Fashion in World War I: July 1915

Black silk taffeta day dress by Premet

In July 1915, notwithstanding the fine weather, the mood of Paris society was dark – both figuratively and literally. At the theatre, and at benefits for wounded troops, humorous sketches fell flat with audiences ‘saddened because of the great disasters’(100,000 French soldiers had been killed in a month in the Second Battle of Artois). To fit this mood, designers like Premet showed dresses in sombre hues – black was the new fashion colour, ‘Black to suit the Parisienne’s spirit’. A wider range of colours was on offer in designs for the export market, including light-coloured tennis and garden-party frocks:

Martial et Armand, like many other couturiers…are at present making many frocks for Englishwomen. The women of London still take an interest in clothes, while the women of France, to whom the horrors of war have been brought so much closer, are dedicated to wearing simple tailored frocks and suits. Indeed, the Parisienne has forsaken teas and other social functions where elaborate costumes are worn, for the stern exactions of the sick-room and the multitudinous demands of the Croix Rouge (Vogue, July 1, p50)

Foreign buyers were reassured by Vogue that the Paris fashion industry was still functioning, and that the autumn shows would be worth the difficult – and dangerous – trip to Paris. However this assurance was undercut by comments on the changes to the fashionable life of Paris. There was also a tacit acceptance that clients might be ordering locally-made copies rather than Paris originals, with Paquin supplying Vogue with exclusive designs.

A Lanvin day dress shows military influence in a 'sword loop' at the waist

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