I recently recreated Women’s Land Army uniforms (shirt, breeches and jumper) for a short film. I also had a number of ties recreated from an original WLA tie.
This is an account of the research into recreating a pair of Women’s Land Army breeches (above). Research has shown that they come in many colours from beige through tan to brown and khaki, with tan seeming the most common colour. They are made from 8 wale cotton corduroy.
The Museum of Lincolnshire Life has a small costume collection, which is accessible by appointment, which holds at least one pair of Women’s Land Army breeches and a pair of overalls.
The Women’s Land Army, Jodphur-shaped, breeches are made in heavyweight tan-coloured agricultural cotton corduroy (8 wales per inch).
The front has 2.5inches (6cm) waistband with loops for belt, whole-fall front fastening with three buttons each side waist and slanting front pockets, lined with khaki cotton drill, each side of waist at front.
The legs are cut in two pieces with side seams and a generous seat. The back waist is raised to cover small of back, is without a waistband, has khaki cotton drill facing and two belt loops.
The crotch of the breeches is reinforced with two 7 ½ inch lengths of cotton tape.
The legs are cut in generous jodphur curve to knee and then tight to mid-calf level and fastened with lacing through five pairs of eyelets. The lower edge is bound with tape. The laces were not original and I noted that a 20 inch lace would be sufficient.
The label, printed, in back waist reads: Breeches Corduroy / Women’s Land Army / size 1./ Height 5ft 1 in to 5ft 3 ins / waist 24 ins to 26 ins / hips 36 ins to 38 ins. / Redman Bros. / 194.
The generous seat in the breeches is essential for function. The waist is small and fixed in position, it cannot gape or lower when bending to give ease and the breeches are laced tight just below the knee – so there is no give here either. If the breeches seat is reduced in size when you sit down they will tear at the knee. They are designed for hard physical work, riding horses or driving tractors, climbing over gates and across muddy fields. They are also designed to avoid startled rats or mice running for cover up the nearest trouser leg!
The Women’s Land Army was established in June 1939 and the uniform comprised:
• 2 short sleeved shirts, 1 green pullover, 2 pairs of socks, 1 pair of shoes, 1 bib and brace overall, 1 pair of WLA Breeches, 1 hat, 1 tie and 1 pair of gumboots.
Apparently, the majority of the women did not receive the full uniform. The WLA lasted until its official disbandment on October 21, 1950. Upon leaving the Women’s Land Army the women were (so I am told) only allowed to keep one item of uniform as a souvenir. These factors would explain why the survival of the uniform is so fragmentary.
My Aunt, Ann Roberts, was a member of the Women’s Land Army during the war. She was posted from Liverpool to Scotland and described the years as the happiest of her life. Her arm band and badge (below) remain in the family.