At the same time, Brits lived under the threat of Nazi bombing campaigns. Thousands of bomb shelters were built across the
nation and citywide air raid drills became a part of life in
most British towns. Many a night's silence was broken by the wail of air raid sirens, ushering citizens down into bomb shelters, where they waited for the “all clear” to sound. As soon as you heard the siren,
you knew you’d better jump out of bed and run for your life, no matter how
cold it was outside, or how scanty your nightgown may be.
They were a hit amongst women in particular. Mothers lusted after them for their high-quality material — the thick tartan
wool of a too-small siren suit
could be easily transformed into a smart new set of trousers for a growing
child. With typical rationing-era ingenuity, they began sewing up their own designs, creating infinitely
more fashionable variations than
Churchill’s drab version. Churchill himself was devoted to the siren suit and wore his all the time, even after the war, leading to some truly comical photo ops that found the
British Bulldog himself, kitted out in a fetching, bottle-green siren suit alongside
Stalin, Eisenhower, and other heads of state.
Eventually, the war
ended, the dust cleared, and rationing became a distant memory. The siren suit
remained — though its popularity lessened as its necessity did. Its
fearsome origins were forgotten as it transitioned back to its loungewear
roots. The '60s and '70s saw designers put a luxe spin on the one-piece suit — Pucci's version in silk paisley version proved especially popular with haute hippies of the era. Eventually, the one-piece left behind the memory of its past, leaving us with the whimsical, body-conscious garment we know and love today. Next time we slip one on, we'll be grateful it's worn by fashion choice and not necessity — and of course, we can only wish to wear ours as well as Churchill.