Thursday, January 29, 2015

Essential Goods in Wartime

America, 1942, facing a rubber shortage so severe it is limiting the manufacture of airplanes and trucks:
Women took the loss of pleated skirts and one-piece bathing suits in stride, but when the rubber shortage threatened the continuing manufacture of girdles, a passionate outcry arose. Though government sources tried to suggest that "women grown their own muscular girdles, by exercising," women argued that "neither exercise nor any other known remedy" could restore aging muscles to their original youthful tautness. Without "proper support from well-fitted foundation garments" to hold the abdomen in place, there was no way, journalist Marion Dixon argued in a contemporary health magazine, that a woman past thirty could keep her posture erect or do physical work without tiring. "Certainly," Dixon concluded, "Uncle Sam does not want American women to wear garments that would menace their health or hamper their efficiency, especially during wartime, when every ounce of energy is needed." . . . Not long after the first public discussion of curtailing girdles, the War Production Board announced that foundation garments were an essential part of a woman't wardrobe, and as such could continue to be manufacture, despite the precious rubber involved.
From Doris Kearns Goodwin, No Ordinary Time (1994)

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