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WAC & WAAC World War II Uniforms

The introduction of women into the armed services in 1943 posed new problems for the office of the Quartermaster General (OQMG), assigned to provide clothing and equipment for these women. OQMG had no experience to guide this effort. During 1942, from February to July, there was frantic activity to design and procure the uniform for the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) which later became the Women's Army Corps (WAC). The uniform that finally emerged was based on trial and error with many influences, the result of a group not of any one individual. Women of the U.S Marine Corps were outfitted separately, as described on this Olive-Drab.com page.

160th WAAC Headquarter Company, marching off the railhead platform, arriving at Camp Patrick Henry, VA from Fort Devens, MA, 19 July 1943.  Summer khaki uniforms and Hobby Hats are worn by these WAACs.
160th WAAC Headquarter Company, marching off the railhead platform, arriving at Camp Patrick Henry, VA from Fort Devens, MA, 19 July 1943. Summer khaki uniforms and Hobby Hats are worn by these WAACs.

Today in WW II: 23 Apr 1941 Greece surrenders to Germany and Italy. British Commonwealth troops along with elements of the Greek Army withdraw to Crete.   

Development of the WAAC & WAC Uniform

WACs working in message center 1943

The service jacket issued to the first detachment of WAACs at the newly established Fort Des Moines training center (opened 20 July 1942) carried a belt 1 3/4 inches wide. The belt was then eliminated in the revision of the pattern in October 1942. Several hundred samples were required before settling on the design of the WAAC cap, with the cooperation of Knox Division, the Hat Corporation of America and the Stetson Hat Company. The visored cap finally selected later became known as the "Hobby Hat" for Colonel Oveta Culp Hobby, the first director of the WAAC. [Service Jacket and Hobby Hat seen in photo to left, WACs from the 1st WAC Co. Provisional, working in message center, 23 June 1943.]

A heavy topcoat was designed by Mangone, very similar in cut to the men’s overcoat. In place of the men’s field jacket, a light utility coat was designed by Maria Krum, resembling a hooded raincoat with button-in lining. A handbag with shoulder strap was authorized since women’s uniforms had no pants pocket and breast pockets for carrying necessities.

Tan oxfords, tennis shoes, galoshes, and bedroom slippers were selected as footwear. Stockings were rayon and plain cotton stockings were chosen for work. Undergarments, work clothes (such as a basic dress and apron for cooks, as well as a cap, and the two-piece herringbone twill fatigues), sweaters, gloves, scarves, handkerchiefs, an exercise suit (consisting of a knee-length, one-piece dress with separate bloomers), and other items were all selected in this period.

Colors were selected by Director Hobby {11 March 1942) to be the dark and light olive drab, similar to Army shades for WAAC officer personnel and olive drab and light olive drab, the standard shades for enlisted men, for the enlisted WAAC. Khaki was chosen as the color of the summer uniform for all categories. Old gold and moss green were chosen to be the official colors for the WAAC, approved 25 March 1942.

Insignia for the WAAC & WAC Uniform

allas Athene WAC pin

The Heraldic Section was asked to design insignia for collar, lapel and cap, as well as for buttons. Because of metal shortages, olive drab, plastic buttons were specified. The cap insignia was also to be in plastic (later changed to a gold metal). From pencil sketches produced by the Heraldic Section, Director Hobby had a jeweler in New York make, in gold for her own use, a cap insignia of an eagle. This hand-cut eagle proved to be somewhat lopsided but was the design chosen by WAAC Headquarters nonetheless. The WAAC eagle (later dubbed the "buzzard") thus became the design for the hat insignia and the buttons. Officers wore a cut-out insignia on their cap while enlisted women wore the same design superimposed on a disc. The lapel insignia for the WAAC uniform was the head and helmet of the Greek goddess, Pallas Athene, chosen as most symbolic of the WAAC role. A sleeve patch or tab was designed to be worn directly beneath the chevrons. The tab was designed with the letters "WAAC" in moss-toned embroidered on an old-gold background, the WAAC colors.

Criticism and Revisions of the WAAC Uniform

WACs OCS 1944

The early pattern WAAC uniforms were much criticized, especially by the women who had to wear them. Much of the difficulty was attributed to the fact that the pattern had never been in the hands of a good tailor for women’s clothing but had been handled at the Philadelphia QM Depot by pattern makers and designers of men’s clothing. In 1943 new patterns were designed by contractors from the women's clothing industry, and approved 1 June 1943, a month before the WAAC was changed to the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). 750 jackets and 1,000 skirts were manufactured from the new patterns for a test at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. The new patterns proved easier to fit and the old patterns were replaced. The Women’s Army Corps was on the way to becoming the best dressed women in the military. [Photo at right above is an OCS class, Third WAC Training Center, Fort Oglethorpe, GA, 20 May 1944.]

Early in 1944, due to publicity surrounding problems with the WAC uniform, a thorough review was made by the OQMG and an improved model was prepared and accepted by WAC Headquarters. Summer tropical worsted uniforms were issued to all WAC enlisted for the summer of 1944 and the cotton khaki items were eliminated. Tropical worsted WAC caps were issued to match the uniform then replaced by a garrison cap. In May 1944, the off-duty dress was approved by the War Department as an item of issue to enlisted women. Additionally, the WAC "pinks and greens" uniform replaced the original WAAC officer uniform which was two-tones of olive drab. The jacket color remained the same, but the skirt was changed to a pinkish beige color called "pink."

In 1944, WACs stationed in Europe received a waist length, olive drab wool jacket, called a "battle jacket" or "Ike Jacket" that could be worn with matching skirt or slacks, items already in the supply system. In April 1945, the Ike jacket was authorized for optional purchase and wear by officers and enlisted women in the Continental United States (CONUS).

Shortages of supply persisited throughout the war and WAAC/WAC personnel who were engaged in field activities were issued whatever warm clothing was available. This included enlisted men’s items such as overcoats, wool socks, long wool drawers and shirts, gloves, combat jackets and trousers, as well as green, CCC mackinaws. In addition to shortages, many clothing changes occurred, items were eliminated (e.g., the WAAC slipper) and some were added (e.g., the WAC hospital dress, 1945). WAAC underwear underwent considerable modification for better fit, warmth, and comfort since the first issue in 1942 but original design items were still being issued in 1945.

Find More Information on the Internet

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