Friday, March 2, 2012

The Red Cross Uniform

So as promised here is my account of the Red Cross uniform I put together for The LA air raids at Fort McArthur. 

I have always loved uniforms especially the nurses uniforms of WW I, though they are much harder to find then items from WW II. And WW II events are far more frequent :) 

The dress was an eBay find, And I think the only reason I got such a good price was that it was marked only as a nurses uniform not Red Cross and that it was not the typical style you see for WWII, which usually has a button front and small collar. The dress fits like a dream and is in really good shape considering its age. It even has its original self belt which snaps closed. The opening on the dress is in the side seam, which is very 1930s and the front has two square flat pockets. The wrist length sleeves have big buttons at about mid forearm where the cuffs would button on. Though the dress did no come with its original cuffs I was able to make a pair of reproductions by looking at images of extant pieces.

The really stunning thing about the dress was its silk head scarf it came with. It is a blue silk square scarf with one corner turned back a little with a white organza wired crown hand sewn in place with an elastic string going around to keep it on the head. The organza was very yellowed with age and dirt but I gave it and the dress a nice good soak in some warm woolite to get them clean. The dress came clean beautifully the scarf cleaned up some but is till very yellow with age. I haven't worn it out to an even yet because I worry about how fragile it seems. 

All the advertisements for joining the Red Cross during WWII showed the women wearing medium length blue wool capes with a red lining. These are very easy to find on eBay or other vintage sites as hospitals used them for their nurses as far up as the 1960s it seems.

The wool cape is in lovely condition and even has a little watch pocket on one inside edge. I found one for a reasonable price and it came with the white nurses cap that I wore to the event. The cap snaps together in the back with a little vintage label. It has some staining, though nothing terribly noticeable, the best part is that now that I have it I feel pretty confident I can use it as a pattern to duplicate it :)

The shoes were a find of pure chance! I was cruising eBay looking for a red cross volunteers pin for the front of my dress when I came across a shoe listing with one of those ridiculous titles of every possible key word: " vintage WWII retro shoes red cross glam fab" and I thought their just making a crazy claim so that they get more hits but I looked any ways and sure enough on the inside of the shoe they clearly state that they are Red Cross issue!!! I had to have them :)  

At the same time that I was putting this outfit together Michael found for me an old Life magazine from July 1940 that had as the cover shot a young girl wearing exactly my uniform, head scarf and all. He got it for me and aside from all the wonderful vintage advertising to ogle through it has a great 4 page spread on the Red Cross organization here in America and what they were doing before we had entered the war to help out efforts in Europe. 

I just love these last two, especially the old sewing machines :)

I am so happy to have a complete uniform now! And I love all the history behind it and what it represented in our countries past. 

Caitlin Amiton

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