscious Paris, New York, and other world capitals.

    In addition to these top ten fashion firms, there are the wholesale couturiers who design and manufacture for the large department stores of Britain and big cities overseas. Theirs is a less exclusive market, but much larger. Prices run from about $30 upwards per dress.

    The third group are factory producers who represent the nearest approach to the U.S. mass producer for the cheapest market. They turn out frocks beginning at approximately $3, mainly for the working women of Britain. Their material is strictly utility while the other two groups use the limited amount of so-called "free" or non-utility material. The top 10 designers use no utility material.

    Designers Hard Hit By War -- War hit the big designers hard. They still feel the effects of wartime restrictions on labor and materials, many of which are still in force. During the war years, some designers like Charles Creed and Hardy Amies joined the army. Victor Stiebel's talents for color were directed to camoflage work. But their fellow-designers came to their rescue. Worth provided work-room, mannequins and showing facilities for Hardy Amies when he was bombed out. Jacqmar, Limited did likewise for Victor Stiebel and Fortnum and Mason Limited accommodated Charles Creed. These three designers have now been "demobbed" and are back with their dress houses.

    At the same time, war and National Service reduced the staffs of all the big dress houses to less than skeleton size. Cutters, fitters, saleswomen, mannequins, tailoresses and sewers were put into war jobs. Some houses got along with one mannequin, some with none, instead of a half dozen or more. And often the mannequin was part-time saleswoman, material matcher, and even delivery girl.

    However the government was anxious to keep the names of the big designers alive, so it allowed them to have just enough non-utility material to keep going. But they are required to conform to the austerity standards for the home trade. No frills. No embroidery. Restrictions on pleats and pockets. No lace and only four buttons to a jacket. "No nothing," as one designer put it.

    The net result was that each house had to limit itself to anywhere from two to six new creations a year. One designer, for example, introduced only six instead of his usual 300 or more. Because of material shortages, houses had to improvise, often using goods brought in by their clients. Silk shawls and petticoats became linings. Indian saris were transformed into evening gowns.

    Today the shortage story is much the same. Labor is still scarce, particularly sewers and tailoresses, most of whom were drafted into wartime occupations because of their youth. Only a trickle of them are coming back -- one or two a week when, as one designer put it, there should be a dozen. Materials are in short supply primarily because of labor shortages in the mills. Woolens are harder to get than silks and rayons. Some attribute labor shortages to the fact that workers who were drafted into wartime jobs in a modern factory are not easily lured back to the poorer working conditions in the textile mills.

    Recently the big ten designers held their first full-fledges fashion show -- with the export trade in mind. To make this possible the government allotted each dress house a supply of wool. They were also doled out limited amounts of cotton, rayon, and silk. The wool allotment would produce about 20 yards of cloth or the equivalent of five dresses, possibly six. Designers didn't consider this a generous hand-out, particularly since they knew the demand for their creations from overseas buyers would exceed the supply. At the same time austerity regulations for the home trade were relaxed to help put over the fashion drive.

    "For Export Only" -- Between 20 and 30 buyers flocked to London from the U.S., Canada, Sweden, France, Denmark, Egypt, India, Iraq, and elsewhere. They saw pure printed silks produced by the latest printing processes, "for export only" as the sign in one shop window read. It was a sad sight for austerity-weary British women. The buyers were shown smart tailored tweed suits in soft greens, browns, and blues; black taffeta afternoon dresses; tailored cotton print suits fitted to canvas backs and designed to stand hard wear; slinky simple lipstick-red dinner dresses and even a white satin gown which could be converted into a wedding dress by adding sleeves.

    The buyers found that the war has left its mark on British fashions. The domestic staff shortages -- particularly the end of "persona;" maids -- is reflected in frocks and gowns which are easy to put on or take off and which require a minimum of care.

    Most creations have been designed for comfort and to meet the present exigencies of everyday life in Britain. Clothes which are emphasized as one house claimed in showing its collections, "Every model will stand up to the hard practical demands of life as we know it."

    When a buyer purchases a model, he can obtain exclusive rights for its sale either for the world, a particular country, or just the city in which his shop is located. It is the designers' established policy that each purchaser should reproduce copies of the model in a factory at home, but out of British material. This means more dollars, in the case of the U.S. for dollar-short Britain. But the success of this fashion export drive will be determined largely by the extent to which cloth becomes available for this purpose. Each model shown is "backed up" by enough material to make seven or eight copies. Beyond this, it is up to each purchaser to fend for himself.

    The designers say they have adequate blessing from the British government but uncertain backing. They attribute this to bureaucratic ignorance of their industry.

    The Board of Trade is said to have agreed to allocate material for the drive and the Ministry of Labor said it would try to provide labor for textile makers.

    However, when one dress house reportedly explained to the Board of Trade that an export license is required for each repeat fabric order for each model, an official readily agreed to release the material -- but only 15 yards of it. He was staggered to find that almost 15 miles of the material was required for reproduction demands.

    Again, instead of being issued a blanket license to cover its needs, each designing house is required to apply in triplicate to the Board of Trade for every separate order received, regardless of whether the order is for an American store or two for Iraq.

    When the fashion export drive was recognized as part of the national export program, the Ministry of Labor promised to bring female labor down from the North to help alleviate the manpower shortage in the dress houses. But when it was explained that only highly skilled cutters, fitters, hand sewers and tailoresses could be used, no more was heard.

