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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

siren suits - the second world war onesie ?

Fashion trends…I love ‘em. Ra-ra skirts, puffballs, shell suits, darlings I’ve worn them all. That is with the exception of one trend that has so far eluded me – the onesie!. I have never been able to get my fibre-glass brain around this most peculiar item of attire, as hard as I try. Perhaps it’s the hijacking of what could be seen as a pure comfort garment by the fancy dress and stag party industry – retailers out there – you know who I’m talking about! I shudder at the prospect of sliding my cellulose sprayed limbs into a “Kermit the frog” all in one (with hood) – or similar fashion travesty!

Imagine my surprise then, when I noticed an order for a bustform going through the workshop recently, commissioned by the Science Museum to wear a siren suit at the newly opened Churchill’s Scientists Exhibition. Craning my neck to read the brief I discovered that this was infact a prototype onesie style suit dating back to World War 2!   



Taking its name from the omnipresent air raid siren, the garment in question was made by Turnbull and Asser; a fetching one-piece teal green velvet boiler suit that Churchill could literally slip on over his pyjamas to be ready for action in a trice! Apparently he became quite addicted to wearing this "comfort in a crisis" piece of clothing and had them made in all sorts of fabrics; pinstripe, velvet, with military embellishments! Roomy, comfortable and smart, Winston wore his at all hours and even for formal meetings. His example became so famous that the look was taken up by adults and children everywhere – pulling the suits on as they dashed to the air raid shelter in the middle of the night. So convenient, some versions even had a panel at the back to allow the wearer to use the facilities without stripping off! Imagine…no don’t!


Anyhow, I think Winnie could be dubbed a fashion icon – who knows, perhaps the next round of onesie designs will emulate the Science Museum exhibit and stitch a cigar into the breast pocket!  

See the Science Museum's revealing exhibition until March next year details here

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