Film-maker: Eric Sparks
Work was an important part of everyday life for the majority of British people. A variety of occupations were open to men, and increasingly women, in the interwar period as Edwardian ideals of cosseted femininity declined. The First World War accelerated this shift, as working and middle-class women fulfilled the traditional male roles when men were called up to National Service. Working class and lower-middle class women assumed various working roles such as clerical positions and shop girls.
The interwar period saw various other economic and political upheavals that affected employment patterns. In the 1920s, there was discontent within trade unions which came to fruition in the General Strike of 1926. The ten-day strike was called by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in an unsuccessful attempt to force the government to act to prevent wage reduction and poor conditions faced by coal miners. Following the Wall Street Crash of 1929, unemployment rose sharply. By the end of the 1930s, unemployment had more than doubled from that of the previous decade to 2.5 million. This was predominantly male unemployment, as the economic downturn affected traditional heavy industries such as shipbuilding, steel and coal mining. It had geographical implications too, with the Northern regions of England feeling the effects more as they relied on these traditional industries. The South of England faired better and saw new industries develop such as the electricity sector.
Fashion history has a tendency to focus on middle and upper class fashions, and notably couture. Working dress rarely receives the attention it deserves. The films at the Screen Archive South East show a variety of dress worn by people in different occupations.