The “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.

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