    Designers contend that officials have so long considered a dress merely a woman's frivolity that they can't get used to the idea that fashion can be an export outlet for the nation's textile industry.
  8. Fascinating stuff!
  9. lkranieri

    lkranieri VFG Member

    ... and a much shorter article!

    From an April 1943 Wall Street Journal:

    "BLACK-MARKETEERS' INGENUITY in appealing to the vanity and cupidity of the average citizen would be highly commendable in a better cause.

    The latest racket is the exploitation of women's desire for exclusive clothes by firms offering at inflated prices costumes available at utility prices and utility guarantees.

    Having detached the utility label and added some worthless trimming, the garments are offered as "something different," which few women can resist and sellers pocket 100% profit. Scotland Yard is now assisting the Board of Trade in stamping out the racket."

  10. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    During the war the CC is also referred to in publications as standing for 'civilian clothing' as well as 'cloth control' so there seems to be no definitive answer that everyone agrees upon. Hugh Dalton of the Board of Trade refers in one paper to 'civilian clothing CC41 standards', so he may have been accidentally responsible for the misinformation of what CC stood for. I really like the definition of 'controlled commodity' for CC and this is probably the earliest public reference to the plan I have seen as well. Any documentation I managed to find were documents from the Board of Trade to the government, not from public newspapers. However, the newspaper has confused austerity measures with CC41 directives - the initial purpose of CC41 was to actually improve the quality of cloth in British made garments so that they wore better. The label appeared in only manufactured garments that used the government approved textiles and that followed all austerity measures (which applied to both CC41 and non CC41 made clothes.)
  11. Thanks Jonathan
  12. I got this email from Josie Sheppard at York Castle Musum, UK.

    Dear Mrs. Livingstone,
    Thank you for your enquiry, which has been passed to me.
    I am familiar with the label you describe, as we have a dress in our
    collection which has the same label stitched into it. It is an
    evening-dress, of about 1945-47.
    I have also puzzled over the label, and my attempts to find out anything
    about it have not led very far, I'm afraid! I do remember gleaning
    something similar to what you have mentioned, although I'm not sure
    about the export bit.
    Sorry that I can't shed more light on this!
    Josie Sheppard, Curator of Costume and Textiles.
  13. Next time I'm in York I will pop by York Castle Museum and try and take a look at the dress, maybe get a photo. Very interesting..
  14. crinolinegirl

    crinolinegirl Alumni

    I have a chest of drawers that has the CC41 stamp on it (£10 from the Salvation Army!) and I used to have a wardrobe in Canada that had the CC41 stamp too so obviously, the CC didn't stand for clothing as furniture had it as well :)

  15. Yes I have a friend whose whole flat is full of CC41 furniture and odd bits and bobs. He collects it!
  16. A further message from Josie:

    Dear Suzanne,
    Many thanks! You would be welcome to visit.
    I do remember (from somewhere) hearing the label called "super utility", but when I googled this, (just now, as I was curious) a site for Leicestershire Museums came up, with an example of a "super utility" corset, together with a photograph of the label. I got quite excited about this, but sadly the label bears no resemblance to the "Dinner plate" at all!
    Might be worth contacting Leicester museums, though?
    Josie Sheppard.

    And here is the link to the corset which I googled:


    and more photos and info:


    This is an Avro Super Utility corset, produced in 1949. Super Utility allowed manufacturers to be more elaborate in their design and quality, but still within the material restrictions of the Utility regulations.

    - curioser and curioser!!
  17. Jonathan

    Jonathan VFG Member

    The CC41 program was extended to furniture the year after it was first applied to clothing.
  18. vertugarde

    vertugarde Alumni

    The 'luxury label.' This might help;

    From the book 'Knickers' by Rosemary Hawthorne;

    'The trademark of the War years is the Utility label found attached to all manufactured clothing from 1942, through the post-war years, up to 1953. The designer of the well know CC41 label was Reginald Shipp who worked as a commercial artist for an old-established firm, Hargreaves, near Oxford Street. They were designers and suppliers of manufacturers' labels: their work covered retail, clothing, club and uniform labels. In 1940 Hargreaves, amongst several other companies, were asked to submit designs for the Utility mark that the Board of Trade wished to issue in 1941. Reginald Shipp's design was selected and he received, along with his company, a letter of commendation. The Board of Trade also awarded Mr Shipp a personal prize of £5. He lived in Barnes, London and died in 1962. It is quite likely therefore that Shipp designed this slightly later label which could be used after 1945, when rationing was still in force, on a luxury garment. This label depicts the full circle and double lines either side. The label would have indicated perhaps that better fabric, more luxurious, had been used, or more material. It seems that clothes in a luxury category carried something like 25% more purchase tax, Obviously it meant there were very few garments around that bore this mark - better class corsets appear to occasionally boast the luxury mark because they used many restrictive materials - but after 1949 CC41 controls on clothing were lifted and Utility labels were not added to garments.'

    Go to;


    The label wasn't intended for export. I have come across a list of of British exported goods from the post-war years and wool as a fabric or fibre commodity was exported. There is no mention of garments.
  19. Excellent! Very interesting.
  20. crinolinegirl

    crinolinegirl Alumni

    I used to have that book too, can't believe I missed the thing about the posh utility label inside!!

    Mystery solved!


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