By Delores Monet
via the Bellatory web site
Women’s fashions of 1914–1920 were heavily influenced by World War I (The Great War) as well as the women’s suffrage movement. Though clothing of this time is often referred to as Edwardian, in the strictest sense it is not, as King Edward VII died in 1910.
Shortly before the outbreak of World War I, fashion had taken on a whole new look based on influences from Turkey, the Middle East, and Asia with soft drapery and bold prints. The lines of Russian peasant costumes appeared in hip-length tunics, a style that lasted through the war years.
By 1914, women’s clothing had lost the rigid, tailored lines of the Edwardian period, and the styles of fashion’s first great design genius, Paul Poiret, obliterated the need for tight-fitting corsets.
World War I and Women
1914 woman in sailor blouse
Before the war, Paris led the world of fashion. But due to the privations of war and loss of communication between the US and Europe, New York emerged as a fashion leader with new designs based on a combination of femininity and practicality.
During WWI, as men went off to fight, women took on jobs formerly filled by men. Women and girls who previously worked as domestic servants took jobs in munitions factories, performed administrative work, and worked as drivers, nurses, and on farms. They volunteered for organizations like the Red Cross and joined the military. A new image of freedom and self-respect led women away from traditional gender roles. They drove cars and demanded the right to vote.
Many of the occupations demanded the wearing of uniforms, including trousers. A military look crept into fashion designs as well, bringing military-style tunic jackets, belts, and epaulets. During World War I, people took to a plainer lifestyle. Women wore less jewelry, and the lavish clothing of the Edwardian period fell by the wayside.
As women dressed for new roles, gender-dictated dress codes relaxed. Skirts became shorter, as they often do during wartime, and colors became sober and muted.
Dating the Clothing Styles of the World War I Era
1914 began with a strong Edwardian silhouette. Women wore lacy shirtwaists and long, narrow skirts that fell to the top of the foot. The tunic, introduced by Paul Poiret, based on a Russian peasant look, came to blend with the military-style tunic worn during the Great War.
At the end of the Edwardian period (around 1910), Poiret introduced the jupe culotte for evening wear—a high-waisted tunic style dress worn with harem pants. As the world entered war in 1914, women were offered more tailored versions of the look which included military details along with checks and stripes.
Jeanne Paquin, the first woman to gain international fame in the world of fashion, created garments for the new, more active woman. Her version of the hobble skirt (a narrow skirt that restricted a woman’s stride) included pleats for ease of movement. Her designs mixed tailoring with feminine drapery.
The spring of 1914 brought a new fashion trend called the “war crinoline” which featured a bell-shaped skirt and a wide over-skirt. The season also featured sloped shoulders and wide collars, but the use of so much fabric was soon viewed as wasteful during wartime, and critics called for more conservative use of cloth.
Read the entire article on the Bellatory web site.
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