New York fashion journalist Gertrude Bailey wasted little time in applying for her overseas press pass after the news broke that the Germans had been driven from the banks of the Seine in August of '44. When Paris fell to the Nazis in June of 1940, the fashion worlds of London and New York lost all contact with the great taste makers of that city and their contributions were sorely missed. Bailey knew that the first fashion shows after the liberation were going to be the talk of the swanky - and she knew that Paris was the place to be. This is her report concerning the Fall collections of 1944 and what the couturiers needed to do in order to fully restore the French fashion industry. Although the article tends to anticipate the glorious return of Paris chic, there is mention made of what Paris fashion was like during the occupation:
"For four years they had concentrated on extravagant, flamboyant creations in deliberate defiance of the Germans. Everything above the silhouette had been inflated. Yardage, while limited to 100 tons a year for 90 houses employing 12,000 workers, was flaunted... They lavished fabric into parachute sleeves, elaborately draped bodices, skirts that bunched fullness at the front , and hats that were over-trimmed."
When home heating fuel had to be rationed during the Second World War, a page was borrowed from Granny's play book and women once again began to sport crochet wraps, shawls and booties around the house.
Here is a an Elizabeth Hawes (1903 – 1971) fashion review covering some of the hats for the autumn of 1942. They were all the creations of John-Frederics (1902 – 1993) - some are simply fantastical while others are a tad less dramatic, but not lacking in style.
(This article was cited by THE NY TIMES for their article on Elizabeth Hawes.)
Click here to read about the hats of 1947.
When the general appearance of women's uniforms prescribed for voluntary war work by various charitable organizations were deemed unfashionable, uncomfortable or simply embarrassing, the well-known fashion stylist and costume designer Irene (Irene Lentz, 1900 - 1962) stepped up to the plate designing an all-purpose green wool suit, topped-off by a beret:
"The noted Hollywood stylist, Irene, performed a real service for defense when she designed her all-around defense suit. Of sturdy gabardine, worn with long cotton service socks and plastic shoes, it is nevertheless as attractive as any civilian suit, and more practical than most. In this outfit, women war workers will not feel self-conscious and ill at ease."
The editors at COLLIER'S MAGAZINE could not have known the significance of this subject back in 1942, yet to those Americans born after 1960 who read these old columns, it seems like a sign post that pointed the way to the sportswear of the future. Verily, few are the Americans who tread the fruited plane today who do not see at least one pair of jeans every day. Blue jeans have become the symbol of the nation, just as much as the flag.
This 1940s article pointed out that more and more Americans are waking up to denim. They found that it suited them and deemed it a sensible fabric in light of the new agricultural and industrial toil that needed to be finished if the fascists were to be beaten. However, denim was not some newfangled wartime invention; denim has been on the American scene since 1853 - in the Western gold mines and barnyards, roundhouses and cattle ranges.
Some seven years before this article hit the newsstands American teenagers began wearing jeans, but it was W.W. II that created a market for women's jeans, and for good or ill, the course of American sportswear was forever altered.
A far more thorough fashion history of blue jeans can be read here.
Five fashion photographs and a few words on the "government-approved" look for the autumn of 1943. The wartime fashion news for 1943 was apparel order L-85 that had been issued by the War Production Board in order to "conserve material for victory".
To read another article about 1940s fashions and the hardships of fabric rationing, click here.
Click here to read about the fashion silhouette of the early Fifties.