The Women’s Land Army was established in January 1917 to help increase the amount of food grown within Britain. It was wound up in 1919 and then re-established shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War in June 1939. At first it asked for volunteers. This was supplemented by conscription and at its peak in 1944 over 80,000 women worked as Land Girls. They replaced the male farm workers who had gone to war and made agriculture their wartime profession to ensure that the nation didn’t starve.
It was a tough life with long hours and back-breaking, filthy work. The Land Girls did everything from driving tractors, hoeing, ploughing, hedging, turning hay, lifting potatoes, catching rats, milking, lambing and looking after poultry. The majority of the Land Girls already lived in the countryside, but more than a third came from London and the industrial cities of the north of England. A separate branch was set up in 1942 for forestry industry work, officially known as the Women's Timber Corps. Its 6000 members were nicknamed the Lumber Jills with their jobs including felling trees and running sawmills.
The Land Girl Uniform
The Land Girls were known for their instantly recognisable uniform which included practical breeches or dungarees, green jumpers and brown felt hats. They also often wore a green tie and the WLA badge which depicted a wheat sheaf as a symbol of their agricultural work. As the Women’s Land Army wasn’t a military force, the uniform was not compulsory to wear. Authorities often waited before issuing kit as women’s bodies changed dramatically with the heavy manual labour. Garments needed to be made using the least amount of cloth but still be able to keep up with the amount of work the girls were doing. Their clothing needed to be warm, weatherproof and durable. The full uniform issue was as follows:
- Two pairs of brown corduroy breeches
- Two pairs of dungarees
- Two short sleeve shirts
- One long sleeve shirt
- One dark green pullover
- Two overall coats
- Six pairs of stockings
- Two pairs of slipper socks
- One pair brown leather shoes
- One pair black leather boots
- One pair rubber gumboots
- Oilskin or Macintosh
- Brown felt hat
Land Girls At Leisure
Land Girls were expected to work long hours for the war effort with very little free time. Some had one day off per week but others might only get one weekend off per month. It was not until 1943 that Land Girls had the legal right to one week’s paid holiday time per year. In their very limited leisure time, Land Girls were encouraged to do whatever they could for the war effort with many of them putting on events as a fun way of fundraising. This included dances, quizzes, tea parties, whist drives, sports tournaments, stage productions and craft fairs. During these events many Land Girls would continue to wear their uniforms but some would opt for tea dresses or two-piece skirt suits. Our very appropriately named Lumber Jill dress would be a perfect example of the kind of dress they would wear outside of work.
Get The Land Girl Look
The Women’s Land Army remained active until 1950 due to the lack of men returning home and acute post-war rationing. Their iconic look remains a popular choice for wartime reenactment events and vintage nostalgia weekends such as Goodwood Revival. It’s a simple outfit that you could probably put together with things you already have in your wardrobe. Here at Revival we have a selection of vintage style trousers and dungarees to help you get the Land Girl look.
A pair of dungarees is a great base for any Land Girl style outfit. Land girls often wore overalls made of durable materials like denim or cotton. Look for vintage inspired designs in earthy tones for an authentic touch. Due to the practical nature of their jobs, their uniform was quite masculine so you can easily get away with wearing a men’s shirt. Our vintage style leisure shirts are a great choice to style with dungarees. Wear one alone or add a knitted tank top for some extra warmth. For a more glamorous take on Land Girl fashion, we love these forties style siren suits. With a classic utility style including patch pockets and a notched collar, these versatile jumpsuits can be dressed up or down with some simple styling changes.
Complete your Land Girl ensemble with thoughtful accessories. Practicality was always prioritised over fashion, but Land Girls found ways to add personal touches to their uniform. Headscarves were a common accessory as they helped to keep their hair out of the way while working. Consider donning a patterned vintage scarf to add a touch of personality to your look. Additionally, Land Girls would wear wide-brimmed hats for extra protection from the sun or rain. A vintage style basket bag would be the perfect way to carry your belongings.
The Land Girl uniform of the World War II era has remained an iconic representation of resilience and style. Its practicality, combined with a touch of femininity, makes it a timeless inspiration for those looking to pay homage to this important chapter in history.