Before the Great War, Westerners had a more stable and peaceful period temporary which allowed them flourish music, art and fashion with ample material and and energy. Because of the longer period of peace, the Belle Epoch or Beautiful Era appeared during 1900-1914. By entering this new Era, women wanted to simplify their clothing to be more practical because their tight corsets cause they can't move as they want. Before 1900s, their corsets were more likely instrument of torture and compare on a woman's body, they are more likely belong to the Tower of London.
At the start, Their popularity focused on feminine, and they wanted sharp curve of slim body so they wore corsets, and their waist by our standard at now is impossibly tiny. However, women found that it improved the natural grace when they are moving. As a consequence, their skirts became softer to ensure women can move under the force of corset, while the skirts still fitted tightly to below the knee and have a flowing train.
The evolution for women's dress proceeded forward but slowly, by 1906 the train was gone and skirts rose to above the ankle. Gibson girl, who have shapely s-bend corseted with extravagant millinery, became popular. They represented a confident athletic, graceful woman and the demand of go out increased slightly. However, women still need a maid if they can afford to help her into one layer after another when they put their dress on. With these restrictions, women needed to stay at home to reduce movement which can reflect the treatments for women.
Fashion focused on slenderness by 1910. They also knew the harm of corset for health and they realized the attractiveness of natural. When women demand to release from these constraints, the human right of women was concerned by more and more people. By 1911 the skirts trains had disappeared so women can move more easily than before.
In the period of the First World War, slim, athletic silhouette created by hobble skirt, v-neck blouse, and long corset became popular. But in 1915, the" war crinoline " replaced it and women had a saying “The war is long, but the skirts are short!” which was the slogan of 1916. For patriotism, " war crinoline " is indeed needed. Fashion journalists referred it as “patriotic” and “practical,” and described that cheerless, unfussy blouses and skirts clothes can brighten the spirits of the soldiers who need be reminded of the dinginess of war.
During the First World War, women have their duties such as service in field hospitals, work in factories and other places. So that the demand of move easily became more and more violent. Women cropped their skirts to free their movement, cut or tied up hair which may occupy their time to deal with it, as respond, tailored suits with gentle waists and easy movement became the norm and increasingly demanded by women. After 1918 the first sportswear and swimwear began to appear and new material for clothing like rayon was invented.
After that war, in 1920s women had a Flapper fashion, they came from the chemise frock from Callot Soeurs, and the simpler model was round neck and elbow sleeves, held at the waist by a girdle which was introduced by Jeanne Lanvin. Even Coco Chanel fell in love to create chemise and remix it with the Middy blouse style to create the early Flapper dress.
Women wore Coat frocks in navy or covert suiting took the place of the coat and skirt, and their outdoor clothes were strongly marked with the spirit of war which use effeminate versions of trench coats and other visible signs of military ethos. War is not a disaster for women, it is more likely a special opportunity to discover new fashion and style.
With more and more design appear, women realized that they should be treated as equal as men and they demanded the right to move easily, like a appear of popular Jantzen sport swimwear in 1922 and Coco Chanel's mission to provide clothes for ordinary working women, the Great War indeed changed their fashion and can be reflect in day shift clothes.
Coco Chanel's little black dress:
The government paid millions of dollars to maintain the machine of war to work, after the war, the economy crash came in quickly. The 1930s came in with a bang- the Wall Street Crash, it caused the shortage of clothes and also other basic need for live. In 1929 winter collection of Jean Patou, the hem lengths dropped dramatic which can be attributed to this economy risk. The Flapper day was done and even wealthy people had to be more frugal. Compared to the period before the war, the luxuriant clothes and the frugal clothing indicate clearly the great impact which brought by war.
The fashion industry underwent many changes during this decade in response to the severe economic hardships of the time, because of that, factory made garments because clothing could be mass produced for far less than made-to-order custom garments. Zippers became a staple in a garment – they cost less than buttons .Human's potential to create is unthinkable, like this condition women still not forgive to dress up , and budget was no excuse for sloppy fashion. Frugal woman were praised who could feed and dress her family on a dime and she was considered a good steward of her husband’s money.
New French beret styles replaced the popular Cloche hats before, women worn it at an angle and took the fashion world by storm.
Beauty and health continued to become more popular, women joining health clubs everywhere. For hairstyles, Permanent waves were the norm in the early 1930s, but by the late 1930s, fashion began to encourage women to grow their hair longer in order to frame the increasingly popular wider padded shoulder look in 1938. Women's shoulders were exaggerated with puff sleeves, shoulder pads, full collars, and ruffled cap sleeves, to make waists and hips appear smaller in comparison.
In the period 1939-1945, The Second World War explored, and every production lines whether or not was used for fashion making quickly changed to produce only war materials. As I mentioned, the War made a positive impact on women's fashion as new styles and trends resulted from the cause of the war. The government started to reinforce the ideals of beauty and especially related fashion to women's responsibilities.
