The story of fashion in the Forties, as featured in the Imperial War Museum's current exhibition, is one of extremes. Early on in the decade, the emphasis was very much on make-do-and-mend - dresses out of old parachutes and curtains were the order of the day - while by the end of the Forties, lavish haute couture had injected some much-needed glamour into the fashion industry.

In particular, "Forties Fashion and The New Look" celebrates the 50th anniversary of Christian Dior's romantic, feminine and provocative New Look, contrasting it with the utilitarian style that had dominated previously. On display are more than 100 costumes (including 15 original Dior outfits and a dress made for Princess Margaret's 21st birthday) together with accessories, ration-book clothes, children's wear, underwear and cosmetics.

And for children who might not believe that they've never had it so good with today's array of fashions, there's a hands-on chance to get acquainted with what their grandparents might have had to make do with. This week, as part of the museum's half-term activities, they can examine ration books, gas masks and examples of make-do-and-mend in everything from parachute silk to blackout material.

Imperial War Museum, London SE1 (0171-416 5311). Half-term courses today to 23 Feb at 11am, 12noon, 1pm & 2pm. Booking advisable. Exhibition to 31 Aug