Friday, June 4, 2010

Advance 3249 - Overalls

World War II

The image of World War II's "Rosie the Riveter" is so firmly embedded in our culture that the Library of Congress calls their collection of images of women at work during WWII The Rosie Pictures.

But where did these women get their work duds?  For the most part, they probably did what many of us still do today - they wore men's clothes.

However, Advance thought it was worth offering an overalls pattern for women.   Nothing fancy about this pattern; only one view is given.  Yardages are given for only 36" and 39" width fabric, common widths for denim.

If you couldn't find a pattern locally, Montgomery Ward could supply you.  Here are three patterns they offered at 5 cents each (very reasonable; note that the Advance pattern would set you back 15 cents.)
Ward's would also sell you your fabric, having employed some patriotic copy editing to what were, for the most part, standard fabrics:

The Advance overalls in a size 18 will require 3 1/4 yard of 36" wide fabric.

If making your own wasn't an option, Wards offered a nice line of women's workwear featuring a "Victory Volunteers" emblem.  These bib-top overalls were described as "a sensible choice for your wartime job" and were offered in three qualities:  Best quality came in gunpowder blue twill jean for $3.77, Better quality came in navy and white pin check for $2.95, Good quality came in blue Sanforized denim for $1.95 and didn't have the emblem.

Everybody got to participate in marketing the Victory Volunteers effort:

I couldn't get a clear enough image to insert here, but there were even Volunteers for Victory paper dolls!

Wards would also sell you Sanforized denim overalls.  Although these were marketed for "Victory Workers, Farm and Factory," they may have been part of their standard line and not specific to the war.  The description tells us that these will "take countless washings and ironings" and that they have "metal buttons for a smart, workmanlike appearance."

Not all women worked in factories; many did agricultural work, either on their own family's farms, orchards, and ranches, or through organizations such as the Women's Land Army.
Women riveting ships together or working in the fields probably didn't have time to sew, but their mothers or aunts might have helped out. 

Yarn companies produced a variety of booklets of items to knit for military men and women, but the folks at Chadwick's Red Heart Yarn remembered the civilian women with their booklet Women's Sweaters - America at Work and Play.  The cover model is their Victory Girl.
This practical cardigan was offered as well.  While having a sweater you've knit yourself gives a nice sense of accomplishment, we shouldn't overlook the benefit of the soothing, repetitive nature of knitting, particularly during a stressful period.


Diane Shiffer said...

I love the lines of some of those overalls. The Montgomery Ward pattern (I think!) has such a nifty bodice with high sides and back... so unusual and cute!

I have always wanted a handknit cardigan, but I have never been able to get the hang of knitting.

Val said...

Very interesting. I like that you include the historical context with the images.

I sometimes what will happen to the patterns that I use today. Will someone someday buy the, or find them somewhere, and wonder about my markings, cuts, and tears? Will someone wonder about me, as I wonder about the women who've used my vintage patterns before? It's an interesting thought. said...

Persuaded - I didn't *get* knitting until I was well into my 20's and I didn't knit my first cardigan until a couple of years ago, so don't give up hope. Despite being so spiky-looking, knitting socks and mittens is actually pretty easy if you've got a knitting buddy to get you started - and then you've got Christmas covered forever.

Val- Patterns are quite ephemeral. My mother tells me that she used to use her old patterns (1950's and early '60s) to wrap her good crystal whenever we moved. My local Goodwill store still does this. I think that many patterns survive due to sheer luck, and I often wonder how far they travelled before they ended up in my filing cabinets.

Erin said...

Oh dear! Wrapping crystal! I would never have thought of that.

fuzzylizzie said...

Great post! I've found three pairs of these WWII era overalls; all seem to be home-sewn and all made from that medium blue, medium weight cotton. And all three showed many signs of rough usage! said...

Fuzzylizzie - If the survival of home sewing patterns is random, the survival of homemade utilitarian garments is even more so! Do you have images of the overalls you've collected?

fuzzylizzie said...

I only have photos of one pair. The others were very similar.

Prairie Sage Farm said...

I have never tried an Advance pattern; though I often see them on vintage pattern sites. (My grandmother worked in a munitions factory in Waco Tx during the war)