Wednesday, 24 November 2021

CC41 Utility blouse

A recent workshop provided the opportunity to look a little closer at a number of synthetic garments in MoDiP’s collections, and this blouse (refer image below) particularly caught my attention.

AIBDC : 000824
Image credit: MoDiP

It is very popular and gets used for research by students and teaching by staff every year but we know very little about it. The original catalogue record simply stated:

A Utility mark labelled blouse with three-quarter length sleeves, popper front fasteners and shoulder pads. Size 44. The fabric is a multi-coloured print based on the traditional paisley design.

The CC41 Utility label
Image credit: Katherine Pell

The blouse has a CC41 Utility label (refer image above) that includes the number 1051/2. I found a book that explained that the four-figure number denotes the material as rayon (numbers 1000-1206) with the 2 indicating that the blouse was originally sold as part of a two-piece set. However, a conversation with AUB’s Sarah Magill (Course Leader BA (Hons) Costume and BA (Hons) Performance Design and Film Costume), provided some additional information. She was able to show me a page from the Statutory Rules and Orders for cloth 1942, that listed the rayon specifically as Marocain (crepe) and explained that the suffixes were brought in to differentiate between finishes: /1 referring to a dyed fabric; /2 referring to a printed fabric.

Statutory Rules and Orders for cloth, 1942
Image credit: Sarah Magill

Although clothing from this period is often thought of as being drab, it is evident by this blouse that there was still lots of colour. The busy pattern could be easily joined together without matching up, thereby reducing material wastage which was important in those times of austerity. Interestingly, one of the shoulder pads has a completely different material patch on the underside (refer image below).

The unmatched patch can be seen at the top of the shoulder pad.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

The blouse has three-quarter length sleeves, with popper front fasteners beneath five false buttons. I was able to find out that the Civilian Clothing (Restrictions) No. 6 Order (dated 20/06/1942), introduced rules that blouses could have no more than seven buttons and buttonholes on a full-length sleeve style or five on one with shorter sleeves. Whilst the number of buttons on MoDiP’s example met this requirement, the spacing of them is incorrect and false buttons were actually prohibited within the restrictions of 1942 – 1946. 

Furthermore, press-studs would likely have been unavailable during that period as the metal would have been diverted for military use (as it was for zips). It is possible that old stock might have been used or alternatively, the blouse could be post-war, dating from 1946 – 1952 when the Utility clothing scheme ended. To further complicate matters, Sarah advised that evasion of the rules was rife!

We think the blouse is poorly stitched, not particularly straight in places and the tension is not good either. This leads us to believe that it is inconsistent with being factory made for sale in a shop, which is what we had originally believed. It possesses clear 1940s styling through the fit and the roll collar, with the shoulder pads providing the square silhouette that was popular at that time, but the seam allowances appear too generous.

The more we examine this object, the more questions we have about it so I can’t wait for Sarah to come into the museum to study the construction (she has kindly agreed to come in and help us). We have a sneaking suspicion that it may have been altered from a different original garment, but whether that was during the era of ‘make do and mend’ or post-war we are not sure. Hopefully Sarah will be able to answer some of these anomalies.

If you want to view this blouse and let us know what you think, contact us to arrange an appointment.

Katherine Pell
Collections Officer

Wednesday, 17 November 2021

BIBA clothes hanger, Braitrim, 1998

A few weeks ago, I was reorganising the MoDiP store when I came across a box containing some garment bags and clothes hangers that had been previously used to store the museum’s textile collection before we had our roller racking drawer units installed, back in 2010. In amongst these, right at the bottom of the box, was a hanger that looked quite ordinary, except for the fact that it bore the iconic BIBA fashion brand logo. 

Image ref:
AIBDC : 008787
Image credit: Katherine Pell

We have several BIBA related objects in the collection already and I thought this might make an interesting addition, particularly since we did not currently have an example of this type of hanger yet either. I started to do some research to see if I could find out anything more about it. 

Image ref:
AIBDC : 0_2733
Image credit: Katherine Pell

We have this lovely BIBA dress in the collection and we surmised that the hanger probably originally came into the museum accompanying its purchase in 1998, the two becoming separated when the dress was laid flat in the roller racking drawer. 

