Sep 25, 2017

The Effect of War | Fashion During WWII

Fashion went through a drastic change during WWII. Not only were styles affected by the war, but both men and women had to shop carefully and chose items to last through all seasons. Even with the limited resources and frugal spending, fashion didn't go out the window. It was still just as important, if not more so, than ever before.

Materials for clothing was limited, which lead to fabric being rationed. Nylon and wool was needed by the military and were rationed, as well as Japanese silk being banned in the US after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Early 40's Wartime Fashion. Via
Utility Dress c. 1943. Via

Clothing was rationed throughout the war and continued to be until 1949. It was important to mend and make do with what you had during this time. Wearing shabby and worn out clothing became more and more common as the war progressed and throughout the entirety of the rationing.

The rationing of fabrics lead to skirts becoming shorter and clothing becoming more simple than before. In the 1930's skirts were still down to the ankle and mid calf, but now came to just below the knee. Styles also changed as women were starting to work in an industrial environment and needed more practical clothing for their work.

c. 1942 Via
Accidents in the work place were caused by hair getting caught in machinery, which brought about two new fashions. One being shorter hairstyles. Although short bobbed hair had become common during the 20's and 30's a lot of women still had long hair. An alternative to cutting it was to wear a headscarf or "glamour band" to keep the hair secure and out of the way while still bringing color into otherwise dull outfits (i.e. factory overalls).

Men's fashion was also affected. There were new regulations on men's clothing, such as changing double breasted suits to single breasted, lapels had to be within a certain size, the number of pockets was restricted and all trouser turn-ups were removed. A lot of these restrictions weren't popular, particularly the restriction of the turn-ups, and a lot of men would purchase a pair that was too big and alter it themselves at home.

Men's suites in the 1940's. Via
As you can see, war had an effect not only in what people wore, but also how they wore it. 1940's fashion is looked on today as a simple and comfortable yet still a classy and chic style, and it's not hard to see why.

Sep 18, 2017

Women in Aviation History

When I was researching clothing for my 1930's women's aviation (or Aviatrix) outfit earlier this year I started coming across information on women in the early days of aviation. Being the avid researcher I am, I continued reading as part of my costume research.

When I wear my Aviatrix outfit a lot of people ask me if (or just assume) I'm portraying Amelia Earhart,which some uninformed people then go on to refer to as the first female pilot, which she was not. Below is some of my research of some of the (actual) first female pilots to ever take to the skies.

c. 1944 Pilots at the four engine school at Lockbourne and members of a group of WASPS who were trained to ferry the B-17 Flying Fortresses.
Women first took the the air in 1784 when Elisabeth Thible became the first woman to fly in a hot air balloon. Almost 125 years later Therese Peltier circle the Military Square in Turin in an aircraft, becoming the first woman to fly solo in a heavier-than-air craft and the name Aviatrix, the contemporary term given to women who flew aircraft, was born.

In 1917, after the U.S. entered into WWI, Aviatrix Ruth Law fought for women to pilot aircraft in battle. When she was unsuccessful, she published an article in Air Travel magazine with the title "Let Women Fly!" The following are women, like Law, that continued to open a new territory for women, in the sky and on earth.

Amy Johnson

Amy Johnson was a British pilot and earned her license in 1929. She began flying long-distance record-breaking flights shortly after. She was the first woman to fly from London, England to Australia solo, the first (along with Jack Humphries as co-pilot) to fly from London to Moscow, and set speed records for flying to Japan, and Cape Town, South Africa. During WWII, she joined the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), flying military planes to and from air bases, factories, and Maintenance Units.

On January 5th, 1941, she was flying from RAF Prestwick in Ayrshire to RAF Kidlington in Oxfordshire when she was forced to ditch her plane in the Thames Estuary. She was off course, and out of fuel when she bailed out. There has been some controversy surrounding her death, including a claim that she was the victim of a friendly fire incident, and the theory that she was on a top secret mission when she crashed. She was the first ATA fatality in the war and her body was never recovered.

Raymonde de Laroche

Raymonde de Laroche was the first woman in the world to earn a pilot license. On March 8th, 1910 she was awarded license number 36 by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale. Competing in the Coupe Femina, she won the 1913 award with a flight of over 4 hours. She set two world records in 1919 for longest flight by a woman, with a distance of 201 miles, and for reaching an altitude of 15,700 feet.

On July 18th, 1919, she was killed while flying in an experimental airplane when it crashed while trying to land.

Bessie Coleman

Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman became the first African American women to earn a pilot license. As an African American she was unable to gain admission to flight schools in the US, so she learned French and then traveled to paris where she learned to fly. On June 15 1921 she earned her license and then returned to the united states where she earned a living performing stunts and demonstrating at air shows.

