Fashion is a reflection of the times, and the world wars of the 20th century had a profound impact on the evolution of fashion. The turbulent times during and after the wars brought about significant changes in society, culture, and economy, which were inevitably reflected in the way people dressed. In this article, we will explore the ways in which the world wars influenced fashion.
The Practicality of War-time Fashion
During both World War I and World War II, practicality became a key consideration in fashion. With men away at war, women had to take on new roles in society, including working in factories and other traditionally male-dominated fields. This necessitated a shift in women’s clothing to more practical designs that allowed for ease of movement and functionality. Hemlines were raised, corsets were abandoned, and looser-fitting garments became the norm.
Women’s Fashion: The Rise of Utility Clothing
The scarcity of resources during the wars also had a significant impact on fashion. Rationing was enforced in many countries, meaning that fabrics, including silk and nylon, were in short supply. This led to the rise of utility clothing, which was designed to be more economical and conserve materials. Simple and functional designs, often made from durable fabrics, became the go-to choice for many women. The emphasis was on making do with what was available, rather than indulging in extravagant fashion.
Military Influence: The Rise of the Trench Coat
The military played a pivotal role in shaping fashion during the world wars. The trench coat, initially designed for soldiers in the trenches, became a popular fashion item for both men and women. Its practicality, durability, and timeless style made it a staple in wardrobes around the world. The influence of military uniforms extended beyond the trench coat, with elements such as epaulets, brass buttons, and khaki colors making their way into civilian clothing.
Post-War Liberation: The New Look
After the wars, there was a sense of liberation and a desire for change. This was reflected in the fashion of the time. Women’s fashion, in particular, underwent a dramatic transformation. Christian Dior’s “New Look” collection, introduced in 1947, marked a return to luxury and opulence. With its nipped-in waists, full skirts, and hourglass silhouettes, the New Look celebrated femininity and signaled a departure from the practicality of war-time fashion.
The Influence of War-time Propaganda
War-time propaganda also played a role in shaping fashion during the world wars. In an effort to boost morale and promote patriotism, governments encouraged citizens to support the war effort through their clothing choices. This led to the popularization of certain fashion trends, such as patriotic colors, military-inspired designs, and slogans on clothing. Fashion became a form of expression and a way for individuals to show their support for their country.
Conclusion: Fashion as a Reflection of Society
The world wars had a profound influence on fashion, both during and after the conflicts. The practicality and resourcefulness necessitated by the wars led to a shift in clothing styles, with a focus on functionality and simplicity. The military also played a significant role in shaping fashion, with the trench coat and military-inspired designs becoming popular. Post-war liberation brought about a return to luxury and opulence, signaling a departure from the practicality of war-time fashion. Ultimately, fashion is a reflection of society, and the world wars left an indelible mark on the way people dressed.