Extant Garments: WWII Air Raid Suit or Siren Suit

This Spring my husband and I went to a dance at the Chino Air Raid museum, Planes of Fame, for a hangar dance.

I was EXTREMELY excited, because right next to the dance floor, on a mannequin, was an original 1940’s wartime worker Air Raid Suit or Siren Suit.  This suit was worn by a female worker of Grumman Aircraft.  My pattern is called “Air Raid Suit”, because that’s what the original pattern description said, but these were also called “Siren Suits” or “Coveralls”.

The timing was PERFECT when I saw this, because we were going to take sample photos of my 1940’s Air Raid Suit sewing pattern the very next day!  Even more exciting, it was not behind glass, so I snapped as many photos from all angles as I could before the dance began.

These photos will give you great ideas of how these were constructed and finished.

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Chain stitch embroidery on the back.
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Visibly stitched down back neck facing.

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Felt arm patch.
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View of the buttons of the drop seat, as well as the placket for the sleeve.
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Up close of the sleeve placket.IMG_5667

Close up of the back buttons of the drop seat.IMG_5668

Close up of the top of the suit, including showing the belt drawing in the excess fabric (no darts, no waist seam at front).
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Four patch pockets. Lots of places to put things!IMG_5672

Full view of the suit.IMG_5674

Close up of fly.IMG_5676

Close up of belt button.  Notice the reinforcement done at the front of the belt.IMG_5677

Close up of back pockets.IMG_5678

Close up of button and buttonhole.  The buttons look like they could possibly be catalin or bakelite, and the buttonhole is stitched in contrast over cord.IMG_5655

Another view of the back.  Notice how close together and long the back darts are, and notice that the belt does not cover the back buttons.IMG_5682

And a view of the front without the belt fastened.

In conclusion, this Air Raid Suit or Siren Suit is different than my pattern, in that the construction is much more simple.  Instead of a separate top and bottom, it’s all in one piece at the front, and the belt pulls it in to the body (no front darts for shaping!).  Instead of hidden plackets at the front, the buttons are exposed at the fly.  And this does have the drop seat of my version, which I find quite interesting.  Did anyone actually ever use the drop seat feature?  I have heard it was in case of air raids, that one could relieve themselves if confined in a shelter without exposing themselves and without getting cold (which would make sense), but I think most people, at least here in the USA, probably never used the function.  Good to have in case of emergencies, though!

If you get a chance to visit the museum in Chino, CA, it’s totally worth it.  There’s so many great planes on display, as well as other interesting WWII era artifacts.

I hope you enjoyed this peek at an original!  It certainly was exciting to see in person.

2 Comments on Extant Garments: WWII Air Raid Suit or Siren Suit

  1. Flashback Summer (@EmileighRogers)
    July 8, 2015 at 1:12 pm (2 years ago)

    SO cool to see a real one! All these detail shots are great; thanks for thinking of us readers!

  2. Emma Declerck
    July 8, 2015 at 1:26 pm (2 years ago)

    This working coverall has almost the same model of the ww2 Army Nurse/WAC HBT working coverall! So fasinacting so see!