Tag Archives: world war 1

American Red Cross Service Uniforms, 1917

New Authorized Red Cross Uniforms, September, 1917 Ladies' Home Journal, p. 5.

New Authorized American Red Cross Uniforms, September, 1917 Ladies’ Home Journal, p. 5.

After the U.S. declared war in April of 1917, there was a great outpouring of volunteerism.  Women were eager to support “our boys,” and magazines aimed at female readers were a perfect, pre-existing medium for the government to communicate with millions of households all over the country. Official articles like the ones quoted here appeared in both Butterick’s Delineator and  Ladies’ Home Journal, among others.

Women Wanted to Wear Uniforms, Too

So many women wanted to wear some type of official uniform while doing “war work” that cautions were repeatedly issued.

Official Red Cross policy statement by William Taft, Chair of Central Committee, August 1917 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

Official Red Cross policy statement by William Taft, Chair of Central Committee, August 1917 issue of Ladies Home Journal.

The new, authorized Red Cross Corps uniforms (pictured above) were described in September, but the problem of unauthorized used arose again in October:

Ladies Home Journal, October 1917, page 33.

Ladies Home Journal, October 1917, page 33.

Clearly, there were unscrupulous people “raising money for the Red Cross” but not turning over all the proceeds to the charity. “Red Cross Bazaars” had to have prior approval at the local level or use of the name was not permitted. And only members of the Red Cross who had taken a loyalty oath and met other requirements could wear Red Cross uniforms.

There was a difference between being a Corps Member and being a Red Cross Nurse — only women who had completed two years of nursing training, who had an additional two years practical nursing experience, and who were registered nurses in their own state could apply to be a Red Cross Nurse. However, there were many other vital ways for a woman to serve through the Red Cross. Wearing any of these Corps uniforms required a permit.

American Red Cross Supply Corps Uniform & Clerical Corps Uniform, 1917

Red Cross Supply Corps and Clerical Corps Uniforms, Sept. 1917. Ladies' Home Journal.

Red Cross Supply Corps and Clerical Corps Uniforms, Sept. 1917. Ladies’ Home Journal.

Supply Corps Uniform

Supply Corps Uniform, American Red Cross, 1917.

Supply Corps Uniform, American Red Cross, 1917.

“In this division of Red Cross Work the service of the members is to prepare surgical dressings, hospital garments and all other Red Cross supplies. The uniform is a white dress, or a white waist [i.e., blouse] and skirt, with dark blue veil and white shoes. Small Red Cross emblems are worn on the veil and on the left front of the dress. The arm band is dark blue, with a horn of plenty embroidered in white.” [Her scalloped collar gives the impression that she is wearing white clothing she already owned with the uniform head covering and armband.]

Women who wondered why they had to wear a head covering while making bandages and dressings were reminded that this was necessary “for sanitary reasons;” “she must also wear an apron for the same purpose.” lhj 1917 p 33 oct war needs pajamaslhj 1917 p 33 oct war needs surgeon operatingThe Demand for Bandages:  “The Red Cross could send all its available supply to Europe for instant use there and start all over again. . . .Wounded soldiers in France to-day are being bandaged with straw and old newspapers.” — William Howard Taft in Ladies’ Home Journal, August, 1917.

The official Red Cross patterns for making pajamas, surgeon’s gowns, etc., were available from pattern companies, stores, or Red Cross Chapters for 10 cents each.

Clerical Corps Uniform

Supply Corps Uniform of the American Red Cross, September 1917, Ladies' Home Journal.

Clerical Corps Uniform of the American Red Cross, September 1917, Ladies’ Home Journal.

“This service is designed to include the women who do the large amount of clerical work in an active Red Cross Chapter — the volunteer stenographers, bookkeepers, etc.  The uniform consists of a one-piece gray chambray dress, a white, broad collar, white duck hat with yellow band, and white shoes.  The Red Cross emblem is worn on the hat and on the left front of the dress, while the arm band is yellow, with two crossed quill pens embroidered in white.”

