Aviation Costume: 1909-1916

 

 

buttonless costume for lady aviators 1909

AVIATION COSTUME FOR WOMEN

Entirely innocent of buttons, the aeroplane gown has arrived. The one shown in the accompanying photograph is the creation of a famous designer. It opens in the back, on the left side, and fastens closely with hooks. There is not a button in it. The “trousers” are of sufficient length to reach the ankles, and are caught up below the knee and held there by rubber bands. The width of the pantaloons is 56 inches.

The Philadelphia [PA] Inquirer 5 December 1909: p. 51

AVIATION COSTUME NEWEST THING IN SPORTS CLOTHES

Of Course Every Woman Who Wears One Need Not Fly, but Some of Them Actually Will Pilot Machines.

All of Them Are Amusing and Delightful, and After All the Main Thing This Season Is to Be in the Picture.

Eleanor Hoyt Brainerd

Sports clothes again! One simply cannot escape their lure, and there’s no denying that they are the most important fashion items on this summer’s horizon. One can get along with very few dressy frocks, but one must have smart sports clothes if one has the faintest ambition to be fashionably attired.

Some of the clothes are actually for sportswear, too. American girls and women do not go in for athletic sports as they did a few years ago. It is not obligatory, as it was then. A woman may now admit without a blush of shame that she does not play golf or tennis, even that she does not ride or swim, though she will miss many a good time and a considerable degree of popularity if she does not do these things; but the one thing she cannot afford to abjure is the wearing of sports clothes.

Fortunately for the unstrenuous, sports clothes this summer are quite as decorative as they are utilitarian– far more decorative in most instances–and one may wear them for mere loafing without feeling incongruously clad; but for the women who actually go in for sports there are plenty of things practical as well as good looking.

The aviation costume is the latest sports clothes fad, just as aviation is the latest of sports. Even yet there is no general feminine need of such an addition to the wardrobe, but some women do manage flying machines and more fly in the capacity of passengers, and the designers have supplied clothes for these pioneers.

sporting costume leather

Amusing and delightful costumes they are, too, usually of soft leather or oilskin with a loose belted and pocketed coat, breeches cut like rather full riding breeches and tucking under snugly fitted puttees, and a hood or helmet which closes under the chin and has a short cape attached to the neckband and meant to be worn either under the coat or outside of it.

Some of these costumes have in addition a short skirt of the leather to be donned when one is not in the machine, but, as a rule, the sportswoman scorns this amendment. Purple, dark green and brown are the three colors most often used in the leather for suit and hood, and the puttees and boots may be either black or brown. One good looking Trench costume was all in smoke gray, suit, hood, puttees and boots; the breeches of cloth, the coat and hood of leather.

Apropos of coat, breeches and skirt costumes, these are used for many sports purpose nowadays and are shown in tweeds, frieze, khaki, linen and many other materials suitable for rough sportswear. Where once it was the very exceptional thing for a woman to take to breeches or bloomers for any purpose, the practice is now very common indeed, in camp, for fishing, shooting, mountain climbing and even for long “hikes” outside of mountain country. There are those who object to the innovation, but the woman who has once known the comfort and joy of such dress on her outings in rough country will find it hard to reconcile herself to petticoats again for sportswear.

The coats of these suits are usually on the Norfolk or shooting coat order, severely tailored, and the skirts are plain, modestly wide, quite short, unlined, usually opening up the front. The absolutely practical nature of the costume is its apology and its justification and any sacrifice of these characteristics detracts from the success and modishness of the outfit, though many women make such mistakes.

Divided skirt costumes of the same general character as the breeches costumes just described are also shown by the makers and sellers of sports  clothes and are liked by those women for whom the breeches costumes are too radical. They are comfortable for almost any kind of sportswear, though not so comfortable as the breeches suits, and the latter, with the additional spurt as a concession to the conventionalities in places where those conventionalities exist, are increasingly popular.

The Sun [New York NY] 9 July 1916: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: March 5-11 is Women of Aviation Worldwide Week and 8 March is International Women’s Day.  It seems a good day to remember Miss Harriet Quimby, the first woman to qualify for a pilot’s certification in the United States.  She wore a stylish and distinctive purple flight costume, possibly as part of her role as spokeswoman for a grape soda called Vin Fiz, after the aeroplane. Sadly, she died in a flying accident in 1912, age 37.

By 1916, aviation costume was somewhat codified, as opposed to the early days of flying ladies, when a good deal of improvisation went on.  There are photo-gravures of Miss Katherine Wright, sister and manager of the Wright Brothers, her skirts tied with a scarf to avoid embarrassing exposure aloft.  Some female pilots went without corsets for fear that a crash might lead to a whalebone impalement. Masculine garments were borrowed and cobbled together in functional, if not decorative ways.

FOR FEMININE FLIERS.

Costumes That Are Now Designed For the Lady Aeroplanist.

“Madam, your airship awaits you.”

“Very well, James. I’ll be there just as soon as I get my new aviation hat on straight.”

No, gentle reader, this is no joke. So interested have the fair sex become in aerial navigation and such progress has been made by the airship inventors that it begins to look as if the prediction made two years ago that milady would do her shopping by airship in 1910 might come true. At any rate, the big London and Paris dressmakers seem to think so, for they have included in their latest styles some new and striking aviation costumes for the feminine fliers. No doubt there will be a demand for them, as a number of women have sailed in aeroplanes recently.

the aeroplane hat

When going up in an airship the greatest danger is of taking cold in the throat or ears, and a hat has just been placed on the market which protects both organs.

aviation costume 1909

Besides the aviation costume shown in the illustration, which was designed in London, one is being shown by the Paris dressmakers. It is rather advanced, but then the woman who goes aeroplaning is an advanced woman. The costume consists of a waterproof hood, a heavy woolen sweater, canvas knickerbockers, army puttees and stout shoes. A pair of automobile gauntlets, and if desired, goggles, complete the rather bizarre costume.

During his stay in Europe Wilbur Wright took up at various times six women—his sister Miss Katherine, Mrs. Leon Bollee, Mrs. Lazar Weiler Countess Lambert, and Mrs. Hart O’Berg, wife of his business manager on the other side.The Wright brothers confess rather proudly that their sister knows almost as much about aeroplanes as they do, and is competent to handle one in flight alone. During the recent remarkable demonstration of airhsip possibilities at Rheims, France, the women spectators were even more enthusaistic than the men. Every indication points to a continuation of this enthusiasm among the more daring of the sex, to the point of actual ownership and personal operation of flying machines.

International Gazette [Black Rock NY] 2 October 1909: p. 3

 

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

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