Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rosie the Riveter ("We Can Do It!") - Completed

Another backlogged post that I started and saved as a draft months ago.  
Still no progress on the Marion Ravenwood Cairo Market costume, still pending a decision about the future of my sewing machine.  But I've had a few other things develop, so I thought I'd go ahead with that in the meantime.

The "We Can Do It!" Rosie the Riveter is another costume that I had been casually planning on for a while and then sort of just fell into.  The poster was something I had always liked, and always thought would make an interesting and unusual costume that might still be easily recognizable given how often the image has been reused.

J. Howard Miller's 1943 "We Can Do It!" poster for Westinghouse Electric.
United Press International's 1942 photo of Geraldine Hoff at American Broach & Machine Co. in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which is believed to have inspired the Miller poster.
Rosie's poster look is pretty straightforward and, by this point, fairly iconic.  She has a red and white polka dot bandana tied up over her hair, and wears a blue work shirt and pants or jumpsuit - as all that's visible is her torso, it's open to interpretation - with the sleeves rolled up and an employment badge pinned to the right collar.  Her nails are painted with what looks like a pink polish, and the rest of her makeup is very subdued: natural lips, fairly neutral eyes, and full outer lashes.  Geraldine Hoff looks essentially the same in her photo, though her clothing looks more definitively like a jumpsuit and she may be wearing darker lipstick.

It all started with a blue jumpsuit.  Though the poster's depiction of her clothing is open to interpretation, as far as I'm concerned if it's the right shade of blue with an open collar (and therefore presumably snaps or buttons up the front) and sleeves that can be rolled up, it's good.  On one of my many thrifting adventures a few years ago, I found a men's blue jumpsuit of the mechanic variety.  
I literally had no use for it at the time, and I wasn't even thinking about Rosie, but it was something one doesn't really come across often and a steal at $2, so I grabbed it.  When I got it home I was pleased to find it was pretty much a perfect fit for me, but even so it sat around unused.

Jump ahead to last Halloween, when I had no plans but ended up going out with a friend that night very last minute.  I almost reused my flapper costume, but feeling lazy and being more concerned with comfort, the idea for a makeshift or generic Rosie popped into my head.  I used the jumpsuit, a vintage (but not red and white) headscarf, a vintage watch pin, and my black paddock boots, plus false lashes and some red lipstick and red nail polish.  I wouldn't say the costume was a great success - outside of my family, only my friend and her parents verbally recognized and appreciated it.  But it did push me to think about putting together an "art accurate" version based directly on the poster.

Just a few months ago, I started actually looking into finding and acquiring the other pieces I would need.  I was lucky to have the jumpsuit, since that would have been potentially one of the priciest pieces of the costume.  I figured I would reuse my paddock boots since the poster didn't give anything to go by and they looked accurate enough for the time and job.  All I really needed was a red and white polka dot bandana.  Simple enough, right?  Wrong.  I was actually surprised how difficult it was to find a plain ol' red and white polka dot bandana.  The majority I found on eBay and even Etsy were shaped permanently into headbands or were the wrong size or reversed colors or made of too-sheer material or strangely expensive.

While doing another search on a whim sometime later, this time just through Google I think instead of an a specific store website, I found Rosie's Daughters.  They have a store on their main website, as well as an Etsy store at RosiesLegacy.  In addition to the perfect "art accurate" red and white bandana, they also have a variety of other Rosie-inspired products.  Of particular interest to me was their replica employment pin.  I hadn't even really thought about an employment pin.  It's a detail of the poster that doesn't really come to mind when visualizing the image.  But having one would make the costume that much more accurate and their interpretation of it was too good to pass up.  I ended up ordering just the bandana and employment pin for now, as that's what I need the most for costuming purposes, though I plan to get a few more things at some point (including the blank posing poster).  I won't go into the specifics of the items or the store here, because I'm already working on a product review post for it.  But essentially, both the bandana and pin are as close to perfect as I can imagine and I'm extremely pleased with both so far.


Since I ended up with all the pieces by early October, I considered debuting Rosie on Halloween.  It was a close choice between Rosie and the flapper costume I wore several years ago, but in light of comfort and originality, Rosie tipped the scales.  A few friends and I also decided we wanted to go to the Queen Mary's Dark Harbor on Halloween since they were allowing costumes that night and none of us had gone before.  Because of that, I thought I'd play up the creep factor a little and do a vampire or zombie take on Rosie.  I ultimately decided on zombie.  I colored some small lengths of embroidery thread black with a marker to make stitches for my wrist and arm but later scrapped these in favor of stitches drawn on with waterproof eyeliner.  I also repurposed an old white washcloth as a work rag and added "grease" smudges with the black ink washed off my hands while coloring the original stitches, plus added a "bloody" handprint with my red fabric paint.  

My roommate is much more adept at makeup than I am, so I enlisted her to do my zombie makeup which she and I decided on through a number of tutorial videos and movie screencaps. 

Hair done, initial Rosie and zombie makeup done, pre-retro makeup.
I later toned it down a little by removing the chin shading (which on a round-faced person like Rosie or Geraldine is cute, but on my pointy chin made me look like a certain illiterate and manly Disney villain) and blending the neck a little more and putting some light powder over it.  I thought it might be too dark originally, but afterwards seeing how it faded throughout the night I almost wish I had just left it alone.  Beyond that I just did my normal makeup - foundation, powder, and filled in eyebrows - before the zombie stuff plus some basic retro makeup - black winged eyeliner, false lashes, red lips - after.

My roommate on the left as a vampire Professor Umbridge (Harry Potter), our friend in the middle as a sexy fox, and my zombie Rosie.
Sexy fox, me, and another friend as Beaker (Sesame Street).
The costume went over a lot better than I expected - since I wasn't really expecting anything.  The highlight of the night was some guy coming up and asking if he could take a photo with me.  I even did the poster pose.  Runner up for best moment of the night: when a very tall, semi-drunk, scantily clad woman told me how awesome my costume was and that mine was way better than the Rosie who got called up for the costume competition (consolation: the contestants were chosen by random drawing, not by quality).  We also went to a bar down the street from our apartment later that night, and my costume got some kudos there too - the Binder Full of Women in attendance especially liked it. 

Given that this was just Halloween and not something like a convention - literally the only other times/places I've had strangers ask to take a photo of me in costume - I wasn't expecting any recognition or attention.  I had picked Rosie in order to be comfortable and historically fun (plus, since Dark Harbor is ship themed), not necessarily to be fashionable or conventional (I've done the sexy nurse for Halloween and I'm mostly over that) or completely Halloween relevant (though that is why I put a zombie spin on it).  I kind of get the feeling, though, that it maybe wouldn't have happened if I'd dressed like a flapper or whatever else.  As prevalent as it can be in popular culture, Rosie still isn't something you see as a costume too often, at least compared to more traditional choices (I've only ever seen two other than mine in person - one at SDCC and one at Dark Harbor, both of which were modified and improvised rather than literal interpretations).  So maybe being historical and unusual was catchier than I would have thought.  It just goes to show, history is always a winner. 

Overall I'm really happy with how Rosie turned out.  It's the most comfortable costume I've worn in years, apparently great for Halloween while also being relevant (pop culture) for conventions, and is just generally great fun.  I'll definitely be wearing it again, and it's bound to become a really great fall-back and alternate costume.

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*My use and opinion of the products listed is by personal choice and availability.  I am not paid to use or endorse them.

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