Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Great War Fashion

I'm excited to share with you a book I've really been enjoying over the last couple of weeks. I first saw it in Waterstones a few months ago and kept going back in to have a sneaky read, finally receiving for my birthday a few weeks ago. The book in question is 'Great War Fashion' by Lucy Adlington and it tells the story of fashion in the years 1914-18. What with it being the centenary of the First World War this year, this is a particularly timely read and gives a fascinating fashion perspective. The book covers everything from lingerie to sportswear, wedding dresses to mourning wear - no stone is left unturned! 

The book itself is a pretty hefty tome and contains some beautiful photos, many from the author's own collections. I love the fashion illustrations from the likes of Vogue which show the beautiful fashions of the day in a bright array of colours (often ignoring the realities of war!). Alongside these pictures there are letters and diary entries and other materials although it's written in a way that's really fun and lighthearted. I've learnt so many interesting facts through reading this which I've been spouting at anyone who'll listen!

Another thing to mention is that there is a real feminist narrative which sits alongside the story of the clothes these women wore. From the suffragettes who sewed weapons into their clothing to the restrictive corsets and long skirts worn even during sport, 'Great War Fashion' paints a picture of women who both enjoyed and resented the fashions of the time. Wartime life really shaped the way in which these women dressed. Photos of girls in factory dress and Land Army breeches show the physical freedom women were allowed through clothing as they took on traditionally masculine jobs. Sadly many had to give these jobs up as the war ended and settle back into domestic work. But for many things had changed irrevocably, leaded the way for the roaring 20s!

I've also been really into the BBC drama 'The Crimson Field' and this provides the perfect accompaniment to the series and makes me feel like a proper fashion geek as I now know all about the starchy white VAD uniforms! I'd really recommend having a flick through 'Great War Fashion' - it gives a whole new perspective to what I learnt in my school history lessons (if only schools taught fashion history!).

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