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Easter 1945 – a time of austerity

28 March 2013 by Anne

old photo pf a shop window display

There are 195,445 photographs in the Stewart Bale collection and this is one of them; a window display for Easter 1945 in the former department store Owen Owen on Clayton Square, Liverpool, which was commissioned by Owen Owen Ltd, April 1945.

I’m guessing that the passer-by’s attention was supposed to be grabbed by the words ‘Easter Harvest’ in large rustic letters in each of the three windows, hopefully to draw them closer to investigate and read the explanatory text panels about this strange phenomenon (how could harvest be at  Easter! But wait a minute…)

The text reads “A Harvest in Easter? Yes… Seeds that were sown in the Fashion Market last summer have now born fruit”; a rather complex advertising hook which stages the new fashions amongst objects associated with farming: cartwheels, large forks, rakes, wheel barrows and a scattering of straw for good measure; the harvest fruit is the clothes on the manikins, who although they are in a farm setting are there not to labour but to loll in what is new and smart in the world of fashion.

There is a jacket at 56 shillings (approximately £2.80) and a blouse at 15 shillings and sixpence (approximately 77 pence). The blouse, which is in the central window, strewn across the top of the wheel, carries a war-time utility label at the top of the neck; clothing was rationed from 1st June 1941; other basic commodities were also rationed and the utility label would have been a familiar sight.

According to the text in the window these clothes have been more than 6 months in the planning; quite typical of WWII designs and not obviously showing anything very new. An Easter display without a hint of an egg or chocolate (rationing was in place and continued until 1954).

The building still stands and is now occupied by different shops including Tesco Metro; it is still recognizable and was designed by Walter Aubrey Thomas and built in the 1920s, originally for use as a hotel.  The building was altered in 1925 to house a department store and Owen Owen who occupied it remained in the building until 1995.

Easter Sunday in 1945 was on 1st April (only one day later than this year).  So think of what Easter would have been like at this time, austerity and loss but also hope and change; this was just a month prior to German unconditional surrender 8th May 1945.

The Stewart Bale collection is full of gems like this; a collection that takes you back in time, a time traveller’s paradise.

For more details about the Stewart Bale collection, which also contains a large proportion of maritime related subject matter, see the online information sheet. You can see further images from the collection on the website.

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