Role of War in Development of Fashion

The war asperity and asceticism

The war always effects fashion. The World War II brought a number of restrictions in the sphere of fashion, it seems to have turned off the road of its usual development entering the era of war and even post-war asperity and asceticism. A stunning change for women was the new wave of couture was a remarkable contrast to the gabardine popular five years before as well as the coats and skirts which resembled uniforms.

Women had nothing to do but adapt to the circumstances in clothes as well as in the way of life. The majority of people were poor and unemployed, it is clear they did not spend money on leisurely things let along keeping to fashion. Women entered the work force, the sporting jackets fitted them tightly, had shoulder pads.

The fashion was as conservative as possible in order to correspond to the needs of the war, extra material was used to support the men at war. Dresses, for instance, were made without cuffs, buttons, collars or other extravagances. Mixing and matching became stylish at the period; it remains so, to a certain extent in a contemporary world of style mixing. Dior’s New Look was a contrast to the gabardine popular in the war time.

So, the war dictated its rules and there was no longer visual difference between the poor and the well-to-do family members, nobody could tend to be a fashion leader. This stream was a revolt against what was severely suppressed and ignored in the war time. All the Europe was excited in the prospect of a new beginning. It is evident that the war has changed fashion and new demand arose in the fashion world.

Demand and society’s well-being

The development of the fashion industry, as well as any other industry in an open-market economy, is determined by the demand and supply interdependence. In this respect, World War II produced a considerable impact on both demand and supply. What is meant here is the fact that demand for products of the fashion industry became quite different from the demand prior to World War II. In fact, World War II and post-war period was the time of scarce resources and the demand of people was extremely limited because all the efforts of national economies targeted at the military needs of countries. As a result, people were more concerned with vitally important issues, such as the normal food and water supply rather than with issues related to fashion.

As the matter of fact, tastes of customers grew more and more ascetic since they learned to appreciate really valuable products which the survival of peopled depended upon while fashion and beautiful clothes turned to be secondary. As a result, ascetic trends grew very strong in regard to demand at the epoch of World War II and post-war period.

At the same time, the supply was also extremely limited because the state of war prevented the normal circulation of products between countries, while the trade between countries suffered from considerable constraints imposed by opposing countries on each other. In such a situation, even if the demand was different, the fashion could not fully satisfy the demand on posh clothes and accessories. Instead, leading fashion houses, which remained open during the war, were forced to use scarce resources available to them.

In addition, it is necessary to take into consideration the declining buying power of customers. The war was accompanied by a considerable socio-economic crisis and people could not spend money on products of the premium segment of the market en mass. Instead, they preferred simple, cheap and comfortable clothes.

Material economizing

In such a situation, material economizing became another characteristic of the development of the fashion industry during World War II and post-war period. At the same time, material economizing naturally influenced the offer and fashion shows. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that the number of models in show was limited to seventy-five, evening wear was shortened and day wear was much skimpier, made using substitute materials, whenever possible (Barwick, 188). Obviously, all this was done for the sake of material economizing, which, in its turn, contributed consistently to saving costs. As a result, the fashion industry could reduce costs, while the national economy preserved more financial resources for the military industry.

The material economizing was really strict during World War II. For instance, from 1940 onward, no more than thirteen feet of cloth were permitted to be used for a coat and a little over three feet was all that allowed for a blouse. Moreover, no belt could be over one and a half inches wide (Steele, 215). Due to such restrictions, it was possible to save materials and produce more items in time of scarce resources.

Post-war fashion revival

Nevertheless, in spite of considerable restrictions and limitations, the fashion industry kept progressing even during the war time. Being limited in material and resources, fashion houses preferred humorous and frivolous style to compensate the shortage of materials, especially materials of the high quality. Moreover, during the war the work of many fashion houses limited their work, while some were clothed because of the occupation. However, the war did not prevent new fashion houses from appearance. For instance, in France some new fashion houses carried on their work, regardless of the occupation, including Jacques Fath, Maggy Rouff, Marcel Rochas, and others.

Naturally, after the end of the war, the fashion industry had started its revival. However, it is important to underline that shortly after the war, the fashion industry suffered from a profound stagnation because the economy of European countries was in decline and leading fashion houses could not develop normally. In fact, the post-war period was the period of the revival of fashion, which, though, was accompanied by a crisis in haute-couture industry.

In this respect, the fashion industry inherited some problems from the war time. For instance, economizing materials was less strict but still fashion houses could not count for the consumption of expensive clothes en mass in European countries which were struck by an unparalleled economic crisis. As a result, the basic trends which were common during the war-time, especially trend to simplicity, frivolity and humor persisted in the post-war period.

At the same time, steadily, the fashion industry renewed its mass production and started to introduce new models and develop styles which grew more and more popular in the post-war world. The elimination of trade barriers and limitations, which existed during the war because of sanctions introduced by opposing parties, facilitated the trade and delivery of materials from different parts of the world. Hence, countries could develop their trade, while leading fashion houses got access to materials produced in different parts of the world and they could buy them without any considerable restrictions they could not have overcome during the war time.

No wonder, eventually, the fashion industry proved to be able to introduce innovations which made the post-war fashion really different from the fashion of war time and which reminded fashion of the pre-war epoch. In this respect, it is worth mentioning the work of the couturier Christian Dior who created a tidal wave with his first collection in 1947. The collection contained dresses with tiny waists, majestic busts, and full skirts swelling out beneath small bodices (Barwick, 196).


Thus, the development of the fashion industry had never stopped. At the same time, the fashion industry was consistently affected by the war since it suffered from limited resources and many fashion houses were forced to close down, while others introduced policies of materials economizing. On the other hand, needs and demand of customers changed consistently too since vitally important products became more important than fashion. In addition, national economies primarily focused on the military production that resulted in limitations of the trade and development of fashion industry. Nevertheless, by the end of the war, fashion industry revived.

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