Thursday, December 06, 2012

Sepia Saturday 155 Work Wear

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt features work clothing advertised on a building. As I was studying the image I noticed the Reid & Co. name on the building next door, did a little research and found a fascinating story - but it was too long and complicated for this purpose.

One of the first images that came to mind for me looking at this advertising was Rosie the Riveter, the iconic working woman from WWII. Although she didn't wear overalls, her outfit clearly meant business! Rosie symbolized the women who sustained our nation and her troops during WWII by  stepping into the places of the men who went to war and who ultimately paved the way for the
feminist revolution of the 60's.

During my career in the food business I did no riveting but spent most of my time in food labs developing new products. My "uniform" was the traditional lab coat. I never minded wearing one as it eliminated the need for fashion on the job and served its purpose - to keep the clothing underneath clean. Some of my co-workers hated them for various reasons, one of which was safety. "Killer" lab coats, they'd claim could drag you into a piece of machinery or exacerbate burns because the thick cloth might absorb hazardous materials such as acids and be more of a hazard than protection.

Later in my career, when I was consulting for various companies, particularly foodservice chains, the lab coat was off-putting for many of my clients. When I went into restaurants, the workers would think I was from the health department or some other kind of officialdom and freeze up. For most people, lab coat = nerd. My credibility as a creative person was nullified and so for foodservice work, I changed to a chef coat with a few modifications. My last coat had multi-colored buttons and I enjoyed it very much. If I was still working I'd add "tattoo" cuffs to the coat to make it fun and au courant.

Here I am slinging hot dogs in my button coat at a local school fund raiser.  Now retired, I don't mind dwelling from time to time on the bottom rung of the foodservice ladder.  It's actually noble work and the kids were fun.

The traditional chef's garb includes a toque (never wore one myself), white double-breasted jacket and checkered pants. The double-breasted jacket is useful because it can be reversed to hide stains; the thick cotton cloth protects against heat and splatters; the cloth buttons were used instead of metal because they could stand up to frequent washing. The checkered pants are a no-brainer - can't see the stains.

As for the advertising on billboard walls, here are a few of my current favorites gleaned from an email forward - one of those persistent things that keeps coming around and around. At last, just before I pressed "delete", I found a use for one of them. The best of the best of the ads need few words if any at all.

For other stories you may find riveting, click on over to

Sepia Saturday


  1. How ironic that the lab coat could be so dangerous. Almost as ironic is wearing a chef coat while serving hot dogs. I think of hot dogs as just common no-brainer food, but as a fan of the Food Network and shows like Top Chef and Iron Chef, I realize chefs put a lot of thought and passion into whatever they prepare. Love the ads - can't pick a favorite.

  2. A splendid tour around all aspects of the archive prompt image. But you know how to capture people's interest don't you ! I am sure we are all wanting to know the fascinating story about the building next door!

  3. Yes, I want to know about the building next door also.
    Why would cloth buttons stand up to the laundry more than metal?
    I love your chef's jacket with the many colored buttons. Can't wait to
    see the custom jacket with tattoos.
    Those billboards are fantastic. Real works of art. awe-inspiring.

  4. Wonderful! I spend loads of time in the kitchen; I need to get some checkered pants!
    Rosie the Riveter came to mind for me as well.

  5. Of course Rosie is featured on a USA stamp. I must say I've always assumed that it was a form of overall that she wore. I worn lab coats too where they were required but am more used to mandatory overalls and hard hats. A chef's jacket is not for me - usually I'm banned from entering the kitchen while food is being prepared!

  6. Very interesting! I have only worn "hostess" and "waitress" uniforms myself. I love that yellow paint picture too.

    Kathy M.

  7. Wow! I never knew a lab coat could be so dangerous. I think your chef's coat is so much more fun. And I too, like Wendy, am a big fan of Food Network. Those chefs do some serious work!

    And those ads are amazing! So creative!

  8. I think certain work uniforms offer magical properties of expertise. How could I complain about a hot dog served by someone in a chef's jacket? Or question the results from someone in a lab coat? Even a deadly killer coat.

  9. People in white coats radiate authority. Just hang a stethoscope around your neck and see how people approach you. But I agree with some of the objections to the lab coat. I enjoyed reading your post!

  10. Helen, I love your chef's coat with the multi-colored buttons. What fun! How often can one wear anything with 6 or more colors of buttons?!