GOVERNMENT PROPERTY KNICKERS Satin Silk, typewriter components, ribbon.
The work was inspired by Michael Smith’s book The Debs of Bletchley Park. I used the information and anecdotes in the book to design and make a pair of French knickers which aim to portray the lives of the women codebreakers who worked at Bletchley Park. The initial idea came from the following anecdote in the book:
‘Colette bought a remnant of beautiful, pale-blue satin during one of their trips on the bus into Bedford and took it home with her on the next stand-off so her mother could use it to make her some French knickers.’
I also researched the jobs the Wrens would do working the Bombe machines. I found the secrecy involved in the job interesting, particularly as the women were required to dismantle the machines at the end of the war to keep the work secret. In an attempt to represent this process, I dismantled an old type writer and incorporated the buttons and ribbon into the design of the knickers.
On a visit to Bletchley Park I noticed a mail bag that was printed with the text ‘GOVERNMENT PROPERTY’. I liked this phrase as I saw how it applied to all the workers at Bletchley Park who signed the Official Secrets Act, 1911. I felt that by signing the act the workers themselves would become government property as they had to bear the weight of the secret their whole lives. This phrase inspired the print design for the fabric which I made into the knickers.
During exhibition member of the public were encouraged to use a Cypher Wheel I made from typewriter components to break a code.