She fought to break down racial barriers in the segregated south. She died in a plane crash in 1926, but her life was seen as an important first step in breaking the racial and gender barriers in the early days of aviation.

Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earhart, one of the most famous pilots of all time, was the 16th woman to earn her pilots license, which she earned on May 15th 1923. She was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean as a passenger, becoming a minor celebrity in the process. She then set a record as the first woman to fly across North America and the first woman to fly solo non-stop across the Atlantic.

As her fame grew, she began setting other records for aviation, but her ultimate goal was circumnavigating the globe. Although she wouldn’t be the first, her plan was to fly the longest route around the world. Her first attempt ended when she crashed on take-off. Her second attempt ended with one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th century. Flying west to east, she began her trip with a flight from Oakland, CA to Miami, FL. On one of the last, and most difficult legs of the trip, the plane disappeared on the approach to Howland Island in the central Pacific.

Jacqueline Cochran

Jacqueline Cochran earned her pilot license in 1932. A natural pilot, she first used her love of flying to promote “Wings,” her own line of cosmetics. In 1934, she began racing and was the first woman to fly in the Bendix Race, a point to point race from Los Angeles, CA to Cleveland, OH, which she won in 1937.

Before the US involvement in WWII, she proposed a program to allow women pilots to staff non-combat duties, similar to the British Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA). This proposal lead to her becoming the director of the WASPs. She was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross. A lifelong friend of Chuck Yeager, she was the first woman to break the sound barrier, with Yeager flying in the chase plane. She went on to set more speed, altitude, and distance records than any other pilot, male or female, holding them until her death in 1980. No other woman, and very few men were as influential to the era of modern aviation.

Photographs of Women in Aviation

Ruth Law (1887-1970)

Elinor Smith, 16 (1911-2010)

c. 1927
"Miss Elinor Smith of New York, and Miss Bobby Trout of Los Angeles with the radio equipment which they will take up on the first woman's refueling flight for endurance. They are all set to take off in their sunbeam plane."

c. 1930
Katherine Sai Fun Choung

Sep 11, 2017

1940's Swing Dress Photo's and Details

After my post about Vintage Aircraft Weekend I wanted to dedicate a specific post to the dress I made and wore to the dinner dance. As I mentioned in my previous post, I used Simplicity Pattern 1587 to make my 1940's swing dress.

After reading some reviews online I opted to only use the pattern for the top half of the dress since the reviews I read (and the pictures proved) that the skirt looked really frumpy and more 90's than 40's, so I made a few modifications.

Changes I made from the pattern:
  • I used my own 6 gore skirt pattern in place of the skirt that was included with the pattern.
  • I cut the sides of the bodice front and back 3 sizes smaller to fit better and to remove the gathers at the waist.
  • Instead of doing a keyhole opening with an interfacing in the back, I put in an invisible zipper in the back.
I also decided to make a matching belt, which was a quick and easy addition and really completed the look.

The fabric I used is a Rayon-Challis blend from It's a beautiful pink/purple/plum color, and looked like a perfect color for the era. While I was searching for fabric I looked at a lot of fabric swatches, which Vintage Dancer has a very helpful article with lots of examples, which I used for reference to select an appropriate color.

1940's  fabric samples, via Vintage Dancer

I'm so happy with how my hair turned out! I have naturally straight hair that is hard to curl, but I did a practice run a few days before the event, which helped me figure a few things out. I made sure to put extra curlers in the back section to make sure it was just as curly as the front, and I also added some curl defining hair gel when I set the curls.

I'd like to do a tutorial sometime since I learned a bit about setting and curling hair for a 1940's look.

For the accessories, I wore a pearl necklace and matching bracelet, a vintage velvet cap, a matching belt, and seamed stockings. The shoes are a modern pair with a vintage flair I bought several years ago. Eventually I want to get a pair that's more accurate, but they're pretty comfortable and easy to dance in and work for now.

Sep 4, 2017

Vintage Aircraft Weekend 2017

I hope you all are enjoying Labor Day! This weekend was Vintage Aircraft Weekend, which is an event I've been going to and volunteering at for the last 5+ years. The weekend always kicks off with a big band dinner dance on Friday night, which has a live swing band, fantastic food, and of course lots of vintage dresses and uniforms. On Saturday there's an air show and more live music. This year we had a Bob Hope impersonator as well as an Andrew Sisters tribute group perform Friday and Saturday.

For the dinner dance on Friday night I wore my new 1940's dress, which I finished up the day before. Whew! I'm usually one who tries to have everything ready to go at least a week before an event, but with my busy schedule I wasn't able to to get the materials I needed for the final piece (a matching belt) until a few days before. The dress itself came together pretty quickly, and I had it done in a couple of days. I'll write up a post with more details soon.

