In 1984, what was the uniform of the Party, and what was its purpose?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The uniform of the Party is the blue overalls that are worn by men and women alike. The overalls are worn by both inner Party members, like O'Brien, and outer Party members, such as Julia and Winston.

The overalls have a number of purposes. Because both the very powerful and privileged inner Party members and the oppressed outer Party members wear the same uniform, this creates the illusion that everyone in the Party is the same. In fact, nothing could be further from the case: O'Brien lives at a level of luxury almost incomprehensible to people like Julia and Winston.

Second, the overalls are ugly, helping to dehumanize Party members. They also desexualize Party members, helping to reinforce the idea that sex is not for pleasure but for procreation.

Further, the uniforms very clearly distinguish the Party members from the proles. This can make it dangerous for a Party member to be in a part of the city Party members don't usually go: they can easily be spotted by Patrols or secret police who might question such unorthodox behavior.

In the end, the shapeless, ugly uniforms are part of the inner Party's plan to keep the vast bulk of the population in poverty. Instead of spending money on making life better for the average person, the Party engages in endless wars that consume resources without improving the standard of living. The Party fears that if people are comfortably well off, they will demand more rights.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The uniform of the party consists of blue overalls. The primary purpose of this uniform, of course, is to relegate everyone who wears it to just another insignificant member of the collective. This is, after all, as Winston himself describes it in his diary, "the age of uniformity" (35). The uniform is a means by which the totalitarian state can deindividualize its citizens. The overalls are also described elsewhere in the novel as ugly, and this, too, is likely a deliberate choice on the part of the party. The party does not want people to take pride in their appearance, as this would be a demonstration of ego, which is a projection of the self. In a totalitarian state there is, ideally, no such thing as the self. All sense of individuality must be suppressed and subsumed by the collective.

In the novel, there are other uniforms that different branches of the party wear. For the "gorilla-faced guards" (7) who work at the ironically-named Ministry of Love, the designated attire consists of a black uniform, complemented by iron-shod boots and a jointed truncheon. This uniform is probably an allusion to the Blackshirts, who were the paramilitary wing of Hitler's Nazi Party. The Blackshirts had a very similar role in Nazi Germany as the Ministry of Love has in 1984. Their role was ostensibly to provide security for party meetings, but this extended to terrorizing and killing opponents of the Nazi Party and eventually to overseeing the running of concentration camps.

Another branch of the party in 1984 is the Spies, the party's youth organization. Their uniform includes "blue shorts, grey shirts, and red neckerchiefs" (29). This uniform is reminiscent of the uniform worn by Vladimir Lenin's Young Pioneers youth organization. Orwell was critical of both communist and fascist youth organizations and saw both as an attempt to indoctrinate children into the groupthink of the respective totalitarian regimes.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Party's official uniforms are blue overalls, which each Party member is required to wear at work and in public. The blue overalls not only differentiate Party members from the rest of society by identifying their positions accordingly but also suppress each Party member's individuality.

In the totalitarian regime of Oceania, citizens have no personal rights and conformity is an essential aspect of society. Individuality is virtually non-existent, which corresponds to the Party's decision to require specific, identifiable uniforms. The required uniforms also coincide with the Party's attempts to suppress sexual desires by concealing each member's physique.

In addition to requiring the Party members to wear blue overalls, women are prohibited from wearing makeup or any type of fragrance. Julia is also a member of the Junior Anti-Sex League and is required to wear a scarlet sash around the waist of her overalls.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In 1984, Party members wear a uniform consisting of blue overalls, as described in Part One, Chapter One. The purpose of this uniform is two-fold: on the one hand, it helps to create a sense of unity between Party members since everybody looks exactly the same. In addition, by wearing a uniform, it is easy to both recognize other Party members and to distinguish Party members from other social groups, like the Proles, who do not have to wear a uniform.

On the other hand, making people wear a uniform is also about exerting control. It prevents people from wearing their own clothes and, thus, from expressing their own style and personality. As a result, the uniform functions as a symbol of social control, much like Newspeak and the telescreens.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The answer to this question can be found in the first chapter of this excellent novel. We are told that Winston Smith, like other party members, all wear the same uniform which consists of blue overalls. What is significant about this uniform, as is the case with any form of uniform, that it visibly sets party members aside from other groups in society, such as the Proles, because they are readily recognisable and identified as being Party members rather than anything else. In addition, you might like to think about the way in which having one uniform for all party members suppresses their own personal identity and ensures that the bigger identity of the Party is the dominant identity that defines who they are. We are presented with a totalitarian world where those who live in it are given little if any freedom of choice, and the uniform servers to underscore this bleak reality.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team