Prior to the United States’ entry into World War I, the pages of "Vogue" bear witness to the increased popularity of volunteering for overseas service amongst society women. Lacking uniforms made through standardized production, many women joining the war effort in Europe turned uniform spec sheets over to their dressmakers for personalized interpretation. One result is this elegant YWCA uniform, constructed of rugged wool covert and comprising knee-length cape, tailored jacket, and walking-length skirt–complete with its Worth/Paris silk petersham.
Dress: Semi-fitted, mid-calf length; surplice bodice, double breasted with nonfunctional buttonholes, bretelles from shoulders to below waist at back; wide, flat bengaline collar; long sleeves, bengaline cuffs, self-covered buttons; flat-front skirt with self-covered buttons either side of center front; graduated vertical tucks at left and right sides from waist to hip, crow’s foot tailor’s tacks at ends; box pleats either side of center back; concealed skirt pocket left of center front; half self-belt at back; hook-and-eye closure on bodice, snap closure on skirt; cream silk slip top.
Jacket: Unfitted, hip-length; attached knee-length cape, open at center front; wide, flat bengaline collar with curved ends; long sleeves; right bosom pocket; bellows patch pockets either side of center front hip, single-button flaps; belt loops (belt missing); satin lining.
The unlined dress bodice is joined with a separate silk chemise stitched in at the waist. The chemise fastens down the front with hooks and eyes, is lace-trimmed at neck edge, and has a small patch pocket on the inside between the left shoulder and bust.
The skirt pleats are stitched down several inches below the waist, a crow’s-foot (triangle) embroidered to secure their ends. The skirt fastens with snaps, its placket finished with a simple silk ribbon binding and its hem finished at the edge with seam-binding, secured by hand with a row of small running stitches.
The caped jacket fastens center-front with four irregularly spaced composition buttons and bound buttonholes, joining a circular-cut cape with a completely lined hand-sewn jacket. The jacket has hip patch pockets and a small welt pocket above the right bust. The patch pockets have box pleats at the center and a flap that buttons in place for security. The cape is unlined with bound inner seams.
Worn by Margaret Merle-Smith.
Gift of Ms. Cora Ginsburg, 1980.