A history of the uniform of Royal Voluntary Service

A history of the uniform of Royal Voluntary Service


In 1939 it was decided that the WVS needed an official uniform. this was make its members more universally recognisable and, in theory eliminate class divisions. Digby Morton the famous Irish couturier designed a practical green grey tweed suit this was accompanied by a coat and trilby style hat and the members of the WVS instantly became the “Women in Green”. A dress was added in 1940’s for summer wear along with a beret, these were welcomed cheaper alternative as the members had to buy the uniform themselves. A full suite uniform would have cost £2.87 this was the equivalent of three weeks wages to the average worker, well beyond the reach of most of the WVS’s million members. After the war the uniform remained largely unchanged until nineteen sixty six when the WVS was awarded the honor of adding Royal to its title and even then did not change significantly until the 1970s. However, pamphlets were regularly release detailing uniform regulations; volunteers were told not to wear jewelry while in uniform and not to mix their uniform with plain clothes. 1974 saw a revolution with the introduction of totally new styles, all in new modern materials including polyester and jersey. Along with new versions of dress, which was always a favorite, a trouser suit was also introduced this was an attempt to appeal to a new generation of volunteer. Most links to the past were finally dispelled in 1977 with the introduction of a whole new line produced by Garoulds of London. This enabled the wearer to mix and match dresses, jackets and skirts to create their own look these were styles which would stay around throughout the 1980s. However, things were beginning to change and the 80s or shift away from formal uniforms to a more informal style including sweatshirts, t-shirts and even a tracksuit. The last formal uniform was issued in 1991 and for the first time included a suit for the 20,000 male volunteers. This new uniform though was the first not be specially designed for WRVS and was supplied off the shelf by Andre Peters. Although, it did have special logo buttons. In 2000 a major attempt was made to modernise the uniform when it was redesigned by Betty Davis, an Edinburgh based designer. This uniform retained the traditional colors but with more update designs bringing the WRVS into the 21st century. The range included a gilet, tabards, polo shirts and sweatshirts. The desire to keep the organisation up to date remain strong, in 2004 the official colors have changed the much more vibrant orange and purple. It was hoped this would increase the visibility of the WRVS as well as attracting more volunteers. A selection of uniform was released in these new brighter colors. However this change didn’t last long. By 2013 they had reverted back to the traditional colors and a more traditional logo. Today’s uniform consists of a polo shirt available in white and maroon and a black apron. There has been an extensive evolution of the organisation’s uniform since its inception with a move away from the regulated and expensive wartime uniform to a more informal and inexpensive uniform range. It’s clear that the RVS has taken great care to keep itself modern and updated in order to appeal to new generations of potential volunteers

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