Audrey Capuano's stars and stripes jumper

Contributed by: Australian National Maritime Museum

Audrey Capuano's jumper, front view Audrey Capuano's jumper, back view Photograph of repair Photograph of insect damage 'Betsy Ross the Second' newspaper clipping 'Got Hollywood Greeting' newspaper clipping 'Goodbye to Bride Ship' newspaper clipping 'Zero Hour on Bride Ship MONTEREY' newspaper clipping 'SA Woman formed Australian Wives Club in U.S.' newspaper clipping
  • Australian dress register ID:

    281
  • Owner:

    Australian National Maritime Museum
  • Owner registration number:

    00009354
  • Date range:

    1945 - 1946
  • Place of origin:

    New South Wales, Australia
  • Gender:

    Female
[Collapse all]

Object information

Significance statement

This jumper reflects the experience of one Australian woman during World War II, who became an American War Bride and moved to the USA to start a new life and a family with her G.I. husband.

The Stars and Stripes pattern reflects national identity and patriotism; a confirmation that she was prepared to leave home and family and become an American wife and mother.

Author: Lindsey Shaw, Senior Curator, 20th October 2010.

Description

This is a woollen short-sleeved hand knitted jumper featuring the style and colours of the American national flag. It has a collarless neckline and features 18 white stars embroidered on a blue canton over the right breast. The body and sleeves of the jumper consist of equal bands in red and white. The work has been completed in stocking stitch.

Link to further information about this object

History and Provenance

Do you have any stories or community information associated with this?

Audrey Westley met Angelo (Bob) Capuano at a dance on Strathalbyn, South Australia where he was convalescing. It was May 1942. Two years later they married at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney and while Bob was repatriated home, Audrey had to wait for a passage. During this waiting period she knitted this jumper.

In April 1946 she boarded the SS MONTEREY bound for San Francisco, wearing this jumper. Audrey was featured in her 'Stars and Stripes' jumper in both Australian and American newspapers - keen to compare her with the original maker of the American national flag, Betsy Ross.

Audrey settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where she retained strong links with other Australian War Brides, setting up the "Australian Wives' Club" there. She was married 29 years before Bob passed away in 1988. They had four children together and Audrey still lives in Pittsburgh. She was interviewed in 1994 on her eleventh trip back to Australia.

How does this garment relate to the wider historical context?

During World War II and for a short period afterwards some 12-15,000 Australian women married American servicemen, met while the latter were based or convalescing in Australia. All were referred to as War Brides. Some made a life in the USA, while others returned to Australia with or without their husbands in the years following the war. While public perception about war brides paints a narrow picture, it is clear that there are many different reasons why Australian women married American servicemen.

The much-used phrase "overpaid, over-sexed and over here" showed the growing resentment that many Australian men felt about Americans coming in and "taking their wives". But the sheer number of American troops stationed in Australia during the Pacific campaign, at a time when many of Australia's own young men were away fighting in Europe and the Middle East, meant that for many Australian women American men provided much needed company. As one Australian war bride remarked, '...those were the days when you really got fed up with all female company and you just longed for somebody to take you to dinner.'

Where did this information come from?

Audrey Capuano and newspaper clippings.

This garment has been exhibited

Online exhibition at http://anmmwarbrides.wordpress.com/

1991, ANMM USA core exhibition

  1. Place of origin:

    New South Wales, Australia

  2. Owned by:

    Audrey Capuano (nee Westley)

  3. Worn by:

    Audrey Capuano (nee Westley)

  4. Occasion(s):

    Made in 1945 in preparation for her departure to USA, which did not occur until 1946.

  5. Place:

    Sydney, New South Wales

  6. Designed by:

    Audrey Capuano

  7. Made by:

    Audrey Capuano

  8. Made for:

    Audrey Capuano

Trimmings / Decoration

The blue canton covers approximately one quarter of the front of the jumper on the right hand side from waist to neck. The white stars have been embroidered onto the blue in six rows of three.

Embroidery

Eighteen five-pointed stars in white wool embroidered to represent the 48 stars of the American flag.

Fibre / Weave

Stocking stitch in 4-ply wool in bands of red and white for the body and sleeves, with the right canton in blue.

  1. Natural dye
  2. Synthetic dye

Manufacture

This jumper has been hand knitted and finished by hand sewing the side, sleeve and shoulder seams.

Alterations

Minor repairs by the wearer have been completed in several spots where the wool has deteriorated, probably through insect damage. A red wool has been used to match the existing wool.

  1. Hand sewn
  2. Machine sewn
  3. Knitted
  4. Other

Cut

  1. Bias
  2. Straight

Fastenings

  1. Hook and eye
  2. Lacing
  3. Buttons
  4. Zip
  5. Drawstring

Measurements

jumper
Girth
Neck 210 mm
Chest 380 mm
Cuff 130 mm
Hem circumference 420 mm
Vertical
Back neck to hem 440 mm
Sleeve length 300 mm
Horizontal
Underarm to underarm 380 mm
Convert to inches

Girth measurements have been taken flat, that is in the one dimension, not a true girth.

Dress Themes

During the long wait to gain her passage to the USA, Audrey knitted this jumper and wore it for her arrival in San Francisco. She was greeted with a hero's welcome and even featured in a newspaper article, being hailed as 'Betsy Ross the Second' for her Stars and Stripes jumper.

Audrey recalls, "The jumper has only 18 instead of 48 stars - quite enough as it took me two days to put them on."

Additional material

Articles, publications, diagrams and receipts descriptions

ARIA and APRA award-winning Western Australian folk rock band The Waifs released their single 'Bridal Train' in 2004. The song was written by band member Vikki Thorn, based on her grandmother's experiences as a War Bride. Thorn was nominated for an ARIA award and won first prize in the Folk category, as well as the overall first prize, in the 2006 USA Songwriting Competition for 'Bridal Train'.

In a 2007 interview with Andrew Denton on ABC TV Thorn said '...I just wonder how those women must have felt as they were journeying across their country possibly for the last time...I get a bit emotional still when I sing that song'.

The first verse and chorus are:

A telegram arrived today,

Well it's time to catch the Monterey

'Cause the man I wed, he waits for me

And a daughter that he's yet to see

All the girls around Australia

Married to a Yankee sailor

The fare is paid across the sea

To the home of the brave and the land of the free

Other related objects

A small archive of newspaper clippings refers to the following - departure of the SS MONTEREY and its arrival in San Francisco; the formation of the Australian Wives' Club in Pittsburgh by Audrey Capuano; and the arrival of Mrs Capuano in Australia in 1953 to visit family.

Link to collection online

Condition

Evidence of repairs

A number of holes have been sewn by the wearer using a similar-coloured wool.

Insect damage

Evidence of insect damage in the form of holes; probably moths or silverfish.

State

  1. Excellent
  2. Good
  3. Fair
  4. Poor

Damage

  1. Discolouration
  2. Holes
  3. Stretched
  4. Worn

comments

Add new comment

[Collapse all]