Siren suit

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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.[1] 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.

The suit was worn by both children and adults when sheltering in either back garden or public shelters.[2][3]


Winston Churchill wearing a siren suit beside British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery during the Second World War in the United Kingdom

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.[4] 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[5] and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin.[6]

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[3][7] 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.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

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.[9] Another suit, made of bottle-green velvet, was created for him by Turnbull & Asser.[10] One of his grey pinstripe suits was sold in 2002 for £29,875.[11]

These suits form a common motif in descriptions of war-time childhoods.[12][13][14]


  1. ^ URL: Accessed: 2013-06-20. (Archived by WebCite® at
  2. ^ "WW2 People's War - My Homemade 'Siren Suit'". BBC. 2004-06-12. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  3. ^ a b "Tatler Magazine, Summer 1940 | Battle of Britain Day by Day". Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  4. ^ Quentin James Reynolds (1 November 1963). Winston Churchill. Random House. p. 173. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  5. ^ Time Inc (19 January 1942). LIFE. Time Inc. p. 23. ISSN 0024-3019. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  6. ^ "Prescott Evening Courier - Google News Archive Search".
  7. ^ Dominique Veillon (1 October 2002). Fashion Under the Occupation. Berg. pp. 9–. ISBN 978-1-85973-548-0. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  8. ^ "A History of the World – Object : Siren Suit". BBC. 1970-01-01. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  9. ^ Vanessa Thorpe and John Vincent (11 November 2002). "Churchill's Blitz siren suit put up for auction | UK news | The Observer". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  10. ^ Leitch, Luke (2 September 2011). "Turnbull & Asser: The best of British - Telegraph". London: Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  11. ^ Bennett, Will (2002-12-13). "£30,000 for Churchill's suit". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-06-19.
  12. ^ Dick Lynas (9 June 2010). Pies Were for Thursdays. AuthorHouse. p. 9. ISBN 978-1-4670-0627-9. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  13. ^ Lesley Pearse (30 May 2011). Ellie. Random House. pp. 103–. ISBN 978-1-4464-7443-3. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  14. ^ Annie Groves (27 October 2011). Home for Christmas. HarperCollins UK. pp. 90–. ISBN 978-0-00-741939-5. Retrieved 25 March 2013.

Further reading[edit]