Abstract: French Fashion during the First World War

Florence Brachet Champsaur


The First World War is a critical period for fashion history; it was during these years that fashion moved into the modern era. Fashion was closely linked with extensive involvement of women in the war economy. Out of practical necessity, women became emancipated from nineteenth century fashion. Major changes in everyday life produced major changes in clothes (particularly their construction): the end of the corset, new hemlines, and widespread adoption of the tailored suit. Nevertheless, the scarcity of textile industry supplies for civilian consumption was so influential that we may ask, "how could fashion resist?" In fact, I hypothesize that fashion's strength during the war was in being creative enough to build new trends out of these constraints. The mainstay of dynamic forces carrying out changes in clothes, come what may, is not the only paradox of war fashion. Women's emancipation and the corresponding changes in clothes took place in a traditionally conservative wartime context. This explains the ambiguities surrounding the discourse on dress, the fashion business, and the importance of fashion during the war, making the history of fashion during the First World War as emotional a subject as the relationship between battlefront and home front.

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