I made my Hello Girl uniform this past spring, however it was lacking a proper shirtwaist and the patches/medals. I started with the shirtwaist. In looking a numerous photos, it appears that there were several styles of shirtwaists worn which leads me to believe that it was not a standard part of the uniform issued to the women. I noted different collar and cuff styles so I decided to make the Wearing History Elsie blouse pattern which is a fairly basic shirtwaist with a shaped cuff. I made the blouse as the pattern indicated using a cotton sateen and turn of the (20th) century mother of pearl buttons from my stash. It went together quite quickly. One small change I made after watching the Wearing History video about this pattern was to use a casing rather than a waist stay. I simply sewed single fold bias tape to the stay line and used 1/4 inch cotton tape in the casing. I was pleased with the way this turned out and I feel I can use it with other skirts from this era.
I also decided not to line the jacket as my research shows them to be unlined. I just added seam binding to all raw edges and called it a day.
Next--I needed to add the various patches and pins to the uniform. I was copying the uniform of Grace Banker below.
I searched Ebay and found a number of chevrons for the lower sleeve but wasn't sure which style. I did some research and found that gold chevrons indicated service overseas. I also noted that there were different styles of the chevrons--the were constructed different ways. This link explained that how the chevrons were made simply depended on the tailor shop that was making them. Each base had it's own and the stripes were issued to the commanding officer in rolls. Individual stripes were cuff off and given to those who earned them. I was able to find old new WWI stock with bullion embroidery so I bought those.
Next was the various patches. It's s hard to know the colors with black and white photography. The patch at the top of the shoulder is a WWI 3rd Army Patch which I found out by looking at collector sites. It seemed easy enough to reproduce that one. The second patch is a Signal Corps rank patch. That one wasn't so easy because I could not find one for a Hello Girl uniform anywhere. I only found them for men's uniforms which had a khaki ground. They had the same design so I figured I'd have to make one. Not knowing what color to use for the embroidery, I went with khaki. I found a lot of info at this link which also includes info on the arm brassards that are seen in some pics. My goal is to eventually make one of those as well.
I bought some printable dissolving paper and printed out pics of the patches I wanted to reproduce. I found the dimensions of the 3rd Army patch on a sale listing so that one was easy. I had to create the other one based on the size it looks in the pic. Here's what I had to work with: photos, tracing paper, dissolving paper.
I used some of my worsted and backed it with fusible hair canvas then I pinned the dissolving paper to the front.
I used zig zag embroidery to create the design.
I pulled away the excess paper and there was a lot of paper left under the embroidery which caused it to have "fuzzies." I ended up soaking it in the sink to dissolve the paper.
The rank patch was actually easier as far as getting rid of the fuzzies was concerned as the embroidery wasn't as dense. I hemmed the edges of that patch
Here they are on the sleeve.
I also was able to find an Army Distinguished Service Medal. They've looked the same since 1918. The difference between the more modern ones and the WWI medals is the pen mechanism so I decided not to worry about that.
I also found 2 original collar tacks on Ebay. They were missing the back piece but modern ones from the craft store fit them perfectly.
Here is part of my Hello Girl Display with the switchboard which was one of the props used in the Hello Girl documentary film. This was at our Maryland State DAR WWI Centenniel for Founders Day.
The switchboard itself was new--made from photos--but the earpiece and microphone were originals.
Here is my display which has photos and copies of original documents as well as part of the history.
Our wonderful Maryland State Historian had buttons made for each of the stations and she had brochures that we designed printed as well. Attendees were given bags to put their goodies in.
Our historian also wrote a skit in which each of us gave a presentation. Here we are at the end after taking our bows.
And--we had a photo area with a WWI reenactor.
I'm really pleased with the way this uniform turned out. It was completed with the gas mask bag (I still need a gas mask) and the helmet which each Hello Girl was issued. I'll be reprising this role at the Smithsonian Museum of American History on Veterans Day, which I'm really looking forward to.