Make Do & Mend WW2 Dress




Introduction: Make Do & Mend WW2 Dress

During Britain in WW2, food clothes and materials were rationed and a culture of make do and mend was introduced. This dress is based around this theme and can be styled with a headscarf or 1940's hairstyle!

You will need:

  • An old dress or an old top and skirt
  • Newspaper
  • Scrap Material/lace
  • Clear resin
  • Bottle caps
  • Needle and thread
  • Sewing Machine
  • Fabric paint/pens
  • Iron - on transfer paper
  • Coloured felt
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Fimo Clay
  • Scissors
  • Craft Knife

Step 1: Find Some Old Clothes

So, firstly, going with the 'Make Do and Mend' theme, you should pick a top and a bottom item of clothing that you would like to use to create this design. I've gone with an old shirt and school skirt that I didn't wear anymore, and was headed for the bin.

It is possible to create this dress using an old full length dress rather than two pieces, so its totally up to you how you want to personalise this project.

Step 2: Make the Newspaper Collar

To add more of the 1940's vibe we are going to add a collar, and it will be made from newspaper, as this gives it a firm shape, but also relates to our reusing materials theme.

To do this; fold a double spread page into 4 lengthways.

Then wrap around the neck, making sure the ends match up so you know both sides of the collar will be even.

Then secure the collar in place with paperclips and add some basic stitches through the newspaper and the shirt to secure these together.

Be careful not to rip the newspaper when sewing through it - (although it should be pretty strong since its been folded a few times.)

Step 3: Preparing the Skirt

Now, you will need to prepare the skirt.

Whether you are using a skirt or a dress you will need to cut a section approx. 10 inches wide from the front. This will be where we insert the detail panel, which gives the whole outfit its character.

If you would like a really neat finish, remember to fold back the edges of the skirt where you have removed the material and stitch carefully to create a neat hem.

You can now cut out a panel in white cotton that will fit comfortably in the space that you have just created.

Step 4: Add Detailing to the Top Piece

Next stitch some patches of scrap material to the top, just to give it more Make Do and Mend character. I also had some scrap lace lying around so I added some fringing around where the buttons are.

Feel free to add your own twist at this step :)

Step 5: Making the Ration Token Buttons

As you may have seen in the last image I've added some custom buttons to the top.

In WW2 Britain you had to collect ration tokens to be able to purchase new clothes, so these buttons use the design that was featured on these.

To create these you simply need to collect some bottle caps (make sure you give them a quick clean)

Then print off images of these tokens (these can easily be found online) - and cut them so that they fit into the base of the bottle caps. (Just printing on normal non-laminated paper will be fine)

Then fill the bottle caps with the resin and leave to set.

Step 6: Making the Emergency Food Officer Badge

Along with all the rationing in WW2 there were government officials such as 'The Emergency Food Officer' who made sure everyone had enough to eat, and that all food available was shared equally.

This is a nice additional to the whole dress. To make it you need to first create a disk from salt dough the recipe for which is easily found.

(1/2 cup to 1 cup of flour1 cup to 1 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup to 1 cup of water)

Mix this together and then create the disk with a rolling pin and circular cookie cutter. You could also make this from Fimo clay if you prefer - but as you will see we will be using up more of the salt dough later :)

Then, paint the design with acrylic paint and add a layer or varnish (or clear nail polish works well to add the shine).

To add some extra interest I made some tiny vegetables from fimo clay and baked for 20 minutes at 160 degrees (fan oven) and attached this to the badge with some clear cellophane.

Remember to add a pin so you can attach it to your dress!

Step 7: Make the Bread Necklace

Another WW2 staple was bread, and this adds to the theme by creating an accessory to go with the dress - a bread necklace!

So you will need to use the remainder of the salt dough to create some loafs and batons.

Remember to poke a hole through the bread so that you can thread some string through after they have been hardened.

Step 8: Making the Iron-on Transfers

During WW2 there was many iconic British brands, and advertisements that are instantly reminiscent of the era. The panel for the bottom piece in the dress will incorporate some of these to create a beautifully detailed artwork.

The first step is to create some iron on transfers. You can pick any adverts you like but these are the ones I used as I think they are the most visually interesting and are instantly recognizable.



Keep Calm:

** Make sure you set them up to print backwards so that when you iron them on the text is the correct way round!!

Iron these on to your cotton panel in a random composition.

Step 9: Add More Detail to the Panel

To make the panel even more eye-catching you need to add more more detail.

Use paint and zig zag stitching to recreate some WW2 imagery of your choice.

I used fabric paint and pens to create the 'ahh Bisto' advert. -

Zig Zag stitching creates a rugged but interesting effect - To do this simply draw your design onto the panel, then using a sewing machine follow the lines loosely but WITHOUT stopping. This means the stitching is continuous and creates this blurred effect.

Step 10: Create Some Felt Details

To add some 3D depth and detail to the panel you can create some items with felt. Felt is really simple to use and easy to cut into more complicated shapes.

I've opted for a tin of Heinz baked beans, literally the food of the nation in Britain (unfortunately, ha)

For this, you just need to draw the outline for the tin onto greaseproof paper.

Then cut out each individual section with a craft knife and trace around these onto the felt.

Cut the felt out using scissors and a craft knife for the more intricate pieces, then neatly stitch all the pieces together.

Step 11: Attach the Panel to the Dress

Now that you've finished making your beautiful panel, neatly stitch it into the skirt

Step 12: Add Detail to the Skirt

Then, add some finishing touches. I added a layer in a different texture with a black garbage bag, and added some fringing with a paper doily to make it look even more 'Make Do and Mend' themed!

Step 13: Stitch the Two Pieces Together Into a Dress

Now all you need to do is stitch the top and bottom half together neatly. I think it looks best when the top is tucked into the skirt to give it that 1940's feel.

If you're using a dress ( like the one I made in the above picture) then you're done! :)

Step 14: Enjoy!

Now you've made a Make Do and Mend WW2 dress you can show it off, and add in a 1940's hairstyle or headscarf for added effect!

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    5 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I love this! Is there a way to wash it? I ask because the collar newspaper.


    4 years ago

    I just LOVE your opening picture! :)


    4 years ago

    This is FABULOUS!!!


    Reply 4 years ago

    Thank you! :)