In 2012 my sister Antonia Riviere and I were visiting fellows at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. We were there researching Australian clothes rationing during World War 2. We were interested in how film had been used to support the government’s austerity drive, whether Australians been encouraged to ‘make do and mend’ like their British counterparts, and how could we use our own making to explore these and other questions.
Mr Dedman’s Victory Suit: Intimate stories of make do and mend, an exhibition that runs from April 15th – August 30th 2013 at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Special Collections, concludes our fellowship at the National Sound and Film Archive of Australia and brings our contemporary filmmaking and textiles practices into conversation with historical materials about make do and mend.
The exhibition displays many of MMU library’s wonderful wartime publications full of make do and mend tips, plus objects from MMU Special Collections, Norfolk Musuems and Archaeology Service, the Gallery of Costume, Platt Hall (Manchester City Galleries) and the private collections of two of my MMU colleagues, Dr Alison Slater and Dr Melanie Miller. Several examples of garments and mending materials from wartime Britain are included in the show.
Wartime rationing in Britain is well documented, but less is known about the Australian situation. We are showing several films from the NFSA collection to remedy this – including the newsreel that gave our NFSA project its name, in which John Dedman, Minister of War Organisation of Industry models his newly designed Victory Suit. We hope that this and the other films on show will give an insight into Australia’s programme of rationing.
Our particular thanks to the curator of MMU Special Collections Stephanie Boydell and all the Special Collections Staff who have been fantastic in helping us get the exhibition up and ready to go.