Posted on November 20th, 2016 by:

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By Cpl. Tom Shehan

YANK Staff Correspondent

NAPLES, ITALY—They may not know it, but the men who set the standards for Quartermaster issue in Washington exert as powerful an influence on the styles in Italy as the almost-forgotten fashion dictators of peacetime Paris once did.

A walk along Via Roma, which is to Naples what Broadway is to New York and Market Street to San Francisco, revelas the influence of GI equipment on the clothing worn by the signori and signorine here, especially the limited number with enough money to trade in the black market. The MPs have instructions to strip all civilians of any clothing that is GI in origin, but even so there are some who brazenly wear their contraband creations along the Via Roma.

American troops enter Naples on October 1st, 1943.

American troops enter Naples on October 1st, 1943.

Here comes a bella signorina wearing a very neat shirt and skirt made from Army sun tans. Her jacket contrasts delightfully in hue with the sun tans, and a second glance tells you that it was made from a GI blanket. There are even pockets of the same fabric. Obviously the entire outfit has been tailored by a clever dressmaker; it fits the signorina’s shapely figure much better than it ever fit any Yank.

That blanket deal is not an exclusive idea of her dressmaker, though. In a recent drive against black-market traffic, one of the Naples dressmakers arrested was found with 30 GI blankets.

The Signorina is wearing gloves made from leather obtained by “moonlight requisitions” from the seats of a command or recon car. Since the Germans still hold the part of Italy where most of the tanneries are located, Naples (center of this country’s glove industry) is starved for leather. If you’re unwise enough to park your vehicle in an unguarded spot, it will probably be minus its seat coverings when you return.

naples allied liberation

Italian civilians greet Allied troops in Naples during the liberation of the city.

This demand for sun tans, blankets and seat covers is a refreshing change from North Africa, where you can—or could—get $20 to $40 at the peak of the black market for a mattress cover, used or spotlessly new. The Muslims found them just the thing to use for robes. But here in Italy, mattress covers are more or less scorned.

Considerably more popular in Naples is the shelter half. On the Via Roma you may see a signor wearing a trench coat made out of a shelter half lined with a blanket.

The black-market operators have only one complaint about the GI blanket. They maintain that, by branding it with a “U.S.,” the Quartermaster is responsible for a lot of waste.

For More About the War in Italy Check Out:

The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944

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