|Burberry Prorsum AW 2010: Image from Net-a-Porter|
|M&S Aviator Jacket: Image from Instyle|
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.