“Life is really rugged out here, but I enjoy every bit of it. We eat, sleep, & work in the open. I even wear long underwear!! Can you feature that?” -Mollie Weinstein writing from France, 12 August 1944Excerpted from Mollie’s War
In the early days of the WAAC, the subject of what the issued underwear would be like was the center of public interest. Reporters frequently focused on WAAC underwear, making special note of its khaki color. While less interesting than a khaki garter belt, the winter vest and panties were a critical part of a WAC’s uniform. Per Table of Equipment 21, WACs assigned to the ETO were issued two sets of winter underwear (vest and panties). Standard replacement allowances were 1 1/2 each article annually, or one every eight months.1 Because of issues with the initial allowance of T/E 21 being unsuitable for the reality of life in the ETO, an additional issue of one extra set was authorized.2
In our efforts to continually improve our impressions, we have been trying to find a suitable reproduction of the WAC winter underwear. Using Quartermaster information and an extant original, we think we have found a way to make an acceptable alternative for reenacting.
The Vermont Country Store sells cotton long underwear that has the same ribbing pattern as the winter vest. While the fabric content is not the same (originals were of a rayon/wool blend), we’d rather have the correct ribbing than fiber. The original we have is the August 1943 pattern, with cuffed sleeves and a longer torso. The Vermont Country Store option has the shorter torso and collar finishing of the later June 1944 pattern, but not the revised sleeves. So, the undershirt isn’t perfect, but is the best option we have found. We don’t have extant tanks or panties, so we are forced to rely on the QM info for those. Without getting too deep into the boring details, this tank, these shorts, and these pants are all are within our scope of acceptable variance.
Ready for the crafternoon section? Here’s how we made our copies of WAC winter underwear, coming soon to a reenactment near you!
- Long Sleeve Long Underwear
- Short Style Underwear
- Long Pants Style Underwear
- Seam Ripper or Scissors
- Rit Liquid Dye, Taupe
Step 1: The shirt collar and the straps on the camisole have a decorative scallop effect. Use seam ripper or scissors to remove the decorative thread. Be careful not to cut the collar itself.
Step 2: Wash everything (it will shrink if washed too hot, I did this on purpose because they were all slightly too big). This also relaxes the fabric of the collar, eliminating the scalloped look.
Step 3: Dye garments according to package instructions. I used the bucket method, with ½ bottle to 3 gallons of hot water.
Note: On my first attempts, I used tan and camel dye…HUGE mistake. I ended up using dye remove to fade them and then re-dye with the taupe. They’re still a bit dark for my preference, but I’m hoping they will continue to fade, and be salvageable.
Step 5: Wear with your favorite uniform, we’re personally quite fond of the M-1943 Field Uniform.
- Quartermaster Supply in the European Theater of Operations in World War II Volume III – Outfitting the Soldier, Appendix XLI
- QMC Historical Studies No. 12: A Wardrobe for Women of the Army