CHANGES IN FASHION
In the early months of 1914 very little changed in women’s fashion as many believed the war would soon be over. Women continued to shop, although reluctantly, and newspapers continued to report on new trends for each season and how women could achieve the looks at home. Despite this, as the war went on and women took on the jobs of men, their clothing had to adapt to ensure their comfort and safety. Styles, lengths and materials all became subject to change.
By 1915 skirts had become ‘decidedly shorter’ as noted by the Diss Express. Gone were the ‘hobble skirts’ of the early 1900s, which heavily restricted a woman’s ability to walk. This was due to women’s new roles as well as a lack of materials due to the war. Jackets became looser with the belts sitting lower on the waist and trousers became more common to allow women, especially those on the land, to carry out their new roles with ease. Corsets became less popular as they were cumbersome and their manufacture required metal which could be better used for munitions. After the war many women refused to wear corsets again.
Women’s hairstyles also changed, with many cutting their hair into short bobs. This was done mainly for hygiene and safety as long hair was more susceptible to lice. There was also the risk that it would get caught in the factory machinery. The short hairstyle lasted into the 1920s and became a symbol of the ‘flapper’, a generation of young independent women who were characterised in Hollywood films.
CHAMBERLINS DEPARTMENT STORE
Chamberlins of Norwich was a popular department store which sold and manufactured goods and clothing for civilian consumption. During the First World War their production changed as they were contracted by the government to mass produce clothing and uniforms for those contributing to the war effort, including women. This change in production is demonstrated by adverts from the time.
That a well-established department store was endorsing and encouraging women to buy a uniform made up of trousers and a loose- fitting jacket clearly showed a change in attitude towards fashion being more utilitarian than frivolous or chic.
Chamberlins advert for female land workers clothing. Image courtesy of Norfolk County Council Library and Information Service (www.picture.norfolk.gov.uk)