Image ref: Manufacturer’s details moulded into the hanger.
Image credit: Katherine Pell

Some key information was very helpfully moulded into the underneath surface of the hanger, including its name (Classic), the plastics resin identification code (polystyrene), the manufacturer’s details (Braitrim) and a registered design number (2036699). This helped me to track down an approximate date for the object as the patent was applied for in 1994 and we know the dress was acquired four years later. 

Image ref: The registered design.
Image credit:

A little bit more digging and I was able to find out that Braitrim was a UK based plastics company that specialised in making garment hangers but, in addition, they developed a system for re-using them. By charging stores to collect and then return their used hangers, Braitrim would clean, re-pack and re-distribute them from a depot in Sheffield. It was the first closed-loop hanger service processing some 425,000 hangers every day in peak operation. 

By 2019 the company claimed to have re-used nine million hangers, at a time when retailers were being petitioned to stop giving hangers away free with purchases due to their potential for environmental damage; clothes hangers were being considered as harmful as plastic bags, straws and bottles. Furthermore, at the end of their usable life, Braitrim would recycle the hangers in order to re-use the raw materials. 

Image ref: The Sheffield factory.
Image credit: Braitrim

I started off thinking the hanger was notable due to its connection to BIBA, but ended up thinking it was quite remarkable due to the sustainable credentials of its manufacturer. Braitrim stopped trading in 2020 when the business was acquired by Tam Hangers who have taken over the re-use programme. Today, they claim to save 300 million plastic hangers and accessories from landfill every year. 

Katherine Pell 
Collections Officer

Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Gardening in Miniature

Originally posted on 12/05/2018 by the Gardens Trust on their blog. Reproduced here in edited form with kind permission from Dr David Marsh, the author and a trustee of the Gardens Trust.

Sorry to disappoint you if you thought you were going read a post about gardens in bottles, on saucers, mini-flower pots or bonsai. Instead it’s a potential walk down Memory Lane for everyone who grew up between the wars and had their first chance to turn their hands to gardening. But not the hard way. You didn’t have to get your fingers dirty, you didn’t have to do any backbreaking digging or weeding. You didn’t have to deal with marauding slugs and snails, your plants didn’t get munched by greedy caterpillars and you didn’t have to encounter any stinging or biting bugs or noxious plant diseases. Indeed, you could garden on the kitchen table or on your bedroom floor.

The opportunities stopped during the war when you really did have to dig for Victory, but started up again for another generation in the 1960s and 70s, although once again it didn’t last that long.

How come all this gardening the easy and blisterless way was possible? It was originally all thanks to a man named William Britain whose company created the first mass-produced models that allowed children (and consenting adults!) to create a miniature version of their parents’ back gardens and to rearrange it all at will.

A gardener with his barrow from the Britains Miniature Gardening range, c. 1930s.
Image credit:

William Britain (1828 – 1906) was a Midlands metal worker who moved to North London in 1847 to work as a ‘brass clock maker’. By the 1880s he had started to manufacture a range of clockwork metal toys and a decade later, turned his attention to the toy soldier market, then largely dominated by German imports. In 1893 his eldest son, William Britain Junior (1860 – 1933), invented a new production process of hollowcasting in lead which enabled the company to both increase their output and sell their figures at a lower price than their competitors. W. Britain was soon established as a household name for toy military figures.

Foreward to a 1958 Britains company catalogue.
Image credit:,_1828-1906_(Britains_1958).jpg

The horrific effects of World War I saw demand for toy soldiers decline dramatically and to stay in business, Britain’s responded by increasing its ‘domestic’ and ‘civilian’ ranges. In 1921 they introduced their Model Farm, which was quickly followed by their Zoo. Over the next few years they added more and more new lines: emergency services, horse racing, circuses, cars and road traffic and, lest you think I’ve forgotten the topic of this blog, in 1930 they began Britains Miniature Gardens

I should explain at this point, just in case you think my punctuation is a bit awry, that the company name had what Brighton Toy Museum call “a roving apostrophe”, as its name changed from W. Britain to Britain’s to Britains’ when there were more than one member of the family running it, before eventually settling on Britains without any apostrophe at all!

