Hot! My “Rosie the Riveter” ensemble

The Facts 
Fabric:Stretch Denim, red and white polka dot fabric from stash
Pattern: New York pattern # 1779 for shirt, Folkwear # 250 Hollywood pants
Year: 1940′s
Notions: Interfacing and 5 buttons for shirt; 4 buttons for pants all from stash
Time to complete: ~4 1/2  hours, SIX hours and an emotional journey for photos
First worn: May 2012
Wear again? Yes! but not together

Total Cost: $27.67 for denim

I will unequivocally say this weeks challenge has so far produced the most emotional journey, and that’s saying something since the two family challenges nearly sent me back to therapy! One week ago I had no idea what I was going to do but since I have a stack of vintage 40′s patterns I wasn’t worried. It wasn’t until I was talking with a friend Monday night about some of the current political nuttiness that inspiration struck like a lightening bolt…I just HAD to channel the most recognizable iconic figure of the 40′s!

Made a fast trip to Joann’s for some basic stretch denim, I knew I wanted dark blue something with some stretch to it and denim was the best candidate. Washed, dried, pre-shrunk, good to go. Wednesday everything was cut out, Thursday I figured I had a few days to sew and then my schedule changed and photos would have to be done Saturday or I would be learning all about the timer feature of my camera : ) I used my go-to blouse pattern for the top and the knickers pattern of the Hollywood pants since I wanted a smooth waisted slimmer legged pant. I did not want a jumpsuit that, while period accurate, I would never wear so separates it was. All I did was taper the leg a bit and cut them longer. Then it was a mad sewing session Friday during which I watched, of all things, “League of their Own”. Oh, and the fly of the pants is all buttons, no zips!

In researching Rosie I found out we have not one but MANY Rosie sites here in the Bay Area, after all this was her home : ) Here is a brief synopsis of the Rosie story:

“World War II profoundly changed the status of  American women. As the military’s need for manpower increased, so did industry’s need for womanpower. In 1940-1944 over six million women joined the workforce. Despite initial concerns, by WWII’s end women had proven to be an invaluable and formidable force in the War effort.

The ‘We Can Do It’ poster created in 1943 by J. Howard Miller, encourage women entering the workforce. 1942′s “Rosie the Riveter”, a popular homefront song, became a nickname for women in the workforce.

As men returned from WWII most women left the factories. But the confidence, competence and earning power they had experienced forever changed the American workplace. Over time Rosie has become an icon symbolizing women’s strength, determination and ability to do any job.” That’s on the back of my new Rosie lunch box that I purchased at a museum shop : )

I mean seriously, how could I NOT channel that this week?

We started our journey at the Rosie the Riveter Memorial Park in Richmond. It is this very open steel structure meant to evoke the form of an unfinished hull. The walkway is the length of a ships keel, slopes towards the water and aligns with the Golden Gate Bridge. A timeline about the homefront and quotes from women workers are inscribed on the path. There are photos of the women in their various jobs on panels around the structure, you can just see some on the right. This was one of the more poignant quotes, almost made me cry:

And this was one of my favorite pictures:

At the bottom it says “We may have thought a year ago we couldn’t get along with them. Today we know we can never get along without them. – Aircraft Executive” They’re all sitting in a life boat eating lunch: ) You can read more about the memorial here.

Next we wanted to see if we could get on the USS Iowa. It was docked nearby and being towed to LA on Sunday to be a floating museum but for boat aficionados and WWII buffs this was a REALLY. BIG. DEAL. We quickly discovered we couldn’t get anywhere near it so we headed to the Red Oak Victory ship.

We got lost, we were in a part of town that two women in a red car with one wearing a red head scarf was perhaps not the best idea : ) When we finally found the ship we discovered a vintage T-bird car show in the parking lot!

While drooling over the pristine cars we came across the 1942 Fire truck that had been discovered somewhere in the mid-West (I think) and brought back “home” where it had served at the Kaiser shipyard #3 during the war!

Yes, its kind of a “wreck” and I have no idea if they’re planning a full restoration or just going to maintain it “as is”. You can see the official website here. This was pretty awesome, touching history like that!

Angie and I headed on board only to discover several large events, almost all participants of the generation that had either served in the military or supported those who did during WWII. It got a little intense : )

To get this shot we had to ask permission of the gentlemen in charge, all volunteers and all who had served onboard. They took one look at me and had big smiles on their faces. There was posing while some had their pictures taken with me : ) When you portray an icon so recognizable you have to be prepared for the reactions of others and so my college motto came in every handy “Remember who you are and what you represent”.

What’s important about this shot is what’s in the upper center of the pic – the USS Iowa.

We wandered the ship and found the museum, they have an original welders suit from a Rosie!

And as one of the gentlemen pointed out, by the time the Red Oak Victory was built they had moved away from riveting to welding as a stronger technique so that ship was built by Wendy the Welder : )

I posed by the original poster just for fun. On our way out, HOURS after we meant to leave, the park rangers asked me if I would come by on May 26th in my outfit for the grand opening of the new Visitor Center : ) We’ll see…

I was honored to have portrayed Rosie for a day, I was humbled by the smiles of a generation that is leaving us with just their stories and as the unnamed woman said on the sidewalk stone “I would appreciate if you would check and find out that I was truly there and did my part to the end.”

To all the women who just wanted, and still want, to be known that “they were there and did their part to the end” I honor you.

