Fashion Influenced by World War 2 - Part 2
For this assignment I have been asked to select an aspect of fashion culture to research and investigate - Fashion Influenced by World War 2 introduction. I have decided to base my assignment on World War 2 and investigate the impact it has had on fashion culture as a whole. I have chosen a history based theme for my assignment as I personally believe that history plays a main part in today’s fashion culture, and I also think it is very interesting to see how designers today revive fashion from the past. The essay will firstly explore how fashion survived during World War 2, which will include looking at the recycling of materials which took place.
Secondly I will examine how work affected what women had to wear; this will also be linked closely with exploring whether the World War 2 era was the start of women wearing functional clothing. The next area I will explore is whether celebrities during the period, had an impact on what women wore. Throughout the investigation I will analyse whether there are elements of fashion from World War 2 which still exist today. Lastly I will conclude the assignment, ‘what impact has World War 2 had on fashion? ’ I feel that fashion survived extremely well during World War 2.
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This was due to women being encouraged to ‘Make Do’ and ‘Mend (see illustration 1). ‘ An example of the ‘Make Do’ and ‘Mend,’ was that, “pillowcases would be turned into white shorts for summer. Also Wedding dresses would be worn several times, borrowed by either sisters or friends, until the original 1939 bride in desperation for new items, remade the dress up into underwear, French Knickers or nightgowns” (In my wardrobe, 2008). Women who could sew dresses had trouble getting hold of fabrics so they used everything from industrial blackout cloth to parachute silk or the harsher new parachute nylon.
Blankets were used to make coats and old voluminous swagger coats cut into smaller garments. Nothing was wasted and even milk top discs were covered in raffia and made into handbags or accessories. Make Do and Mend (illustration 1) I was told by my grandma, Florence Renner, age 82, “Being in England they didn’t have access to luxury items like stockings (unless they got them off an American soldier), so my mum would rub oils on her legs, and then take an eyebrow pencil to draw a fake stocking seam up the back of the leg.
Everyone had to be inventive in those days. Most of the time, my mum and dad wore the uniform provided for them by the army, but they had to wear a civilian shirt underneath because the rough uniform material made them itch. ” I believe that this helped fashion survive during World War 2, as without the ‘Make do’ and ‘Mend’ scheme, it was really hard for people to get hold of fabric or purchase new clothes due to rationing and short supplies.
I think that due to the recession, the scheme is mirrored in today’s fashion, “while today’s economic circumstances do not compare to those dark days, John Lewis believes there is a similar desire today to make the best of what may be increasingly straitened personal circumstances” (Wilson. B. , 2009). This portrays that people today should think twice about throwing away clothes and instead, they should adapt the existing garment into another to be able to fit with current trends, which enables them to save cost on buying new clothes.
Another existing trend which is around today, which appeared in the war is that people pass down clothes through generations, which are of a high value, for example wedding dresses. This is mainly because wedding dresses are a classic fashion which does not go out of trend each season. Before the Second World War, women were expected to be ‘housewives’ or perhaps do certain ‘women’s jobs’, such as nursing or being a domestic servant or shop assistant. The war changed the world of work for women for ever.
When men went to fight, women were called upon to fill their jobs, and this included many jobs that were previously thought were unsuitable for women. The increasing employment of women in industrial activities had relaxed strict dress codes, and allowed women to wear cotton trousers for the first time. As women’s roles in Western society changed, modern fashion changed along with it. The memorial (see illustration 2) stands in Whitehall, about a hundred yards from the cenotaph. The 22ft-high bronze sculpture depicts the uniforms and working clothes worn by women during the war.
Military styling and lines influenced fashions at the start of the war, “women often wore trousers, or a one-piece siren suit” (Harris, C. , 2009) this illustrates that it would be easier for women to wear trousers or one piece siren suits as it could be pulled on quickly when an air raid warning siren sounded. Headgear became practical, as it kept hair out of the way rather than as a fashion statement. Large handbags were also used to carry all the family’s ration books which suggest that they were also practical rather than fashionable accessories.
Holman, B. , The Women of World War II Memorial (illustration 2) I consider that women going to work during the World War 2 had a huge impact on today’s society. This is due to the fact that most women have jobs, whether they are married, single, or have children. Another aspect which was influenced by the World War 2 was that military outfits are seen as fashionable and garments today incorporate elements onto the outfit. Lastly another aspect which has carried on since the war is that women wear trousers a lot more than what they did before the World War 2.
Paul Poiret’s extravagantly-modeled business failed after WW1 erupted, as a result of his failure to understand the evolutionary landmark of the War and its impact on society and fashion. He failed to adapt to meet the modern needs of his clients, thus opening up a market for Coco Chanel. Celebrities made a big impact on what women would wear for work, “Due to so many women being called to industrial occupations in war industries, it was requested that Hollywood stars change their styles and encourage American women to wear their hair shorter and up, this deemed necessary for safety sake when operating machinery” (Tyler, L. 2008). This demonstrates that during the World War 2 celebrities had a big impact on influencing what women wore. This is still proven today, “celebrities are our new designers and the red carpet is our new runway” (Jakubiak, I. , 2004). This portrays that even today; there is no question that celebrities impact on fashion. The quote by Jakubiak shows that we judge what a certain celebrity is wearing on the red carpet and it has often influenced fashion catwalks. In conclusion to investigating the impact that World War 2 has had on fashion, I believe that the War has played an important role in today’s fashion culture.
For example I think that due to the recession, the Make Do and Mend scheme is mirrored in today’s fashion, today people think twice about throwing away clothes and instead, they adapt the existing garment into another to be able to fit with current trends, which enables them to save cost on buying new clothes. Another existing trend which is around today, which appeared in the war is that people pass down clothes through generations, which are of a high value, for example wedding dresses.
This is mainly because wedding dresses are a classic fashion which does not go out of trend each season. I found out that the element of women going to work during then war played a huge part on today’s fashion culture as most women now have jobs whether they are married, single, or have children. Another aspect which was influenced by the World War 2 was that military outfits are seen as fashionable and garments today incorporate elements onto the outfit and also women wear trousers a lot more than what they did before the World War 2.