Wednesday, 24 June 2015

A Capital Day Out

A few weeks ago, we took a much anticipated family trip to London.  Preferring to catch an early train to beat the crowds, my family of four plus my parents, headed off bright and early, arriving in Liverpool Street just after 8am!

We try to avoid the underground when travelling with the girls and so took to our feet and walked; Liverpool Street to Lambeth Road is quite a stomp!  Thankfully, the weather was glorious, one of those bright May days, and there is always plenty to see on the South Bank, so there was no complaining, not even from little legs Miss M. 

My mum and dad in their normal attire!  CC41 overcoat for my dad, and a 1940's teddy bear coat for my mum!

It’s never a chore to walk in the beautiful parts of the city.  There are plenty of eateries to stop off at.  Breakfast was had just by St Pauls Cathedral.  Certainly beats my normal morning view.

The reason for our jolly jaunt was a much anticipated visit to IWM London.


I first visited the museum when I was in high school, back in the mid 1990’s.  I found it utterly fascinating, and the books I took home as gifts for my parents were what sparked their initial interest in the Second World War.  I remember waxing lyrical about the hanging aircraft in the atrium and the spectacular Britain in the Blitz exhibition.  Times move on and exhibitions change, so when we heard that the site was closed for refurbishment, we had high hopes for something even more spectacular than before.  When the Fashion on the Ration exhibition was opened, it seemed like the perfect time to make the long awaited trip.    

If you don’t know already, Fashion on the Ration is an exhibition that has been put together to show how men and women found new ways to dress in the dark days of clothes rationing. 
There is a brilliant book, "Fashion on the Ration", by Julie Summers, that accompanies the exhibition.

The exhibition has been beautifully put together.  You aren’t allowed to take photographs in there, although many people were blatantly doing so when we visited, but a quick Google search should bring up plenty of photos of some of the beauties on display. 

Many of the clothing examples are breath-taking, and the layout of the exhibition works really well as there is lots of space so you can stand back and really appreciate the exhibits.  There are plenty of high end examples of clothing, novelty prints, and an especially delightful two piece with a rather fetching ball of wool and knitting needles print.  There are films running on various walls, which give a great atmosphere to the whole thing, but I think they could have covered a bit more. 

For an exhibition covering how hard it was to clothe yourself during rationing, there is very little in the way of what is often seen as mundane, everyday clothing.  Yes, there is a patchwork dress and underwear made out of silk maps.  There is also a clip showing you how to cut down the old man’s trilby so you can re-fashion it into a little topper for yourself, but these barely touch the surface of what it was really like to make do with what you had.  I feel it is more tailored towards the high fashion clothing than the standing in the grocery queue fashions which so often get overlooked.  There aren’t enough knitteds for my liking, but being knitting obsessed I would think that!  The uniforms that are on display are a nice touch, and I could happily have taken home the bright floral smocks and overcoat with CC41 buttons.  

There is a phenomenal display of Jacqmar propaganda scarves, and they are probably my favourite thing in the whole exhibition.  Framed and displayed as a collection, they are so cheerful and bright.  These scarves are incredibly rare; we have a rayon silk London Wall and RAF Happy Landings one in our collection, but I’ve never seen any others for sale.  I shall keep looking though.

Although it might seem like I’m being a miserable sod, I’m honestly not.  I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition, and if you’re into the fashions of the forties, then it certainly is worth seeing, but it is smaller than I expected and therefore I think the £10 entry is a little steep.   

Once we’d looked round the exhibition, we wandered around the rest of the museum, and although we had high hopes of a fabulous time, I’m truly sad to say that we were a little underwhelmed by the whole experience. 
Disappointingly, we all left feeling that parts of the museum were a little bit pants!  The Holocaust exhibition was informative and emotive, and I’m pleased I saw it through to the end, but the exhibitions around the atrium were sterile and poorly placed, there seemed to be no flow to it, no chronology.  The section on the wartime family is very good, although the WVRS badge on a supposedly wartime WVS uniform is disappointing.

We are used to the splendour of IWM Duxford, very much a family favourite, and hoped the London would be the same, but it just lacked something.  All four adults felt it, although no-one really wanted to admit to it first because I’d been so excited to take everyone down there.  We spent less than 2 hours in the museum and that just doesn’t seem right.  We thought that maybe we’d taken a wrong turn and missed an entire section, but we hadn’t, there just wasn’t that much to see. 

We had lunch in the sunshine in the gardens outside the museum, and rested our aching feet for a while before heading back along the South Bank towards the station.