By October, the national headquarters of the American Red Cross was receiving 15,000 letters per day. To cope, it was decentralized, with thirteen divisions spread to large cities throughout the U.S.  When you consider that women all over the country were being asked to roll bandages, to make hospital garments and supplies such as sheets and pillowcases, to knit warm scarves, sweaters and socks for servicemen, and to supply 200,000,000 “comfort kits” for soldiers, you can imagine the logistical nightmare of shipping and sorting that had to be done by the Supply Corps and the Clerical Corps.  Shipping companies agreed to deliver packages addressed to the thirteen Red Cross collecting centers for two thirds the usual price, but all shipments from local Red Cross chapters had to have separate notices of shipment mailed, as well.

American Red Cross Refreshment Corps and Motor Corps Uniforms, 1917

Refreshment Corps and Motor Corps Uniforms, AMC, Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Refreshment Corps and Motor Corps Uniforms, AMC, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Refreshment Corps Uniform

Refreshment Corps Uniform, AMC, 1917. Ladies' Home Journal.

Refreshment Corps Uniform, AMC, 1917. Ladies’ Home Journal.

“The Corps feeds soldiers passing in troop movement or en route to a hospital, or furnishes lunches in the way of extras to troops in near-by camps. The uniform is a dark blue and white striped chambray dress, long white apron with bib, white duck helmet with dark blue veiling, and tan shoes.  The arm band is dark blue, with a cup embroidered in white. A large Red Cross emblem is worn on the apron bib and a small one on the helmet.”

Presumably because of the dangers of fraternization, “no person under 23 years of age may be a member of the Refreshment Corps.” Also, because attempts had been made “to injure our soldiers through tampering with Red Cross articles,” all foodstuffs had to be prepared in supervised kitchens and “by persons whose devotion to the United States can be vouched for.” (Taft, October 1917.)

Motor Corps Uniform

Motor Corps Uniform, American Red Cross, 1917.

Motor Corps Uniform, American Red Cross, 1917.

“All women volunteer drivers for Chapter work are included in this service. Members may or may not furnish their own cars. The uniform is a long gray cloth coat with a tan leather belt, a close-fitting hat of the same material, riding breeches, tan puttees or canvas leggings and tan shoes. The Red Cross emblem is worn on the hat.  The arm band is light green embroidered in white.”

Motor Corps Puttees or Canvas leggings worn with riding breeches.  Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Motor Corps Puttees or Canvas leggings worn with riding breeches. Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

Although her riding breeches are modestly covered by the length of the coat, this is a variation on a male chauffeur’s uniform. Most cars were open (and cold) in 1917. Whether or not you supplied your own vehicle for transporting troops, this uniform had to be purchased, not home-made. It cost about $25.

Who Can Wear These Red Cross Uniforms?

lhj 1917 sept p 5 Red cross uniform rule top hallf 500

Text of article announcing the new American Red Cross Corps Uniforms, Sept. 1917, Ladies' Home Journal, page 5.

Text of article announcing the new American Red Cross Corps Uniforms, Sept. 1917, Ladies’ Home Journal, page 5.

American Red Cross Nurses Uniforms

Alessandra Kelley, who writes the blog Confessions of a Postmodern Pre-Raphaelite, found a 1918 copy of The Red Cross Magazine with pictures and descriptions of the official uniforms for Red Cross nurses at home and serving overseas. She kindly photographed it in detail for the use of historians and re-enactors. Click here for a link to her great post about Nurses Uniforms.

I have also written about the U.S. Food Administration Uniform, 1917.

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes

Official Uniform: Members of the Food Administration, 1917

Article explaining the need for food conservation in World War I, LHJ, Sept. 1917.

