And for something a little different today, below is a fashion plate, or rather a cover illustration, from the November 1918 issue of The Delineator. One of the truisms about fashion is that it reflects the zeitgeist or spirit of the times and the First World War was no exception. The First World War saw the recruitment of large numbers of women into the military for the first time (although the numbers were small compared to the Second World War) and naturally, some sort of uniform was required…pictured below are female uniforms appropriate for both the Navy and the Army. Also, even where uniforms were not involved, the war years witnessed an evolution in women’s fashions where they became much more simplified with a focus on comfort and functionality. This is an area that we hope to explore in future posts so stay tuned. 🙂
Looking for an historical event to start off the New Year? Well, if you’re going to be in Southern California, we have just the thing- A tea dance to commemorate the end of the First World War! The dance will be held on February 1, 2020 from 1:30 to 5:30 at the War Memorial Building in South Pasadena. The War Memorial Building was built in 1923 and dedicated by Marshal Foch of France and it’s the perfect venue for this sort of event. There will be live music with a caller to help everyone through the dances. This definitely promises to be a lot of fun and it’s an era that we haven’t done much with so far…but that will change. 🙂 For more details, please click HERE.
For Paul Poiret, the war years were a professional void. Recalled to military service in 1914, Poiret spend most of the war serving in a number of positions centered around the provision of uniforms. for the French Army. To read his autobiography, it’s evident that the war years were both financially and professionally unsatisfying. However, Poiret was able to keep his hand somewhat by creating designs that were to be licensed for production in the United States. Below is just one design that appeared in the March 1916 issue of The Women’s Home Companion:
And here’s some more details:
Suitable for sorts of afternoon and informal evening occasions, this costume designed by the couturier Paul Poiret can be made at home from a Woman’s Home Companion pattern. The price of the pattern is $1.50; its number 2990 and it is cut in 36, 38, and 40-inch bust measures. It may be ordered from the Pattern Department, Woman’s Home Companion, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
The illustrator has done an excellent job of presenting this design in the most optimal manner, portraying a simple, one-piece unstructured garment with a relatively short skirt and pleated hem. With it’s simple lines reminiscent of his earlier Nouveau Directoire and Classical Greek inspired styles, this dress was a reflection of the the changes fashion was undergoing during the second decade of the 20th Century.
Poiret’s signature hobble skirt is gone, replaced by something far more free-flowing and practical. Spurred by the impacts of the war, fashion had evolved to more practical styles and it would seem that Poiret was adapting. Of course, this also could simply have been his effort to keep his name out in the market (and supplement his meager Army pay) by churning out quick and simple designs. It certainly poses some interesting questions in that it’s clear that Poiret was quite capable of designing practical garments in spire of his learning towards the more fantastical.
This is an area that bears further examination and hopefully we’ll be able to unearth further examples to post here.
In the course of researching something completely different, I came across some fashion advice that was attributed to Paul Poiret in the September 24, 1913 edition of the Los Angeles Herald:
…”select your gown according to the temperature, your mood, your temperament, whether you are at the seashore, in town or in the country, because gowns express every motion or condition.” M. Paul Poirot, the great Paris costumer, who is the creator of the tight skirt and other Innovations which were regarded as equally audacious when they made their advent, so declared today and added; “The simplest thing always looks the most original and I always strive for simplicity above everything…”
Poiret’s advice is timeless (although we could take issue with the always strive for simplicity part) and it could just as easily been said by any number of designers part or present. However, what is unique is that what a person wears does express every motion or condition, a fact that’s been noted by both designers and psychologists. 🙂
I completely admit that this post is bit tardy, considering that I attended this event back in April, so I apologize for the lateness of this post…enjoy!
Recently I took a break from the usual round of activities to travel back east to Newville, Pennsylvania to attend the Great War Association’s (GWA) Spring 2017 battle event. For those of you who may not know, the GWA is an umbrella organization for First World War reenacting that draws reenactors from all over the nation (and even Canada) and they sponsor two events yearly at their site in Newville, one in the Spring and one in the Fall. Events typically draw anywhere from 300 to over 600 reenactors (Fall is typically the better attended event). The site itself is a small-scale recreation of a First World War battlefield complete with shell craters, trenches, bunkers, and even burnt-out buildings- it’s truly a “reenactor’s reenactment”.
I’ve been involved in the First World War reenacting for over 20 years and I have always meant to participate in a GWA event but, as usual, life usually got in the way until this Spring when I decided that I needed a small break from the usual so off I went. The logistics of getting there was interesting to work out, especially since I’d never been there before, but in the end it all worked out. I found that flying into Baltimore was the most practical- there are cheap non-stop flights available on Southwest Airlines and rental cars are easy to arrange at affordable prices (of course, it’s even cheaper if you’re traveling with others). Finally, I was able to get a couple of good motel rates for before and after the event itself- it pays to book early. 🙂
Weather-wise, Pennsylvania presented a bit of a contrast to what I am used to in Southern California- it was warm and humid during the day (and really warm when the sun would come out) combined with the occasional shower. At night, the temperature would drop almost 20 to 30 degrees and on the last night of the event, it was freezing. In many ways, this mirrored the actual Western Front experience although we only had to “endure” for two days.
So, what’s the clothing tie-in? I thought you’d never ask…well, in contrast to what I normally deal in, the order of the day is wool…lots of wool in shades of feldgrau and steingrau. Below is feldgrau as defined by the RAL color standard (RAL is the German color standard that was initially developed in 1927 and is the equivalent of the American Federal Color Standard System). Below is the RAL standard for feldgrau:
And for steingrau:
Of course, color standards are only an approximation and especially since it was developed after the First World War. Here’s an approximation of what feldgrau often looked like:
Needless to say, the subject of color is very subjective so the above is just to give a general idea.
As to the uniform itself, I am wearing the 1915 (1916 pattern for Bavarians) pattern coat, or bluse, which was a wartime simplification of the basic tunic. For trousers, I am wearing the prewar 1907 pattern. As for comfort, well things can get itchy sometimes and definitely hot in warmer weather but in cold weather, it serves its purpose very well.
Overall, it was a fun and exciting trip and I am looking forward to returning in the Fall. 🙂