The siren suit is a one-piece garment for the whole body which is easily put on or taken off, originally designed for use on the way to and in air-raid shelters. The suit solved the problems of warmth and modesty encountered when seeking shelter during nighttime air raids in the United Kingdom during World War II. It was roomy and could be put on over night clothes quickly when an imminent air raid was announced by the sirens.
Similar in style to boilersuits worn by many workers including mechanics, bricklayers and tank crews to protect their standard clothing, the siren suit was invented by Winston Churchill as an original leisure suit in the 1930s. He played a large part in popularising it as an item of clothing during World War II, wearing it regularly, including when meeting other important people such as U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, General Dwight Eisenhower and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.
The advantages of clothing that could be easily and quickly put on over other clothing led to the adoption of this style of suit during the war by many who were forced to leave their homes to seek shelter during air raids. The name of these suits arose from the fact that these raids were announced by the sound of sirens.
Cut loose, with zippered or button closures or both, an optional belt, large simple pockets, siren suits were made of many fabrics but most typically wool or cotton or other materials available under clothing rationing. Suits could be bought ready made or as a pattern from which they could be hand made with available fabrics.
Some suits had a panel at the back that opened to allow the wearer to use the toilet while still wearing the suit.
In popular culture
Winston Churchill was a famous wearer, having a pin stripe version which he wore during the war years and then for portraits by Oscar Nemon and Frank O. Salisbury after the war in the 1950s. Another suit, made of bottle-green velvet, was created for him by Turnbull & Asser. One of his grey pinstripe suits was sold in 2002 for £29,875.
- URL:http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/siren-suit?q=siren+suit. Accessed: 2013-06-20. (Archived by WebCite® at https://www.webcitation.org/6HViXEs1y)
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