WWII Women's Workwear

Women's WWII Workwear

Ronnie the Bren Gun Girl


Veronica Foster was a Canadian WWII icon popularly known as ‘Ronnie, the Bren Gun Girl’. She started working for the John Inglis company in Toronto at the age of 19 in 1941. She was photographed there for a National Film Board propaganda campaign. Her pictures were used to encourage Canadian women to participate in the war effort. It was Ronnie’s pictures that inspired the creation of the Rosie the Riveter character in America. She was also photographed outside of the factory going to dinner wearing lavish clothing, dancing the jitterbug and playing baseball. The NFB's primary aim for the campaign was to encourage all women to participate in the war efforts by working while also displaying the maintenance of women's glamour and femininity. Her pictures inspired more than one million women all across Canada to join the war industry's workforce in support of Canada.

She became a singer after the war and often performed at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. 

Rosie the Riveter

Artist J. Howard Miller was said to have been inspired by a photograph of a young female worker for the now iconic 1943 ‘We Can Do It!’ poster, which depicted a figure who later became known as Rosie the Riveter. 

Naomi Parker Fraley

In 1984, Michigan native Geraldine Hoff Doyle saw the photograph in a magazine and thought that it was a picture of herself when she worked in a factory during the war. In 1994, she saw the ‘We Can Do It’ poster and felt that she was the inspiration for it. She communicated with a historian about it and the narrative formed that Geraldine was the inspiration for the poster image and the media ran with it. 

Fast forward to 2009. War worker Naomi Parker Fraley is attending a reunion held at the Rosie the Riveter/ WWII Home Front National Historic Park. She sees a photo of herself working at a factory in California in 1942 attributed to Geraldine Doyle. She writes to the park to correct their mistake.

In 2015, a university professor studying the poster tracked Parker down and confirmed it was her by the fact that she still had the original 1942 newspaper cutting. He found that she had been rebuffed in her attempts to correct the mistaken identity of the woman in the photo. The record was set straight before Parker died in 2018. 

A Rosie the Riveter wartime movie was released in 1944 starring Jane Frazee with costumes by Adele Palmer. Palmer has an incredible 261 costume designer credits, including for John Wayne’s The Quiet Man (1952). She was nominated at the 32nd Academy Awards for her work on The Best of Everything (1959). 

Women's Workwear & Utility Clothing 

The Bulletin ‘Safety Clothing for Women in Industry’ published by the Women’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor in 1941 states:

“Safety clothing is designed for its attractiveness as well as its utility. It has become fashionable to dress and act so that accidents cannot happen”.

Factory overalls/ jumpsuits were donned by women all over Canada and America. 

Air raid/ siren suits also became very popular in the UK and France. These were practical one piece boiler-suit-style garments which women, men and children could don quickly over their nightwear in case of an air raid.

Siren suits were constructed in a loose-cut design, with zippered or button closures, an optional belt, and large simple pockets. The suits were made of many fabrics, most typically wool, cotton, or other materials available under clothing rationing. Suits could be bought ready-made or could be hand-made with a pattern and available fabrics. Some suits had a panel at the back that opened to allow the wearer to use a toilet without removing the entire suit. The women’s version was also available with fashionable features such as puffed shoulders, bell bottomed legs and a fitted hood. 

Winston Churchill was a famous wearer of the suit during the war. 

We have two reproduction WWII white coveralls available in small and extra large. They are a beautiful style as well as comfy and flattering to wear!


We also have a vintage women’s wide leg jumpsuit from Montgomery Ward’s in our rentals collection. 

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