Article explaining the need for food conservation in World War I, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

I finally got my hands on a copy of Linda Przybyszewski’s The Lost Art of Dress (after reading several very favorable reviews, including this one from The Vintage Traveler). I had barely started reading the book when I found a paragraph on page 4 about the importance of home economists to the war effort in World War I:

“With the help of the home economists, the US Food Administration recruited some 750,000 women to help teach the rest of America’s women about food conservation . . . .  The recruits got a pin, a badge, and a pattern for an apron. The white apron was named after Herbert Hoover, who was then head of the Food Adminstration. The Hoover apron’s claim to design fame was that it completely wrapped around your dress and protected it from spills, opening in the front with a large overlap. . . .”

“I’ve seen one of those,” I thought. And here it is, from Ladies’ Home Journal, September, 1917.

The Official Badge and Uniform of Members of the Food Administration of the United States, WW I. From an official article in Ladies' Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

The Official Badge and Uniform of Members of the Food Administration of the United States, WW I. From an official article in Ladies’ Home Journal, Sept. 1917.

“. . . .Since it could overlap in either direction, you could wear it twice as long as a regular apron before it was too filthy to wear. It was practical, and sort of disgusting, but it became a popular design.  Renamed “Hooverettes” or “bungalow aprons,” done up in perky prints with ruffles at the neck and sleeves, they were sold in stores as dresses over the next two decades.” — Linda Przybyszewski, The Lost Art of Dress, p. 4.

Przybyszewski cites an article by Joan Sullivan from Dress 26, “In Pursuit of Legitimacy:  Home Economists and the Hoover Apron in World War I,” which I have not read. It’s available from The Costume Society of America.

I’ll print the picture of the uniform again,  in two sections, so the text and details will be more legible:

lhj 1917 sept p 27 Food uniform top 500 w

lhj 1917 sept p 27 Food uniform btm 500 dpi wIn spite of Dr. Przybyszewski’s description, the official apron was not white, but “of blue chambray.”  The fact that the pieces all “open out flat” for ironing must have been a great point in its favor, like the removeable cuffs.  Notice that “any woman who signs the Hoover pledge is entitled to wear” this uniform. The Hoover Pledge appeared in the August Ladies’ Home Journal and other women’s magazines. lhj 1917 aug woman and war hoover pledgeHere are the rules these women were agreeing to follow: lhj 1917 aug woman and war 500 hoover asks box

Boxes explaining the food conservation rules appeared in many articles in the Ladies' Home Journal. Aug. 1917 .

Wartime illustrations explaining the food conservation rules appeared throughout the Ladies’ Home Journal. Aug. 1917 .

American women had been reading about the sacrifices made by European women during the twenty months that passed before the United States entered the war. The women’s magazines showed pictures of women in uniform in England, of women filling previously male occupations, and American women were eager to do their part. Judging from the fashion illustrations and patterns available, they were also depressingly eager to wear uniforms, or clothing that looked like uniforms, as if one couldn’t volunteer to host a war relief fund-raiser until dressed like a pseudo soldier.

Butterick patterns for women and teens, Delineator, August 1917.

Butterick patterns for women and teens, Delineator, August 1917.

Aprons and House Dresses

A

A “Hoover apron,” 1917.

It’s a little surprising to modern eyes to see this all-covering, sleeved garment described as an apron, but the distinction between aprons and house dresses remained blurry into the 1920s.  The “Hoover apron” was very similar to these 1917 house dresses from Butterick — dresses which preceded the Food Administration uniform:

Butterick House Dress pattern, June 1917.  Delineator.

Butterick House Dress pattern, June 1917. Delineator.

Butterick patterns, January 1917.  From left, a negligee, a house dress, a wrap house dress, and a negligee. From Delineator magazine..

Butterick patterns, January 1917. From left, a negligee, a house dress, a wrap house dress, and a negligee. From Delineator magazine.

However, in the 1920s, aprons that we would call dresses, and which pulled on over the head, appeared equally with sleeveless aprons that primarily covered the front of the body.

Two Butterick aprons, 1924. #5156, left, is dress-like; #5096, right, is recognizably an apron.

Two Butterick aprons, 1924. #5156, left, is dress-like; #5096, right, is recognizably an apron.

