Fashion in World War I: January 2016

A white 'djersette' dress with embroidery for Spring 1916

The January 1916 edition of ‘Le Style Parisien’ promoted some new trends for the coming season, including some innovative fashion fabrics produced by the leading French manufacturers. There were silks sold with lines of toning braid or fringing stitched on, ready to be made up. This would increase the cost of the fabric – and might help to sell French products in the all-important American market. However the trend for added trimmings had a down side, which was that cash-strapped consumers could add them to a home-made ensemble, bypassing fashion professionals.

The second trend in fashion fabrics was a new product by Rodier, ‘djersette’, which combined the fluidity and ‘give’ of wool jersey with the stability of woven wool. This development was a back-handed acknowledgement of the increased dominance of jersey fabrics, already noted in May 1915, which threatened the position of Rodier and other specialists in woven silks. The wartime use of knitwear laid the foundations for the simpler fashions of the 1920s – and established the reputation of Coco Chanel, one of the leaders of the trend.

‘Le Style Parisien’ also noted a Paris premiere by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Soleil de Nuit with choreography by Leonide Massine and designs by Mikhail Larionov based on Russian peasant costumes. Diaghilev’s productions since 1908 had been instrumental in popularizing striking colour schemes and exotic décor in fashion and interiors.  However  at this premiere, the most fashionable women wore black, a mark of the changed mood of Paris fashion since the outbreak of war.

Fashionable silk ribbons for Spring 1916

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