Author

Loran

Loran is a Bay Area designer, stitcher and suburban farm girl. Having done theater for years she's finally taking on her most demanding client (herself!) and fashioning a wardrobe from her huge stock of vintage patterns and fabrics, all while writing her daily tablesetting blog. Let's see if she can keep up with both : )

51 Comments

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  1. What an awesome story! and awesome photos to boot. I really appreciate all that I learned from you post. Thanks

  2. Loran-you had me in tears! You’re outfit is amazing-you are amazing! Nicely done!! There’s not much more to say really-you’re awesome!

  3. Oh, my gosh, Loren, my eyes began to water as I read your endearing post. What an honorable thing to do! What an outstanding effort you put into your outfit, your portrayal of Rosie, and the informative and very touching historical journey you took us through in your post and photos. I really do hope you go back for the May 26th. I think you would make a wonderful impression on many visitors. You certainly would get my vote for “The Sew Weekly Award for most creative Sewer of 2012″ (if there was such a thing. :)

    • That is high praise, indeed : ) Thank you!! I didn’t end up going back, I was just too tired from the week. I’m honored you liked it and really didn’t mean to make anyone sad. It was quite something, we took 400 pictures that day and it was tough to edit things down.

  4. Gosh Loran, you made me cry at work. I love the story and the outfit looks terrific.

    • Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry! But thank you for the lovely compliment, this whole journey meant a lot to me : )

  5. Well, your outfit is amazing, you look fantastic and you made me cry too. *sob*. great job x

  6. What an amazing day & story! Thanks so much for sharing. And your recreation looks amazing to say the least. :)

  7. Loren

    What a wonderful post and an amazing day! All because of an outfit…
    Are you a Mills College graduate? Just wondering, class of Mills ’90.

    • Why yes, Leah, as a matter of fact I’m class of 1984 and my daughter is 2013 : ) Good to see someone recognizes where we came from and what we represent. Thanks for your lovely compliments!

  8. Wow! Great outfit and great story.

  9. What a marvelous idea! The photos are great and thanks for sharing all this background information which I found very interesting.

    • Thank you, it was one of those moments of inspiration that are hard to ignore. I’m glad I did it and I too learned a lot about the Rosie’s of the world.

  10. Oh the pictures came out lovely, I think we did her justice for sure.

  11. Great story! Your outfit is adorable and historical. My great grandma (who is still living) worked at the shipyards in California during the war. Her and my great grandpa moved out their during the depression when they heard about the work that was being offered. At the time they had been living in a tent city along the Missouri River, about 20 minutes from where I live now. How we have all come full circle. I’m so loving this week’s theme.

    • That is such a cool story, you should see if they have any photos and I’ll try to find the locations today and take pics! Thanks for the lovely compliments, isn’t great the way the themes connect us to thing we might normally not think about?

  12. What a great post and outfit – great work Loran

  13. What a story and you’ve portrayed it so well.

  14. Amazing story, you had me choked.

  15. What a great story…You portrayed it so well.. Thankyou for sharing.

  16. Best EVERYTHING! (I was going to list off all my favourite bits from your creation & post, but it’s just the WHOLE package!)

    YAY xoxoxoxo

  17. Absolutely fabulous. This has to be one of the best creations and posts on the Sew Weekly ever. You’re not only representing all the Rosies, you’re representing all the sewers to those volunteers and the others who saw you around and that we do remember them and their sacrifices. THANK YOU. One of the best summer’s I ever had was volunteering with a BBC project back in the UK collecting oral histories of those who didn’t go to the front line during the war but still had their lives changed forever by it. As I say, it was one of my best life experiences just sitting there with my digital recorder in hand, prompting their memories (so many said they had no stories worth telling but slowly coming out with things that were truly amazing but they considered mundane) and listening to what they had to say. This week has been fab!

    Ps. you look absolutely stunning in those jeans and shirt too….and I’m rather envious of your muscle toned arms!

    • That is a GREAT story Temepest! My dad has a friend that lives about 45 minutes outside of London that I visited when I was there in 1982. His mom showed me around their small house and pointed out all the places where shrapnel was still imbedded from the bombs that fell in the neighborhood! Amazing… Thank you for the loveliness : )

  18. Love seeing all those Thunderbirds. We has a black 1955 Thunderbird when I was growing up and I spent many a summer weekend at car shows. Great memories.

  19. Totally love everything about this. Your post also made me choke up a little. Way to knock it out of the park!

  20. Wow, what an amazing experience!!! It sounds like everything fell into place perfectly! And your outfit is fantastic!

  21. Bravo! You are an inspiration. Your work is always a pleasure, but this, it was so moving. The shot with you and the original poster is priceless. I appreciate that you took us along on your adventure, I agree this was the best post I’ve read so far. Just wonderful, you are amazing. Thank you so much for the inspiration.

  22. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post Loran it put a lump in my throat. Did you end up going back?. Awesome interpretation of Rosie. I love your motto too well done. You are amazing.

    • Thank you Kazz. I didn’t end up going back, I was so tired by the end of last week it was all I could do to finish up the Vegas challenge and keep up with life.

  23. Damn you’re fabulous!

  24. Oh my goodness, just wow. You are amazing! Thank you.

  25. Loran, I love that you did this! We sail past the Iowa and Red Oak every week, and I always tell my daughters about their great-grandmother, who was one of the Rosies. I bet you made so many people so happy that day. Hope to meet you one day if there’s ever a local meet up.