[For those who do not remember the house dress, it was a dress — often with pockets — that was easy to launder and was worn while doing housework. Even in the 1940s, no woman with pretensions to the middle class would wear a house dress outside her own yard. In 1917, they were also called “porch dresses.”]

Butterick patterns from February 1924. The flowered garment is called an apron. The wrap dress on the right is a house dress.

Butterick patterns from February 1924. Center:  Apron #5026. Right: House dress #5043.

The floral garment in the center is described as an apron. The wrap dress on the right is a “house dress.” Perhaps some women would have called them Hooverettes?

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Filed under 1900s to 1920s, 1920s, Nightclothes and Robes, Old Advertisements & Popular Culture, Uniforms and Work Clothes, World War I

1950 Aprons for Barbecues and a Happy Marriage

McCall's Apron Patterns for Men and Women, store catalog,

McCall’s Apron Patterns for Men and Women, store catalog, 1950.

McCall’s featured these apron sets for men and women in at least two 1950 catalogs. I’m not sure how many men barbecued while wearing suits, but they certainly barbecued while smoking cigarettes. (See below.) The pattern on the left, #1481, is described as “Mr. & Mrs. Happy Marriage Aprons.”

Mr. & Mrs. Happy Marriage Aprons

McCall's apron pattern 1481, catalog, May 1950.

McCall’s apron pattern #1481, catalog, May 1950.

happy marriage text953

The happy marriage aprons show the husband doing the grocery shopping, washing the dishes, and mopping the floor. The wife does the cooking, the ironing, and the dusting. Not a bad division of labor, for 1950! (Uh-oh. These aprons “will amuse friends, each other.” I bet a lot of them were wedding shower presents, intended to get a laugh.)

Weiner Dog Barbecue Apron Set

McCall's Men's and Women's apron set pattern #1515, from store catalog, May 1950.

McCall’s Men’s and Women’s Barbecue Apron Set pattern #1515, from store catalog, May 1950.

weiner dog text p 22“Mrs. looks so barbe-cute in hers, with appliqued dachshunds, a toasting hot dog. And the pig chef appliqued on man’s apron will barbe-cure Mr. of hot coal shyness.” Because of strong anti-German sentiment during World War I (and WW II), dachshunds were sometimes called “liberty” dogs, “weiner” dogs, or “sausage” dogs. [cf. “freedom fries” nine decades later.]  In the fifties, my family called dachshunds “weenie dogs.” This 1950 catalog indulged in a lot of puns when it came to aprons and tea-towel embroidery transfers.

An Oh “So-Mannish Apron”

McCall's Apron Set Pattern # 1319 for Men and Women, store catalog, May 1950.

McCall’s Apron Set Pattern # 1319 for Men and Women, store catalog, May 1950.

chef and waitress aprons text1950“Mr. Never-go-near-the-kitchen will hustle to help if he’s wearing his own so-mannish apron.”

French Chef Embroidery Pattern

The McCall’s Needlework Catalog also offered a set of 8″ embroidery transfers suitable for dish towels or pot holders. [Big dish towels made from bleached flour sacks were often embroidered and sold at fund-raising bazaars. I’m still using some that I inherited 30 years ago; thousands of trips through the wash have made them lint-free and very absorbent — not at all like the small, not-very-absorbent ‘dish towels’ made from looped towel fabric that are common today.]

French chef embroidery transfer pattern #1055, offered in McCall's  catalog; May, 1950.

French chef embroidery transfer pattern #1055, offered in McCall’s catalog; May, 1950.

A set of big dish towels embroidered with these charming, cartoonish French chefs would still make a great gift! However, the copyright is probably still held by McCall’s, now part of Butterick, so I do not recommend making them for sale! Bon appetit!1055 french chefs embroidery text

 

 

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Filed under 1940s-1950s, 1950s-1960s, Accessory Patterns, Uniforms and Work Clothes, Vintage Accessories