“Now that I was compelled to think about it, reading was something that just came to me, as learning to fasten the seat of my union suit without looking around, or achieving two bows from a snarl of shoelaces.” – Scout, To Kill A Mockingbird
First produced in Utica, New York, union suits were created to support an ideology as much as a practical need. Designed for women, the garment lives up to its name: a combination of waist shirt and drawers knit together in a single piece. In fact, the original union suit patent describes it as “emancipation union under flannel.” The mass-production of textiles spurred a progressive shift in what women could wear, reducing the amount of clothing needed. With union suits, women required fewer skirts and restrictive bodices, which were not only physically inhibiting but “improper,” when breezes came up and ruffled skirts – a continuous bluster of embarrassment.