WW1 changed the position of women in British society more dramatically than anything else in recent history. Because of the burden borne by women in their efforts to keep the home safe while the bulk of the male population was fighting abroad, at the close of the war not only had the status and worth or women rose in the mind of the population, but the women themselves had experienced a taste of emancipation and were keen to keep hold of it.
Like any such shifts in society, this elevation of the role of women in Britain was reflected in the fashion. The evolution of the fashion at this time is the theme of an exhibition at Bath’s Fashion Museum running from 19 July - 31 August. Having earlier this year lived up to its reputation held since Georgian days of being a kernel of glamour and style with its annual fashion week Bath in Fashion, this summer Bath jumps back in time to vogues past. The exhibition, The Great War in Costume will also be displaying props, costumes and memorabilia from ITV’s Downtown Abbey, the second series of which was set during the First World War. Fashion through the War The exhibition charts both the influence of Paris fashion on British society (war or no war the French city remained the world capital of fashion) and the direct effect of the uniforms worn by women in the munitions factories. In 1914-15 women’s fashion remained recognisably Edwardian with long narrow skirts, hobble skirts, plenty of frills and a heavily dropped shoulder. Things began to change in 1916 when the ‘war crinoline’ crossed the channel from Paris. In line with this new mode hemlines began to rise and skirts bloomed out slightly into a bell shape. This new fashion was scorned in the press as frivolous and wasteful at a time when the nation was desperately trying to preserve materials. At the close of the war however fashion moved on again, and in the latest parts of the exhibition the first signs of the Roaring Twenties aesthetic can be recognised. The skirts thinned once more and hemlines were lowered again. It wouldn’t be until the mid-twenties that waistlines would drop to the hips. This Summer Thankfully, if you’re quick, you can go and see what happened next. Currently running at the Fashion Museum is an exhibition entitled 20th Century Day Wear, charting everyday fashion from the ‘20s to the top highstreet brands such of today. Included with in this exhibition are examples of the infamous ‘siren suit’ worn during WW2 and items from fashion houses such as Ralph Lauren. If nothing else, this exhibitions will get you excitement for this seasons mode. As we enjoy the last throws of spring, both fashionistas and regular folk are looking towards of summer 2014. Collections such as these from Zalando are beginning to set the Summer 2014 trend, whether it be indie-kid festival wear, beach bum swimmers or chic summer-in-the-city outfits. Whatever is in vogue, we can trust Bath’s Fashion Museum to document it, as the city regains its position as a sparkling fashion beacon of the South West.