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Published: 27 August 2021

By Andy Ross

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Wearing propaganda 1931 - 45

The use of textiles, in particular apparel, has long been a way to send messages of wealth, power and standing. In Japan, Britain and the United States during the Second World War they had a different and more specific purpose. 

Clothing sends messages about who we are and what we do, so it is not surprising that clothes were used during the War to inspire patriotic feelings amongst a population. A book, Wearing Propaganda, that has been added to the collection explores the use of these textiles and tells the story of how they came about and what they represented to Japanese, British and American people during the years 1931 to 1945. Some of the images in the book are shocking to modern-day eyes - the use of bombs as a decorative motif on a kimono lining, or the words "Air Raid Shelter" as a repeating pattern on a Jacqmar scarf - while others are more subtle and intended to keep morale up amongst a war-weary populace. 

Following an exhibition in 2005/6, interest in these pieces has been growing and now they are being actively collected; you can see one in the Victoria and Albert's collection here and the studio collection contains a couple of pieces from Japan.