Like the period of the first world war, woman in this Era had many duties and were called upon to fill many new roles , they not only needed to work "for factory, for farm and home" to support their families which men was absent, but had to serve society, for example, after US was involved this war, “employment ranks swelled by great numbers of women in blue overalls and hair bandannas working in place of the young men” (Jennings).
In the war time women's ability to support families and take care the wounded is great, more and more people admired their potential so that ladies' status has increased. The government even encourage women go out and work, reflect on their clothes and they don't need to be restricted by their inconvenient dress when they are working.
Because of material shortage and a special time, War Production Board and the Civilian Production Administration issued a series of rules for the garment industry that were identified by a number preceded by the letter L, for Limitation Order. Women's clothes fit this change by using fewer amounts of fabric and different colored dyes. The reduction in fabric amount changed the overall silhouette so that clothing would become more practical as women needed more versatility with their wardrobe, the color was affected that dyes were so scarce that blacks, browns, and white replaced the brightly colored attire.
Because of the impact of military and patriotism, they accept military look which “included short jackets, narrow skirts, wide shoulders, pantsuits, low-heeled shoes, berets, and peaked caps.” (Lindop). This style was primarily worn by women who served in the war as nurses and other military services.
Women's dress code became to emphasis on a strong shoulder became, shoulder pads were very common in garments from suits to dresses and blouses which also inspired by military. The two-piece suit became very popular in women’s fashion during the war. Skirts from this point in time tend to be quite narrow, a-line in shape, and the hemlines hit at or just below the knee. This was intended to conserve fabric that could be used elsewhere for the war effort. An additional note to add to the style change was that pants became more popular during this time.
Not only in hospitals and military, but in this time women can work in the factory and make weapons for the war. While “Women in factories often wore shapeless jumpsuits and kept their hair pinned up under a scarf tied about their head into a turban.” (Walford) as well as work boots or sometimes trousers rather than the jumpsuits, these types of clothes were seen very unfeminine at the time because they had once been worn by only men and the thought of this lowered the morale of the women. Yet women's scralifice is worth to be admire, also that indicate that women is no difference with men and they also can do works which men can do. From that women “began to take over ‘male’ jobs and gained confidence in themselves.” (“World War Glamour…”, Glamour Daze).
With the accept of women's work, “ 'Rosie the Riveter' , the icon of Working Ordnance Women (WOW) which is her turban-wearing image became a symbol of patriotism used to encourage women to take on wartime jobs” (Walford). This icon was also known by her ‘We Can Do It!’ slogan which further uplifted the spirits of women.
A whole new aspect that was very important during World War II for the United States was rationing. Rationing was the idea that cutting back on the consumption of certain goods and supplies would help provide as many materials (raw or otherwise) to the war effort as possible. Nearly everything had to be rationed which is the reason why “everyone had their own rations book” (Nelson), the government control supply and demand to decrease the amount of material for clothes and other basic need by rationing, also they can prevent shortages. Save the waste is also an important part to avoid rationing.
They eventually learned to make do with what they had and to only buy what was necessary rather than wanted. While people didn't give up dress up because of war, they still dressed formally " both before and after the war ". Nylon stockings was a great invention, which “were a hit with female shoppers.” (Lindop) because they were much cheaper and easier to care for than silk stockings which were worn before nylons. Although nylon is a innovative material to instead silk to make stocking, it is still precious which are usually made for the soldier's clothing, women changed their dress code to find alternative methods to getting new clothes which is relative fashion and beautiful as they can be. A booklet called Make and Mend gave helpful hints on cleaning and maintain clothing and linens, in order to keep material less, they avoid moths, recycling woolen sweater and patch on clothes, this book became popular between women, the home sewing also became popular and was taught by this book.
Women always be tough than men thought, in the convention that they can't go out without stocking, as Walford mentioned,“It was against social convention to go bare-legged other than at home or the seaside, and so the problem was greater for women of the 1940s than can be understood from a modern perspective.” (Walford). To instead, they draw " lines up the back of their legs to look like stocking seams” (Lindop) with a makeup pencil to indicate they wear stocking although it is invisible.
War was ended after 1945s, yet its impact on fashion extended. the debt of war cause the situation like the recession of Wallet Street in 1930s, and until 1947, when the “clothing restrictions ended” (Lindop), many fashionable traits made a comeback. the nylon stockings was the most trendy traits which every woman want to have one pair.
The colors which used on women's clothes became more “shocking feminine primary colors” (“1940’s Fashion – Women’s Dress Style after the War”, Glamour Daze) . Once again, the silhouette changed from the masculine outline during the military time back to having a more feminine look, this essentially became known as the designer Christian Dior’s New Look which began in February 1947. Its luxurious view included precious fabrics and time-intensive labor. Another big change was in the underwear as “corsets had been finally replaced by the all-in-one girdle and the increasingly popular two-piece – bra and the girdle.”
Furthermore, it has shown that regardless of limitations, new styles were still able to be produced during the wartime.