In developing the ATB, the military partnered with professional fashion designers and sought input from female soldiers to refine the design. According to Ashley Cushon, costume designer and project leader at ATB, feeling good in clothing not only affects a person’s mental health, but also “influences their overall readiness and performance level, allowing them to focus on their mission.”
The move to create the ATB, along with changes to the dress code implemented last year, is said to be part of the Army’s efforts to enhance inclusivity and accommodate the growing diversity of its workforce and the diverse needs of its Soldiers. . This development suggests that the military, a traditionally conservative and masculine institution, has finally taken a more optimistic view of women’s needs.
But, of course, the creation of ATB is the latest chapter in a long entanglement between the fashion industry and the military — fueled by the military’s focus on the appearance of its troops, particularly its female soldiers.
During the American Civil War, the demand for standard uniforms by the hundreds of thousands stimulated the ready-made clothing industry and led to a revolution in men’s clothing after the war. The men’s uniform styles of World War I brought new trends in women’s fashion and changed the image of the image in 1916, which in turn shaped the style of nurse’s uniforms – the military’s first uniform for women.
During World War II, as part of a national mobilization effort, the War Production Board issued Order L-85, which restricted civilian fabrics, clothing, and accessories to preserve materials for military use. Fashion designers followed the order and found creative ways to work around it, such as using zippers instead of buttons, or introducing the now popular model of ballet shoes, which are not split.
The Second World War presented an urgent question regarding women’s uniforms and the appropriate appearance for female soldiers. For the first time in history, a significant number of women enlisted in the military ranks, primarily women accepted into the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) and Volunteer Emergency Services (WAVES). These women need uniforms that fit their bodies to allow them to perform their duties comfortably.
Initially, the Office of the Quartermaster General (OQMG), which oversaw the development of women’s uniforms, made a few adjustments to the men’s uniform, believing it was adequate. does not.
After a year of mistakes and unsatisfactory results for military women (more than 70 percent of the uniforms had to be changed), OQMG decided to hire Dorothy Shaver – then vice president of department store Lord & Taylor – to serve as a waitress. Counselor. Shaver brought more than his knowledge of women’s clothing and production. She offered a feminist approach to women’s uniform design, arguing that women’s military uniforms should not resemble men’s uniforms, but should instead be inspired by civilian sportswear and an “American look” that emphasized practicality and freedom.
Shaver’s vision was most evident in her design of a roll dress for the Army Nurse Corps, a dress that could be adjusted to the individual with minor alterations for the right size. She also made military officials to include it as the official women’s laundry room. Beginning in 1942, the military issued trousers to women serving in motor transport and pilot service units, and by 1944, trousers were a staple in all WAAC units.
Known as a big supporter of American fashion, Shaver enlisted top haute couture designers such as Philippe Mangone, Molly Parnis, and Meinböcher to create military uniforms. Every woman who joined the military knew they would receive designer clothing, so their coveted designs became an important recruiting tool. In fact, Mainbocher’s WAVES uniforms were so popular that civilian women tried to copy them, prompting the US Navy to issue a warning and remind the public that “those who do not think to conform to the distinctive design of any Army uniform are in violation of federal law.”
In the year In the 1940s, military uniform designers were concerned with practicality, but also wanted to make clothes that looked good, referring to the government’s efforts to convince both military commanders and the public that service in the armed forces did not make women superior to men. To this end, the Army discouraged women in the WAAC from sporting their hair “too short” or displaying appearances registered as “butch”, instead requiring minimal hair length and the application of make-up. Relatedly, the L-85 regulations did not cover red lipstick, nor did it issue government rations – even though the lipstick contained some materials needed for military purposes. As with hair and makeup, designers and military commanders believed that a thoughtfully designed uniform would provide enough comfort to make women look and feel like women and do their jobs well.
The fashion industry also benefited from cooperation with the defense forces. As the military labored to streamline the production of uniforms, a program of sizing and standardization began that benefited years of ready-to-wear manufacturing. Couture designers also took inspiration from military styles and created their own versions of uniforms for the runway, transforming the style of female soldiers and military personnel into an aesthetic fit. In the year In 1944, for example, Harper’s Bazaar featured Clare Potter velvet, generally “cut like a mechanic’s suit,” as the best choice for fashion-savvy women.
As women became a permanent part of the military during the Cold War, initially as part of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), the military continued its focus on creating comfortable and functional uniforms that allowed WAC members to maintain their beauty and femininity. watch out. But when the WAC disbanded in 1978 and women were integrated into men’s units and later into combat roles, the focus became less on femininity and more on effectiveness. In the process, the military has put the interests of women in the military on the back burner.
If the military has taken a long time to realize that breastplates are part of soldiers’ tactical gear, recent ATB design efforts seem to have gotten the memo. Like the uniforms of the 1940s, it is the civilian market that is providing both knowledge and inspiration for the ATB. Just like the original sports bra, which was heralded as feminine clothing in the 1970s, the military today uses fashion to enhance its image and appeal to recruits.
It may be a while before we see commercial activities on ATB in stores, but the long history of the military’s involvement in our fashion shows suggests that this day may not be too far off.