Tuesday, 17 August 2010


Amelia Earheart
Burberry Prorsum AW 2010: Image from Net-a-Porter
M&S Aviator Jacket: Image from Instyle
As a postscript to my thoughts on high street versions of designer trends I thought I would draw attention to the most copied garment on the high street this season - the shearling aviator jacket - as seen in the Burberry Prorsum AW 2010 collection.  I don't think there is a British high street chain that has not produced their own version.  Christopher Bailey can hardly complain.  Most of the stock of the original version has already sold out at full price!

I personally love the style of these jackets as when I first saw the Burberry Prorsum catwalk photographs I was immediately reminded of those vintage black and white photos of early female aviators from the 1930's in their leather jackets, flying caps and goggles.  The aviatrix Amelia Earheart first came to mind because of the release of the film on her life last year.  Along with their heroic achievements as women in a male dominated field Earheart and her contemporaries are credited with pioneering the original trend for the leather bomber jacket in fashion.  Ever since it periodically resurfaces on the catwalks and is lauded as being a classic, timeless item.

The thirties are one of my favourite vintage periods so I am always excited to see looks inspired by this era come back around in fashion.  Most of the ones on offer on the high street do have a very convincing vintage feel to them but how I'd love to find an original one!  My favourite version is the Marks and Spencer one pictured with its cropped cut, nipped in waist and the way the soft folds of its luxuriously large, stand up shawl collar frames the neck and face of the wearer.  The size of the collar and its shape was a key feature of the most popular Burberry Prorsum model and which most other high street versions have failed to capture as successfully.

I've not seen the Amelia film but after doing a bit of research on the internet I was amazed to find out not only more about her achievements as a pilot, but also curiously, the role she played as a style icon in the 1930's.  According to the articles I found, Earheart was a woman who shunned traditional aviation clothing and created a style of her own.

She also used an understanding of how to wear clothes to her advantage.  Wikipedia claims that during her early aviation training she wore a leather jacket, but mindful of the image she needed to project to her male colleagues who would be judging her, slept in it for three days to get a worn in look.   With a sound working knowledge of sewing and an understanding of the functionality of material and garments gained from her own aviation gear, Earheart was able to release her own fashion line of clothing to help finance her flying expeditions and was probably the first celebrity designer in America.  She appeared in Vogue, wrote for Cosmopolitan and the clothes she designed for women were ahead of their time.  The attributes of the line are described in more detail in Mary Hall's article but they included durable and washable fabrics, suit separates that could be bought in different sizes to suit differing body shapes, practical details such as shirt tails for women and to top it all off, they were inexpensive.

Funny I should stumble across all this today when I had a job interview.  Although you can't always trust old Wikipedia as a source I took a little solace in the story of Earheart having to truss up her leather jacket to avoid looking like an inexperienced rookie and gain acceptance by the boys.  Eighty years on and nothing much has changed really.  Working women have to make careful choices about what we wear to send a message about our abilities as much as a reflection of our personal style.  Today I donned a suit and left my femininity at the door to try to make a good first impression in my interview with a company in a very male dominated industry.

I'd rather wear a worn in leather jacket than a suit any day, but for Amelia Earheart such a jacket probably served the same function for her then as my suit does for me now.  So now, apart from promising to keep me super warm in winter, the shearling aviator jacket also speaks to me of the heroism of female pioneers like the aviatrix.


  1. I remember wearing a tan one of these to death back in the 1980's. They certainly do seem everywhere now but in an infinitely more feminine form. The bottom photograph is probably my favourite. xxx

  2. @Vintage Vixen - I wish I had been so fashionable in the 80s - instead I have photos of me baggy trousers, boxer boots and bandannas to name a few bad choices - the bottom photo is my favourite too!

  3. Hi Veshoevius, I tried leaving you a longer, perhaps more witty comment last night - and it disappeared! (I lost the connection & the comment). Just want to thank you for finding my blog & sending this link - it's a GREAT post. I think I've added you to my 'daily reads' list - I'll double check. It's a lovely blog & you're right, the M&S seems to win hands down for the best Burberry imitation: it's all in the collar ; )

    Will do something in the morning - some kind of sidebar 'watch this blog' thing- will let you know when it's up. jCx

  4. If you get a chance check out yesterday (wednesday's) Guardian. There's a big feature on the rise of the aviator jacket and the nicest one, in my opinion, is a skinny-fitting Matalan one for £30. Cheap, even by my standards! xxx

  5. @ Vintage Vixen - Just checked the Matalan version - it's great! Love the trims. What sharp eyes you have Vix! Will have to track a Matalan down here in London.

    @polka dot - what a shame about your original comment and thank you very much! Glad you enjoyed the post. I enjoy very much visiting your blog and seeing your great photos and its always an entertaining read.

  6. I am haunted by the Burberry f/w 2010 show. HAUNTED! One of the best every by Christopher Bailey.

    ♥ V


  7. I am so impressed with M&S's collection this A/W. But then, they had me at the leather kilt...!

  8. @MrsBossa - ha! ha! that's funny! They have done very slick and fashion forward leather pieces from what I have seen from past campaigns but I missed the leather kilt! Sounds interesting - do post an outfit pic!

  9. Loved your Links a la Mode on IFB
    Love your blog , lets become fashionable blogger friends , lets follow each other.

    Maybe you'll be interested in the FENDI GIVEAWAY I'm having on my blog.


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