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Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Sepia Saturday - Women's Worktime Fashions

This  week's photo prompt shows women busy ironing in a laundry.  

Nothing remotely  related features in my family collection - no indoor shots, no women at work, no ironing boards, no overalls.  no hairnets.

So instead I turned to the collection of my local heritage group - Auld Earlston for the theme of Women's Worktime Fashions 

Second World War  Munitions Workers

Around 950,000 British women worked in munitions factories during the Second World War, making weapons like shells and bullets. Munitions work was often well-paid, but involved long hours, sometimes up to seven days a week. Workers were also at serious risk from accidents with dangerous machinery or when working with high explosive material. 

Some munitions workers handled toxic chemicals every day. Those who handled sulphur were nicknamed ‘Canary Girls’, because their skin and hair turned yellow from contact with the chemical.

Housewives at the Traveling Co-op Van - 
I remember my mother wearing this kind of pinny.  She made them too for many a sale of work, with a handy front pocket for dusters etc.  

The Workwear at the Egg Packaging Station in Earlston  


At Rhymers Mill,  Earlston

 Down on the Farm - Haymaking 



Bondagers were female farm workers in south east Scotland and Northumberland.   As part of their husband's contract (or bond) with the farmer, he would undertake to  provide another worker (usually his wife) to help as and when  required. The women  wore a distinctive dress with bonnet, described as the "last remaining peasant costume" in Britain. 

With thanks to Auld Earlston for giving me permission to feature these photographs.  

Click HERE to see what other Sepia Saturday bloggers
 have made of this week's prompt. 


With thank you to everyone who last week gave me their stories and tips regarding hassles with blogger problems continue!  


  1. Great job of spanning the women's work attire. I found the Bondagers the most interesting because of their distinctive dress. I wouldn't have expected that owing to their position as wives or perhaps daughters of farm workers. I would've thought it wouldn't matter one way or another what they wore. Did the husbands also have to wear distinctive clothing?

  2. Very interesting I hadn't heard of bondagers before.

  3. I wonder what happened to the poor canary girls?

  4. Thanks for an interesting series of photos. I also hadn't heard of bondagers. The smocks I wore over my stewardess uniform in the 60's while serving food were made with similar crossover ties to many of these "work uniforms."

  5. I had to wear a uniform over my regular clothes when I had a summer job working in refreshment stands. I think I even have a photo of it.

  6. I never thought much about work uniforms until I lived in London for a few years and saw the many styles of British work clothes that are very different from American fashions. I think many nations have very distinctive tradesmen and factory girl outfits that are more interesting than high fashion.

  7. Thank you for giving the explanation of a bondager. I've never heard that term before.

  8. Aye, and the first photo was enough to tweak my interest, but then you went even more in depth. The bondagers photo was great, and also liked the mill workers and munitions workers -- probably because they fit into my history nicely.

  9. Having ancestors who were farm workers in Linton and Yetholm I now wonder if any of their wives were Bondagers. I've not heard the term before.

  10. A fine tribute to all the hard working women, all with smiles on their faces!


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