Miniature Gardens were, according to the sales catalogue, designed to enable “the gardener, amateur or professional, to plan out his garden in a thoroughly practical manner from the laying out of the beds, paths, crazy paving, arches, pergolas, etc., and last but not least filling it with a large variety of plants in full flower and in Nature’s gorgeous colourings, arranging and rearranging his design in miniature until a satisfactory one has been achieved.”

At the same time Britains changed their sales method, switching from large boxed sets to selling single/small groups of items which could be collected over time to complete the full range. This switch was clearly aimed at a new market: children with weekly pocket-money to spend. All the models were made of lead and many of the smaller pieces were often quite crude in their modelling. The garden range included not just trees, hedges and individual flowering plants but features like rockeries, ponds and flowerbeds, as well as buildings such as greenhouses. The smaller features such as the plants had ‘pegs’ for trunks/stems which could be fitted into ready-made holes in the flower beds. Bigger plants came ‘flat’ but because the lead was soft they could be twisted into more natural shapes. Everything could then be arranged to create a whole garden.

There is no way of knowing how popular these miniature gardens were, but probably not as much as the company would have liked because the 1940 catalogue doesn’t list the range separately, with just a few pieces appearing as part of the Model Farm. Production stopped entirely soon after that as the factory was turned over to the war effort and it wasn’t revived in 1945.

So, were miniature gardens out of fashion as toys? The short answer is yes, they probably were. Certainly lead was going out of fashion, especially as a component of children’s toys, and with the introduction of plastics it was disappearing even faster. Britains stopped production of anything in lead in 1966. 

However, in 1960 a new range –
Britains Floral Garden – appeared on the market.  It was a re-imagining of the old lead range, this time in plastic and re-designed by Roy Selwyn-Smith who had had a long and successful career designing toys with another company which had been taken over by Britains. You might wonder why the garden items needed redesigning at all but the main reason was because of the different properties of lead and plastic. Whereas lead can be bent into shape and stays in it, plastic cannot be manipulated in the same way, and simply tries to revert to its original form.
Selwyn-Smith came up with an ingenious plan to get round that. Many of the plants were moulded as flat shapes – rather like a ‘net’ used to create 3-D shapes in geometry. As a result, many looked a bit like elaborate snowflakes with everything radiating around a central point/hub. This point could be pushed into a hole in the plastic flowerbed using a simple spade-like “planting tool”. When this was done the “snowflake” closed up and the “foliage” and branches bunched up relatively realistically, bringing the plants “alive”.

The moulded plastic plant laid flat, top left, and the 3D effect seen when ‘planted’.
Image credit:

The target audience was still clearly children so the principle of selling in small packs was maintained. There were a few starter sets and lots of accessory packs, with extra items available to expand and diversify the garden layout. All the pieces fitted together with relative ease, and could be reassembled and moved around allowing a lot of variety and change that ensured children did not get bored when playing. The various parts available were typical of a suburban plot of the 1950s. You could have a rockery and crazy paving, a lily pond, rustic walls made of interlocking bricks and immaculate lawns, fuzzily textured and perfectly striped. The range of plants was also very much of its day: weeping willows and mini-conifers, delphiniums and asters, standard roses and marrows.

The following year the range was expanded with the introduction of Floral Garden People. No expense spared, they were based on wax models created by a Royal Academician, Norman Stillman. This was probably an attempt to revive interest because although I can’t find any specific statistical information about sales figures, they can’t have been good because Floral Gardens ceased production in 1970.

The Floral Garden People in situ.
Image credit:

Another attempt, now very clearly aimed at girls, was made in 1976 when it was relaunched as Lucy’s Little Garden. Despite more accessory packs being released the following year, Lucy’s fared no better and in 1979 the range was deleted altogether. Britains was sold by the family in 1984 and since then it has changed hands several times and is now part of First Gear, an American manufacturer of “collectibles”, although the Britains name has been retained for some of the ranges. Sadly, these don’t include miniature gardens, and the Britains Collectors Club is only concerned with the toy soldiers rather than toy gardeners and their flower borders.

