Women in Workwear
When Carhartt’s Work and Progress label and Perks and Mini teamed up on a collection of women’s workwear, they struck upon a classic but severely under utilized aesthetic: utilitarian chic, for women. That got us thinking about some of our favorite portrayals of women in workwear. This meant clothing for women to work in, not juvenile titillation, like a pin up in overalls and nothing underneath.
Rosie the Riveter: During World War II, the industrial capacity of the United States was an integral part of the eventual Allied victory. While the nation’s able-bodied men were overseas, the gears of industry were kept turning by the women who replaced them on the assembly line. Rosie the Riveter was the denim workshirt and bandana clad government created propaganda icon aimed at recruiting women into the workforce. The Rosie character remains an enduring symbol of female empowerment.
Alien – Ellen Ripley: Honestly, if it wasn’t for the fact that Rosie the Riveter was part of a very real life struggle for the future of humanity, while Ellen Ripley was a character in a movie, it would be a closer call as to who was the most iconic woman in functional garments of all time. Over the course of the Alien series, Ripley would transform into an expert alien slayer, in the first film, she’s just another competent, overworked crew member aboard the Nostromo. A great deal of her desperate struggle for survival is spent in a distinctly unglamorous pair of industrial coveralls.
Black Lagoon – Balalaika/ Jormungand – Valmet/Hellsing - Zorin Blitz: Given the larger than life, and often absurd nature of anime, finding women who aren’t just competent at what they do, but near superhuman experts was simple. Finding an example of this also dressed in clothing that a real human being might conceivably wear was more challenging. Luckily, some violent action series with a military bent threw up some worthy candidates.
Allowances have to be made for anime’s traditional, ridiculous portrayal of the female figure, but an ex-Soviet paratrooper mob boss, ex-military bodyguard for an international arms dealer, and a Nazi vampire sport functional accouterment like military overcoats, cargo pants, and heavy boots while killing their way across these series have to qualify as functional by any metric.
Inglourious Basterds – Shosanna Dreyfus: Admittedly, she did opt for a red dress when it came time to actually implement her elaborate cinematic revenge/arson, but in her planning stages/workaday existence as a theatre proprietress, Ms. Dreyfus wore a selection of dashing yet practical tweeds and wools.
Metroid – Samus : On one hand, the cybernetic combat exoskeleton suit from a 1986 Nintendo game set in the future, in outer space, is rather stretching the definition of workwear. On the other hand, come on, a crew neck wasn’t going to cut it against Mother Brain. Besides, any expansive definition of workwear is worth including the groundbreaking (until the final reveal, players were meant to assume they were controlling a male character) female protagonist of a legendary game series.
Photography & Design : Ricky Orng & Tommy Boudreau
Model : Syaraya Huon