There has always been a fine line between the call for subtle nudges towards liberation and out and out rebellion. The story of how women have fought for recognition and status is also the story of fashion.
One of the pioneers of women’s rights activism was Amelia Bloom, an American who in the 19th Century toyed with her corset fastenings and petticoats, developing her own approach to dressing more freely and for herself. In this line follows Coco Chanel, Marlene Dietrich, Katharine Hepburn to name but a few style mavericks who chose to dismiss the standard issue feminine and step into slacks, as they picked up their pay cheques and took leading roles on the social stage of high society life.
Amongst the silks and the feminised elegance however, the humble T Shirt inspired another kind of woman. The T Shirt began as underwear in the late 19th Century with manual labourers, mostly men, working the docks and engineering sites for trains and planes; lightweight and short sleeved made it a great fit for hot environments and picked up by ranch riders out in the Western States of America.
According to Time magazine, The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald was the first known person to use the term, “T-shirt” in print. The book’s protagonist, Amory Blaine takes the garment with him to college.
Plain white T shirts became standard issue underwear for the US Navy in the 1920s; white, crew necked and short sleeved. And it was American GI’s coming onto British shores that brought the T shirt to the England, embraced by British women and the garment’s fate as a day to day essential finally sealed by Marlon Brando in a Streetcar Named Desire. Legend has it that Saville Row was a little slower to embrace the fashion, with one tailor dismissing an employee as improperly dressed as late as 1952.
We don’t know which woman first pulled on a T shirt. They did start to appear as early as the 40s in fashion catalogues - this is Sears in 1945
But it was the ‘70s when it took off as Womenswear in the UK. Women embraced the softer and more relaxed aesthetic teaming their tees with corduory and jeans. This became the uniform of women’s liberation and the feminist movement. In the age of Instagram the T shirt makes a new statement - as a canvas for sending a message, to champion a cause or identify with your tribe.
I love the idea of freedom and possibility associated with this the most versatile item of clothing.. Somerville takes the common T shirt to a new level by remaking it in British factories using the softest silk and in bold prints. We hope to give the T shirt a new and immediate elegance whilst retaining the ease and joie de vivre for the wearer.