So, it looks as if gardening just didn’t work as a children’s toy. While that may be true on a mass-market scale, there’s no doubt that these miniature gardens enthralled many children. The idea was different from other toys of the period and those owners who spent many happy childhood hours, planting and rearranging their plastic gardens, are now fiercely loyal with blogposts and webpages devoted to adults reliving their gardening in miniature.

Dr David Marsh
Gardens Trust

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

MoDiP AUB Student Bursary 2021/2022

Would you like to be the next MoDiP AUB Student Creative?
Fancy the opportunity to get up close and personal with a museum collection?
Want to see your work on display and inspire others?
Well, here’s your chance…

(We welcome applications from all disciplines.)

Some examples of the work from past creatives:

Adrian Finn, BA (Hons) Architecture, MoDiP Student Creative 2016/2017

For more information see below or contact

Closing date: Sunday 21st November 2021

MoDiP Student Creative Brief

The aim of the MoDiP Student Creative is to offer all students at the AUB an opportunity to create a piece of work inspired by the MoDiP collection. This could be in any discipline with any creative outcome from physical art work to film or acting production.

MoDiP is the only accredited museum in the UK with a focus on plastics. It is the UK's leading resource for the study and interpretation of design in plastics. Our mission is to increase understanding and appreciation of the use and significance of plastics in design during the 20th and 21st century.

MoDiP’s purpose is to collect, research, interpret and present artefacts made of, or including components of, plastics, and thus add unique value to the Arts University Bournemouth as a learning resource, a resource for collaborative, experimental and interdisciplinary research, and as a gateway to the AUB’s wider environment.

The outcome of this project can be within any discipline working with any material but the work must be inspired by the MoDiP collection or its processes and working practice and in line with its mission and purpose Depending on the medium, the work will be displayed in cases in the library and/or featured on all of our social media.

Terms and Conditions

Creative’s work

  • MoDiP and/or its plastics collection should be at the heart of the project

  • The applicant should expect to spend time looking at the collection and/or talking to the MoDiP team

  • The applicant could work in any discipline (they would not have to work in plastics)

  • The applicant should be prepared to have work displayed at the end of the project and to describe how they have been inspired by MoDiP

  • The applicant will need to give regular updates to the MoDiP team on progress (to ensure deadlines will be met and that the work can be physically displayed)

The successful applicant will be appointed on Friday 26th November 2021, ready to start their project on Monday 29th November 2021. It is expected that the work will be completed and ready for display on Tuesday 19th April 2021.

A £250 bursary (including material costs) will be paid to the successful candidate to facilitate the project. Up to 50% (£125) of the bursary can be claimed during the project as material costs are incurred. The remainder will be paid on completion.

Monitoring and evaluation
The resident will be expected to keep the MoDiP team updated with progress reports on a regular basis (to be agreed). This could be either through email including images, or face-to-face.

It is expected that the candidate will write 3 blog posts during the process – complete with images. The first will be a plan for the work, the second being a progress report, and the third showing the work and an overview of the project.

The experience
We expect you to work in a professional manner, engaging with both the collection and the staff of MoDiP. This is an opportunity to have your work published or displayed within a museum setting.

The project can be included in your portfolio of work to show future employers or clients. It will demonstrate working creatively to a deadline and experience of working with real clients.

Appointment will be subject to approval and written support from your tutor.

How to Apply
To apply please submit a proposal of 300-500 words with expected outcomes including how you intend to use the collection. Please include images of some of your previous work and the name of your tutor, who we will only contact if you are successful.

Email your application to with ‘Student Creative’ in the subject box

Closing date: Sunday 21st November 2021

Interview and an opportunity to show Portfolio: Wednesday 24th November – Friday 26th November 2021 (we will contact you to arrange this).

When we will let you know: Friday 26th November 2021.

If you would like more information or an informal discussion about the project please contact the MoDiP team by email