New Costuming Obsession: WWII

I blame Rosemary Clooney for this.

After enjoying dressing up as Rosemary Clooney in my eye searing turquoise outfit last weekend, I was inspired to make more outfits from that era.  I really liked the Army flightsuits they wear in “White Christmas” for the “I Wish I Was Back in the Army” song near the end of the movie and thought about making one.  Then I took it a little farther and thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to dress up like the Andrews Sisters?

The Andrews Sisters, copyright MCA records.  Minnesota Girls!

So I asked the merry band of costumers that are going to CosCon in Denver next year if anyone was interested, and I got 3 replies.

Which means we are the Andrews Quadruplets, lol.

I started looking for patterns, ideas, SHOES, and soon I was surfing the web looking at uniform websites, info on WAAC/WACs, etc.  Then Caitlin mentioned that she had talked to some people at CosCon in Arizona about getting a group of people together in uniforms from the womens support services in WWII and suddenly I wanted to make ALL THE UNIFORMS.  Well, all the Army ones, anyway.  (Even though the seersucker dresses for the WAVES and SPARS are SO CUTE.)  Having served in the Army and being married to an ex-Army guy there was no question which service uniforms I would want to wear.  It does suck that they have the Least Attractive Uniforms.  I have to give credit where credit is due – the Marines know how to cut a suit.

So instead of working on my Anne Shirley-Inspired Big Poufy Sleeved Lace Dress of Glory for this weekend:

From “Anne of Avonlea” film, copyright PBS, CBS, Canadian Broadcasting System.

I have spent most of my spare time searching the Internet and checking with surplus stores for pieces and parts.  Because I have been losing weight and this outfit doesn’t need to be done till next May, I have been looking for old uniforms that I can make patterns from, but finding one for under $100 is difficult.  I have found yards of the khaki cotton for the summer uniforms, and even more yards of the pink for the Officers’ “pinks and greens” uniforms.  And Twila has some green wool that I am going to check for color match.

I will shortly be in possession of a couple of old skirts, an old blouse and a jacket similar to the “Ike” jacket, all of which can get me started in patterning.  Especially since there are 4 of us who need patterns.  (Not that everyone is going to go nuts like me and want to make, well, almost everything….)

Original unattractive shoes.

I have also discovered that there are no shoes to be found.  The only ones I found were either very narrow, or too small.  One place I contacted had 34 PAIRS in size 5 and 6 that they had just sold to a museum.  The woman at the surplus store I talked to said that is pretty common.  She also suggested just buying the repros, as the originals had problems with their heels.  However, repros start at $85 and go up.  And while I initially scoffed at spending that much, it did occur to me that my American Duchess shoes were more money than that, so the pricing really isn’t that bad.  For costuming shoes, anyway.  And since I don’t need them till next year, they can wait.

Original garrison cap.

As for hats, it did occur to me that I had made a vow when I left the Army that you would never again catch me in an “envelope” or “garrison” hat.  Here I am, 20 years later, eating my words.  Never say never, folks.

I am not sure why this particular era of costuming has gripped me so much.  Maybe because I was in the Army, maybe because it is very streamlined and body fitted and just different than all the stuff I have been doing.  Either way, I am oddly excited by it, and looking forward to wearing the uniforms and finding some folks to maybe do some reenactment with.

And while I may not call myself a historically accurate costumer for most costumes, I really feel the need to be accurate with these.  Mainly because as ex-Army it drives me batty to see a modern uniform wrong, so I should give the same respect to a vintage uniform.  Not quite sure why it makes a difference in that it is a uniform and not a gown or something, but it does.  As they say, you can take the girl out of the Army, but you can’t take the Army out of the girl.

Back when I had cheekbones that could cut glass and weighed nothing.

If anyone knows of any good places to find uniforms, fabric, etc., I would love to hear about them.  In the meantime, I should probably go work on my lace dress so I am not naked this weekend…

2 thoughts on “New Costuming Obsession: WWII

  1. Molly says:

    eBay is great for finding originals (and as long as you are pattern-drafting they need not be mint condition dead stock)! I am changing gears in my WWII impression and portraying a WAC and can’t find reproductions to fit my overly tall and scrawny frame. As for insignia placement, check out, they have some great resources. You mentioned you had sunmerweight fabric, where did you find it? I have been searching to no avail!

    • Laura says:

      I got some fabric from a surplus store that found it when they were going through a bunch of boxes. There is some discussion right now as to what exactly it is. Could be skirt fabric, pants fabric, etc. I am sending a piece to a friend who does reenactment and she is going to check for me.

      Thanks for the info! Every bit helps when you are learning!

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