Exhibition File – Beauty as Duty: Textiles and the Home Front in WWII Britain

With one weekend and a Monday left, there’s not a lot of time to see Beauty as Duty: Textiles and the Home Front in WWII Britain at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The MFA always does a brilliant job with their costume exhibitions, so you should hurry to see it before it closes on May 28.

This exhibition details the ways that “mass-produced ‘utility’ clothes had to conform to strict government regulations, yet managed to be fashionable,” all while Britain was under attack. As the show explains, “during a decade of extreme hardship, rationing and deprivation in Britain, beauty (in measured amounts) was not frivolous, it was patriotic duty.”

Address: 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston
Hours: 10-4:45 Monday-Tuesday, 10-9:45 Wednesday-Friday, 10-4:45 Saturday-Sunday
Admission: adults $22, seniors and students $20, youths 6 and under free, youths 7-17 free on weekends and weekdays after 3 p.m., members free
Website: www.mfa.org


  1. Maggie says:

    Unrelated to this exhibition (which, ah, if only I lived in Boston!), wanted to see if you’d read this piece: http://www.vanityfair.com/style/2012/01/prisoners-of-style-201201

    Have to admit I haven’t waded all the way through it, but am curious of your thoughts as it relates to style/fashion… I can’t decide if I agree with the central premise or not. Part of me feels like the author is painting w/too broad a brush… and can he REALLY detect a huge difference between 1885 and 1905 fashion, literature, architecture? (I know people attuned to fashion, etc. history can, easily, but I feel like the average American couldn’t). At the same time, I feel there is some sort of point in there about how quickly older styles are being recycled… Anyway, interesting food for thought!

    • jacqueline says:

      I remember that article and feeling conflicted about it. On the one hand I see his point — there isn’t a lot of innovation in fashion, art, literature, and architecture being recognized and accepted by mainstream society. There’s a lot of commercialization going on, which drives down style/design/art to a lower common denominator. However, I still think there’s plenty of innovation from avant-garde individuals. However, it’s lower on the radar these days.

      Something I’ve been thinking about, in terms of how technology has impacted our culture, is that while it’s now easier to spread information including that about culture, there are more voices so it is harder to hear those specific individuals doing new and unique things.

      Also, I’m fairly certain there was some critic in every era saying that culture was going down the tubes. It’s not until we gain some distance historically from periods that we can appreciate them for what they were. There is no doubt in my mind that historians 50 years from now will find cultural elements that were groundbreaking and transformative from today.

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