Textiles Doing Their Bit: Monopoly, Maps and Uniforms that convert into Civilian Dress

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War Map Dress Trilogy
Carolyn Wren, War Map Dress Trilogy, 2003. Printed silk and model airplanes, 3 (9 x 5 x 5 feet). Photo François Lafrance.


Gown, Year: a. 1945-1946
Title: Gown, Year: a. 1945-1946 Artist: J. Terwen-de Loos Technique: Silk, plastic Dimensions: 155 x 82cm


The Fibre Report with Joe Lewis

Nylon, and the subsequent introduction of the nylon stocking to a much deprived female population of North America, was the most memorable innovation in textile manufacturing brought on by WWII. The other innovation, mostly unknown except to those few with direct contact with the product during the period in question, was not a manufacturing innovation but a practical application of textile printing. Waddington PLC, a printing company best known for its games including Monopoly, was involved in a most unusual venture during the Second World War: printing maps on silk, rayon and tissue paper for military use and smuggling some of them to prisoners of war.1 Christopher Clayton Hutton from MI-5 was the man behind what was known as the Waddington Project. He regarded a map as:

“the escaper’s most important accessory”, and maps printed on silk and miniature compasses were amongst his first projects. He was responsible for an enormous variety of escape aids – flying boots, uniforms that could be converted easily to look like civilian dress, and powerful torches concealed inside bicycle pumps for use by the French Resistance. After the war, Hutton’s ingenuity and the scarcity of silk inspired women to be creative as well: they collected the silk maps and made dresses out of them.
Read more in our Spring 2011 issue.

Article by Joe Lewis

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