Monday, May 21, 2012

Butterick 2209 - The American Red Cross Volunteer Special Service Outdoor Uniform

"1/14/43" is written on the flap of the envelope of this one.

Women's Red Cross uniforms had been re-designed around 1941 by Elizabeth Hawes to be more contemporary looking.  "Red Cross Lassies Get Snappy New Uniforms,"  burbled the St. Petersburg Times on May 4, 1941.  Indeed, without the epaulettes (and the cap) this is a pretty standard women's suit of the time.

Wool gabardine in blue-gray would have been used for View A, the winter uniform.  View B, the summer uniform, would have been made up in a rayon-mohair mix for summer weight or seersucker for tropical weight.

By April 1942, about 20,000 women wore some type of Red Cross uniform.  The Red Cross had to walk a fine line between complying with the overall need to economize in every possible way and to assure that its workers were properly recognized.  The New York Times reported on April 3, 1942 that the bellows pocket with flap that had previously been used on jackets was being dropped in favor of pockets using less material.  In the same article, Mrs. Dwight Davis, the Red Cross's national director of  volunteer special services stated that uniforms should be reserved for women who spent the bulk of their time performing Red Cross-related activities - particularly if this work took them out in public:  women working in chapter work rooms were not to wear uniforms.

Even though uniforms could be purchased at department stores, making or having a uniform made might have been a good option for a woman who required special care in fitting.  This uniform pattern was available in bust sizes from 30" to 46" - a much wider range than that of patterns for civilian clothes.

While the envelope for this pattern is rough around the edges, this unprinted pattern does not appear to have been used, possibly because there was less demand for the generous size 46.

The American Red Cross was founded on May 21st, 1881.


Lynn said...

I love this, Andrea! The size range is very interesting. As always, your research is impeccable.

What-I-Found said...

I love your blog. It's fascinating to read about these treasures and learn from the careful research you do.
Thanks so much.