Sunday, 14 September 2014

Flannel v. Flannelette

From the Glasgow Herald, 14th September 1914.

Copy of a letter appearing in the “Eastern Daily Press,” Norwich, of August 20th, 1914. 

Ladies are being advised by various authorities that Shirts and other garments for our soldiers should be made of Flannel only, and that no Flannelette should be used.  This advice appears to me open to question, for the following reasons: First, the expense.  The Flannel generally used costs, I believe, from 1/- to 1/6 a yard.  3½ to 4 yards are required for a Shirt and 6 yards for Pyjamas; each garment, therefore, costing for material alone from 4/- to 8/-.  Next, the difficulty in washing.  Fine, good Flannel, in the hands of an experienced laundress may be kept soft and porous for some time, and need not shrink to any great extent; but thick Flannel, badly washed, not only shrinks enormously, but becomes hard and felt-like in texture, impervious to perspiration, and thoroughly unhygienic.

“I suggest the use of HORROCKSES’ FLANNELETTE at 6¾d. to 8¾d. a yard as being better for the purpose, as well as cheaper.  It wears splendidly, is improved by washing, shrinks far less than Flannel, and is more comfortable to wear.

It also cuts to greater advantage, being 36 inches in width.
Yours faithfully,

10 Albert Square
Gt. Yarmouth.

[Flannel was a wool fabric, whereas Flannelette was a brushed cotton to imitate Flannel.  (Now, the term flannel seems to be often used for a cotton fabric.)  Horrockses was a cotton manufacturing company, which later (in the 1950s) became well-known for stylish ready-made dresses in printed cotton.    

If the letter is genuine, it was a gift to Horrockses.  But the points made seem valid - washing a pure wool fabric and keeping it in good condition must have been difficult in the days before wool could be treated to be machine washable, and before modern soaps and detergents.  I don't know how uniforms were washed in the field - not by 'experienced laundresses', I imagine. 

See my earlier Note on Prices for clarification of 1/6, etc. 

The Red Cross Society, St John's Ambulance and others did accept garments made of Flannelette, but preferred Flannel - see for instance this post.]     

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