By December 1914, the first signs of new wartime fashions were appearing; the long, narrow ‘hobble’ skirts which had been in fashion since 1910 were worn underneath flared tunics or skirts reaching to mid-calf. In spite of the New York fashion show in November showcasing American designers, the inspiration for these new styles was still attributed to Paris. As the Washington (DC) Herald reported:
Since the outbreak of war last summer there has been much surmising about the ability of America to design, to create, clothes. It has been said that there is not the right atmosphere in this country, not the atmosphere to inspire originality in our designers. It has even been stated that any one of the great French designers would be unable to produce really new and beautiful models after he had been in this country for six months….
For this reason, Paris has felt secure, no doubt, in her ability to remain the fashion center of the western world. …American designers have been working to create new and acceptable models. What the outcome of all their efforts will be, nobody knows. One reason why their efforts may result in an apparent failure is that most of them are perfectly willing to have Paris remain the fashion center. And why not? Americans have always profited by Paris-made fashions. They must be duplicated and copied here – and that gives work to dressmakers and manufacturers… and they have always proved themselves interesting, often beautiful, which is all that can be expected of any styles, whoever designs them.
At the various fashions shows wherein American designs have been shown, there have been some very good designs. Most of them, however, owe their inception to Paris – for one must remember that Paris has not yet failed the world at one of her stated openings, and is even now planning one of those for February. (Washington Herald, December 20 1914, p.48)
This article was accompanied by images of evening dresses and street ensembles which were not attributed to a named designer, so presumably based on American wholesalers’ ideas. How closely they were linked to Parisian trends will be seen in the next few months, when I will feature original designs for 1915 from the House of Paquin archives at the V&A.