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#3: Navy Blue

October 31, 2008

Fortunately, I don’t run with the humorless, unhinged feminist types. I’d have this screened to my bedroom wall if I had the power and technology which, apparently, exists, but I’m lazy and too busy digging for treasure. I’ve never been proactively crafty and tend to fill that darkened void by living vicariously through Miss Amy Emerson Merrick.
(poster circa 1917)

Halloween is just hours away and I happen to have just the costume to wear. It’s not scary or timely, but all from my own wardrobe – a small victory!
(These guys photographed badly in the halflight of my room at 11pm, so I’ll update with action photos this weekend)

Few days will go by this winter that you won’t see me in one of these pairs of 1941 13-button broadfall US Navy wool trousers. All their lovable qualities aside (high nipped waste, anchor buttons, lace up back, flowy leg), these pants are a hallowed mystery to me for a few reasons.


One: styled for men, they look amazing on gals. Their elegant movement bowls me down each time I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a shop window, and I’m thinking of having a pair of jeans custom made to fit exactly the way these do up top. One of my favorite old-timey, manly vintage enthusiasts once ruminated procuring a pair for himself in front of me. “Dana, I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but do these pants…look… gay?” He didn’t buy them.

Two: How did the boys in these trousers ever get them down in time to go to the bathroom? My average pit-stop in these pants lasts about 7 minutes and I plan accordingly. I’m dying to speak to someone who actually wore them, so send Grandpa my way if he’s got a story. Or an old pair in the attic.

The US Navy introduced the wide, “bell bottom” trouser in the early 1800’s, namely to: easily roll above the knee when washings the decks, make it easier to remove in a hurry is the sailor washed overboard, and use as a life preserver by knotting the legs. Aside from the functionality, the shape also differentiated from civilian clothing. The style had great effect on the fashions of the 20th century, for example during the Oxford Bag trend of the late 1920’s and early 30’s and of course the bell bottom of the 60’s and 70’s (the Navy discontinued the look around the time of the hippies. Strange about the hippies, despite their anti-war stance they wore a lot of military inspired clothing).
Oxford Bags

Because many of the men who wore these in WWII were just boys of 17, 18 or 19 years old, it’s really easy to find them in sizes that fit us broads. If you need help finding a pair, I’m happy to help you on your hunt!

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 3, 2008 1:36 am

    I have seen very early European canvas welding pants and other work pants designed specifically to make it easy to remove over work boots, although I have never heard any full arguments for who designed the earliest bell bottoms, they do proportion out the figure.

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