The walk back to the station was not as fabulous as the morning walk had been.  By Victoria Gardens, just by the fair rides, a delightful light fingered member of society managed to relieve the Mr of his wallet!  Although we’d seen all the signs and posters, and were super careful, we didn’t think it would happen to us; we still don’t quite know how it did.  Luckily, he was reunited with his wallet, the offender having slung it into the gardens, but safe to say it came back minus all the money, but thankfully all his cards, driving licence, rail travel card etc, were untouched. 

It didn’t spoil the day, but it certainly put a damper on it and knocked the wind out of his sails.  The calm in the storm, my parents kindly treated us to dinner before we climbed wearily onto the train home. 

My dad hates London.  Apparently, he always has.  He worked there in the 1980s and thinks it’s a dirty, smelly place.  This experience hasn’t made him think any more favourably about the city, and I don’t think he’ll be joining us on further visits any time soon!



  1. You had a lovely time in London despite the mis-hap. I went to the Imperial War Museum in the 1970's your right nothing flowed even then. I went to see the Colditz exhibition. I'm with your dad I hate London!
    Julie xxxxx

  2. I am sorry the museum was not up to what you had wished, I went there as a young child & can not remember it but do remember Churchill's bunker.
    I worked in London for 3 years as a teenager, guess I am with your Dad, the place would frighten me now.
    It is lovely to see your little girls with there Grandparents.
    We are thinking about going to Duxford this Summer, do you recommend it, it has been years since I have been there too.
    Is the book any good, I have been thinking about buying it.
    Fondly Michelle

    1. I think you would all enjoy what Duxford has to offer. The space they have there is great, and my girls always love it, discovering something new each time we visit. The book, what I've managed to read of it, is great. Highly recommend it, and it is very informative.
      Hope you're having a glorious summer,
      Lucy x

  3. My friend and I went to the Fashion on the Ration exhibition in March and we, too, were disappointed. I have a great interest in the clothes of the 40s, particularly the 'make-do and mend' mentality and I found that the exhibition was very lacking. I was hoping to learn something from going and although it was lovely to see the dresses and coats on display - and the Jacqmar scarves which were gorgeous - I came away feeling unfulfilled. Both my friend and I thought that the exhbition wasn't worth the £10 but would have paid £5 happily. It took us only 40 min do look at the exhibition then we looked at the Holocaust section but my friend found it too upsetting and depressing so we came away. I would like to go and look round the rest of the museum at some point in the future but I am comforted by your comments that you felt kind of short changed by it all as did we.
    Love you blog though, and I've seen your stall at a couple of 40s events we've been to. Keep up the good work!
    Bev xxx

  4. I have the book from the Fashion on the Ration exhibition. It's next to be read, on the pile of books!

    1. Sounds like you have a similar book pile to me :)

  5. I've read the book accompanying this exhibition but I live quite far from London so probably won't get down unfortunately and maybe it isn't as good as expected! I think it would be good to see though.

    1. I can't deny that it was lovely to see the exhibition, there were some outstanding pieces, but looking at it from a learning point of view, the book is far better.

  6. Such a shame - Though I don't feel so bad about not going to see the exhibition now, I looked into it and with a train fare and entry I would've been £300 lighter! At least you know now, better than not going and always wondering if you've missed out :)

    1. Cripes! No, definitely not worth being £300 out of pocket for. A quick Google search brings up lots of images from the exhibition, so I'd stick to enjoying it from the comfort of your living room :o)

  7. It's interesting to see a lover of the era's take on the exhibition. I guess a lot of the general public aren't as into 40s fashion and so probably wouldn't notice the areas where it was lacking in quite the same way. It makes me glad I didn't go to London specifically for it!

    AUGH to your poor husband getting his wallet nicked, though at least he got it back. Has he cancelled his cards anyway, just to be on the safe side?

    1. I did wonder that, Mim. I think because the fashion of the 1940's is how I make my living, it would have needed to have the wow factor to get my full attention, so maybe I was a little critical? Yes, the Mr did cancel his cards, can never be too sure. x

  8. I too was hoping for good things after the refurbishment, but it seems that might not be the case. I didn't realise there was an entry fee to Fashion on the Ration either, maybe if I do get a chance to go to London, I will visit the War Rooms instead. Thank you for an interesting blog post!

    1. I was left disappointed, and although photography was meant to be banned in the exhibition, a quick search online will bring up pictures of most of what was there. I hope to get the War Rooms one day, too :o)

  9. What a great exhibition. Just came across your blog! I've just started to embrace a 1940s and 50s inspired lifestyle and also a more simple way of living. I have also just started to learn to a real beginner...majorly (!) and it was great to find your site.