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The dilemma of frugality and consumption in women’s magazine adverts 1940-1955

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  • Sociology
  • Literature


The present paper is based upon a corpus of texts drawn from women's magazines published whilst a policy of rationing was in effect in Britain. It problematises the way in which some debates about the significance of frugality and consumption at that time have been constructed - in an either/or manner. As an alternative, it advocates a more dilemmatic, and messier, approach that can better grasp the nuanced ways in which frugality was also used as a resource to incite consumption of specific items. The paper maps some of the ways in which food adverts positioned the product depicted in relation to rationing and war, and explores their rhetorical construction in more detail, demonstrating the ways in which categorising adverts as frugality-orientated or consumption-orientated is insufficient to understand the claims offered about the product. Attention is also directed towards adverts for products explicitly identified as unavailable, and in particular the approach adopted by Stork Margarine in this regard - substituting their product with a “cookery service” to assist the “housewife” with the difficulties of rationing.

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