I paired my dress with a pearl necklace and bracelet, and also wore a vintage velvet cap I've had for several years now. I'm not sure if it's more 40's or 50's, but it's a dark chocolate brown and matched the outfit so perfectly I had to wear it.

On Saturday I wore my 1930's Aviatrix outfit, but since the weather was so hot I opted to leave off the sweater and coat. Even so, it was a little too hot to be comfortable. I styled it in a slightly more 1940's fashion with my hair and makeup since my hair was already curled from the night before. Which works, because this style of outfit was pretty much the same from the 1920's-50's.

I didn't bring my good camera with my to the dinner dance on Friday night; I was determined to look as period correct as I could, and I didn't want a giant camera hanging around my neck all night. But I did make sure to bring it out a little bit on Saturday.

From the dinner dance on Friday night.

From the dinner dance on Friday night.

From the dinner dance on Friday night. My dad (to the left of me) with the "Andrew Sisters" and "Bob Hope". 



 At the end of the day one of the pilots took me out to his bi-plane to take some pictures.


How did you spend your holiday weekend?

Sep 1, 2017

Costume Spotlight | Jane Eyre (2011)

I'm starting a new blog series dedicated to reviewing costumes from films and stage shows, sometimes focusing on a single costume or, like today, reviewing costumes from a whole movie or production. At the moment I'm only planning on posting this segment once a month, but that could increase in the future.

At the end of each post I'll be rating between 1 and 10. Please join me in the comments and let me know your own thoughts and rating!

To kick things off I thought I'd start with one of my favorite costume films, Jane Eyre (2011). This is the latest movie version of the classic book written by Charlotte Bronte. The story is about a girl (Jane Eyre) that was orphaned and abused as a child but now is governess to a young girl and falls in love with her employer, the mysterious Mr. Rochester.

Please note, this post does have minor spoilers in it, though I don't mention any of the big spoilers.

Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features

The film follows the original story of the book very well for a 2 hour film and depicts the Gothic genre of the book very well. It stars Mia Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Edward Rochester.

The costumes were designed by Michael O'Connor, who was very specific in making sure everything was as authentic as possible to the era the story was set in.

While the book is originally set in the 1830's, film adaptations are rarely set in that time because of how wacky the fashions were. That's why this, and most adaptations are set in the 1840's instead.

The following is from Michael O'Connor. “The lining, the buttons, the stitching, everything was totally researched. I always say, ‘Is there a reference for that, is that something they did?’ And if people say [they] don’t know, then I say we can’t do it—there’s so much information from that time that there’s no excuse not to have it.”

Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features
When asked if he was ever tempted to vary from authenticity, he replied “It’s tempting, but there’s no need. The truth is interesting enough. Jane is a sort of plain character, but that doesn’t mean she’s unstylish. She’s wearing shades of gray with white collars, and she can still look quite smart or quite nice and serviceable—not overly fussy.”

I think it's worth noting that over all, the costumes in this film are historically accurate for the 1840's, however as it is with all costumes, there were some elements that aren't perfectly accurate. Some of the costumes are tailored slightly different to be a little more modern (i.e. sleeves being cut tighter than they would have been in the era), and one bonnet (bellow) in particular is designed more for decoration than any useful need.

Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features
O'Connor on Jane's wedding dress: “The thing was to make it simple. Rochester is always trying to buy her things, which she rejects because that’s her character. So [the aim] was to make it a simple dress, and shorten the length. Jane’s a country girl, it’s a country dress, and it’s fitted and tight-sleeved, rather like her day dresses, like her character.” via

Below is a photo of the dress made for the film compared to a fashion plate from 1844, around the time the story is set. You can see just how similar the two are and just how accurate for the era the design is.

Fashion Plate c. 1844 Le Moniteur de la Mode
Wedding Dress (Jane Eyre 20011) Designed by Michael O'Connor

Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features

Blanche Ingram
Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features

Rochester and Jane
Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features

Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features

Mrs. Reed
Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features 

The use of color and texture is so beautiful in this film. You can practically feel the fabric just by watching. There's such a variety of different fabric textures between dresses made of silk, cotton, and lace, and the crocheted gloves, knit shawls, straw and lace bonnets, the frilly fichu's and wool jackets.

While there's so much variety in types of materials, they all help keep the gloomy atmosphere that comes with the Gothic setting and really helps build the visual feeling of the film.

Jane Eyre (2011) via Focus Features

What I love about this adaptation is how well it represents this particular era of fashion, which often gets overlooked. It's an elegant era and still slightly silly with the amount of petticoats women wore to achieve a voluminous silhouette and the slightly crazy hairstyles.

Overall, I give the costumes in this film a 9 out of 10.

Rate between 1-10 in the comments and let me know your thoughts.