How WWI Changed Fashion Forever

Fashion has a way of evolving, even thriving, through tragedy; some of the world’s most captivating work has been born out of tragedy. During WWI, style as it was known changed forever. Women’s fashion was thrust into a modern age, leaving behind the long stuffy gowns of the 1800s, and welcoming shorter dresses and more realistic clothing options. These changes paved the way for the modern clothing we now love, so let’s take a dive into how the war ultimately changed fashion forever. 

Independence of women

As a result of many men joining the army and leaving to fight in the war, the women were forced into unconventional roles. They had to become more independent to insure their survival and the survival of their families. A large portion of those left behind began to work in industrial factories and began to operate machinery that had not been used by women. This is one factor that led to the decline of restrictive, tight, corsets, as these new jobs required women to move around much more than what was once required. In addition, the clothing of the 1800s proved to be a safety concern when working with the large machinery. The once in style long and flowy dresses could now become easily caught in the factory equipment — therefore, shorter hemlines quickly rose in popularity despite this being considered “un-modest” clothing.  

Battlefield inspiration 

What happened on the battle fields also largely influenced what was being worn on the home front. Nurses began making alterations to their uniforms as they required ones that would accommodate long hours of constant moving, could easily be washed, and that were free of long trains that would be considered “unhygienic”.  As a result, women in France replicated this type of “freeing” clothing. Some women also experimented with what it meant to dress “feminine”, opting to follow men’s work dress codes and wear trousers instead of the traditional women’s clothing.  

Shortage of textiles 

As war raged on, there was often a shortage of textiles and fabrics in many parts of the world that were needed to make longer style dresses. Materials needed to be rationed, and so many designers had to get creative in how they approached new designs and shorter hemlines were the go-to style for many. Legendary designers — including Paul Poiret — became unable to adapt to the new styles of women’s clothing during the war and thus newer, open minded, designers took their place including Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. 

Jenna Legge

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