1940s (World War II). Probably after June, 1941.
Weldons was the British equivalent of McCalls, producing both a women's magazine and home sewing patterns.
Weldon's "So-Easy" line of patterns seems to have started in the late 1930s, and may have been expanded during the war years. According to the web site for the Imperial War Museum, clothing rationing was imposed on June 1, 1941. Utility clothing, which regulated fabric, trims, and findings, was introduced in 1942.
I haven't yet found any indication that sewing patterns were rationed. When Weldons indicates that their So-Easy patterns are "special coupon value designs," I take this to mean that the designs accounted for rationing of yard goods, which did require coupons.
The use of the term "overall" is a shortening of the earlier term "overall apron." ("Overall" is also used in Britain for the sleeveless double-fronted apron that we know here in the states as a Hoover apron or Hooverette.)
The overall would have been important to women is several ways. First, women who did factory work would often have been required to provide their own "work" clothes, and some women probably made their own.
This woman's cheery garment is an overall, the short sleeves not quite covering the blouse or dress sleeve underneath:
Second, with strict rationing reducing one's clothes purchases to about one outfit per year, an overall worn over one's dress or skirt and blouse would have kept them clean and lasting longer.
Here's a lovely photograph of ladies of the Women's Institute in their aprons and overalls, making fruit preserves of some kind (my money is on marmalade.)
Florals seem to have been the most popular print for overalls, and overalls even make their way into books. Chapter 10 of Angela Thirkell's 1940 book Cheerfulness Breaks In starts with:
"...Lydia Keith...went off on foot to Northbridge village with a large flowered overall in a bag."Lydia wears her overall while cooking lunch for evacuees.
The Weldons overall is essentially a simple, button-front shirt waist dress. Raglan sleeves would have been a little simpler to make up than set-in sleeves.
This unprinted pattern is unused.
This is a wonderful post and I enjoyed the war time photos too. A little of bit history and culture. Thanks for the post.
Fascinating! I didn't know that "overalls" also referred to a dress. In my experience, in the US, it only referred to the trouser-legged front-flap and shoulder strap garment, as worn by several women on the right side of the first photo. Similar function, of course... I wonder when the term got more specific here?
Well, as Oscar Wilde is supposed to have said "We really have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language." Clothing terms are notoriously tricky. In the U.S. "overalls" (plural) as we think of them today seems to be a shortening of "union overalls," which united the trousers with the bib-and-braces or with a shirt or jacket (which we would probably refer to today as coveralls, but I think this may vary around the country.)
"Overall" (singular) seems to be a shortening of the term "overall apron." I've seen "overall apron" mentioned in U.S. ladies magazines as late as World War I. Some time after that, aprons lost their sleeves in the U.S., but apparently not in Britain!
Thinking back to both grandmothers, their "overalls," or Hoover aprons, were flowered for at least two reasons. When you're working and grubby, to be as feminine as possible was always a plus, AND because they usually used flour or sugar sacks to make them, and the flour and sugar companies knew that the ladies liked the florals best. There was a good amount of fabric in the really large sacks of flour and sugar, and on a farm or ranch, many small bags were a waste of time and trips to town.
As to sleeves, they were additional protection for either the dress beneath, or "decent" coverage when the overall was worn alone, which it was in hot weather. Sleeveless versions have always been around, they are more apron like, but a great deal of the United States gets hotter than England, and working hard in hot weather you want minimum coverage, just enough to take the dirt.
Historical note, say Tudor times, aprons were actually a decorative way to cover stains and dirt on skirts that were too expensive to replace.
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