With war-time fabric regulations and eventual fabric rationing, women who sewed were trying to make do, cannibalizing old garments to create more up-to-date styles. Butterick responded to their needs with a series of suggestions on how they could combine fabric remnants using specific Butterick patterns. Some new fashions also helped, like a fad for dresses made with two different materials, or for suits that no longer needed matching jackets and skirts.
The dress below, from Saks or Neiman-Marcus, combined a dotted fabric with a solid one, like the Butterick illustration above.
It cost $35.00, a lot of money in 1943.
Butterick 2304 was a pattern for just the spotted sleeves, collar, and yoke of this “remnant” dress.
The body of the dress was one you might already have in your closet; Butterick gave instructions for removing the existing sleeves and collar and replacing them with just one and one eighth yards of 39 inch fabric.
“Stop, look, and consider just how you can salvage that discarded dress for another season or two. . . . Next time you’re at the remnant counter of your favorite store, look for a fabric to combine with your original dress. This bit of salvage magic will give you a completely new one. . . . This transformation of your tired frock will do such wonderful things for your budget as well as aiding in the vital program of fabric conservation.”
Click here for a great illustration of a refashioned dress in this article about clothes rationing — and the usefulness of printed feedsacks — from the Lebanon County Historical Society.
Because it lacks the interior structure of a suit, this is called a two piece dress, but it has a jacket-like bodice and a separate skirt.
“Remnants used adroitly are invaluable in balancing a budget; invaluable in aiding the all-out wartime effort of fabric conservation. . . . we suggest Butterick 2718, a slim two-piece dress . . . . Plan it in contrast . . . . . . In this was you can have a really individual dress . . . a dress that saves fabric . . . a dress that saves your budget from the doldrums!”
The skirt takes less than 2 yards of 39″ fabric, and the top uses only 1 3/8 yards — so the chance of finding both pieces on the remnant table were pretty good.
The skirt from either pattern could also be combined with jacket-like blouses — sometimes with a peplum — like these:
Butterick also offered this “shirtwaist dress,” (left, below) which looks like two pieces but isn’t. The waist is very similar to a blouse and skirt combination sold at I. Magnin. (right)
The coral rayon top (also available in aqua) and the black velveteen skirt from I. Magnin (a very upscale store) came in junior sizes 9 to 15, and cost $35.00. The ad reminds careful shoppers that they could be worn separately.
I haven’t checked the Ladies’ Home Journal for 1943, but that magazine constantly suggested ways to remake dresses during World War I. The World War II slogan “Make Do and Mend” was observed by all levels of society in England and the U.S.