‘Beat swords into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks’ says the adage. And the Women’s Land Army did just that. In the 1940s, English women, from the country and the city, from all social classes, joined up to work the land shoulder to shoulder and nourish the nation. The Land Army believed in cultivating its troops. Many got their first taste of learning in its ranks. And their education was not simply to train them for work. The land girls were encouraged to engage in creative pursuits.
“The Land Girl” magazine published their literary offerings and in 1944 no less than Vita Sackville-West was commissioned to write a book telling the Land Army story with a whole section dedicated to its poetry. Sackville-West brings a touch of dark-edged sardonic eccentricity to the Max Mara moodboard. Images of her garden at Sissinghurst inspire chintzy prints with full blown blooms realised in sophisticated black on beige.
Demeter in dungarees; contemporary photographs and newsreels show the land girls as rosy-cheeked goddesses in the idyllic landscape. Their jodhpurs, siren suits and other workwear classics are the inspiration for Max Mara’s utility glamour, featuring pockets and pouches capacious enough for a potting trowel, tough reinforced stitching and sturdy suspenders. They are realised in characterful drills dyed in an astonishing profusion of pretty colours like the flowers on the riotous sweet peas in a midsummer cottage garden. Of course, there are sandy neutrals too, conferring a sense of understated luxury to the perfectly designed trench coats, generous military style jackets and rompers. Backless sundresses inspired by gardeners’ aprons, and triple layered chiffon gowns with gaberdine straps take the tough chic message from day to evening.
The theme may be pastoral but this is a collection dedicated to the big city girl and the modern mania for horticulture; have you noticed that every spare square foot of the urban landscape is suddenly a garden? Her bag is more likely to contain laptop and lunch box than fresh blooms from the walled garden and those high-heeled strappy sandals were made for strutting the sidewalk, not turning the earth. But today’s woman signals that she signs up for the new wave when she steps out in Max Mara’s land girl look.