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Lucy Adlington

11 Fashion Trends of World War I

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Lucy Adlington

In Great War Fashion: Tales from the History Wardrobe, Lucy Adlington examines the story of women during the first World War as told by their wardrobes. The author gave us a few highlights.

1. ZEPPELIN FASHION

Appearances still counted, even when rushing out into the street during a night-time Zeppelin bomb attack. Magazines advertised newly popular silk pajamas instead of homey cotton night-gowns (above). One London woman attached a ready-curled hair fringe to her boudoir cap to save hair-dressing time during a raid.

2. WOMEN IN BREECHES

A war worker is proud to portrayed in trousers.

With so many men leaving industrial and agricultural employment to join the military, women had to step into the breach—and the breeches. Bifurcated garments for females were a startling innovation which some thought immodest (although women railway workers were described as "natty and workmanlike"). Society girl Vita Sackville-West loved the newfound freedom provided by breeches, while journalist Dorothy Lawrence struggled to work out how to put her new trousers on when she disguised herself as a British Tommy in order to report on front line conditions.

3. RADIOACTIVE HAIR

A fashionable padded hairstyle, before the bob became popular.

Cropped hair found favor in the war, particularly for nurses and ambulance drivers near the front line. It was easier to keep clean and free of lice. It also started the trend for bobbed and bingled hair in the 1920s. "Radium" hair tonic was also sold, (unconvincingly) claiming to contain real isotopes of radium, as used by scientist Madame Curie.

4. WAR CRINOLINE

A mid-war silk afternoon dress with wide petticoats.

Wartime economizing couldn't vanquish fashion. As a reaction to austerity and anxiety, skirts widened so exuberantly that they needed layers of petticoats, Victorian-style hoops known as the kriegskrinolin, or war crinoline. Hemlines also rose to allow more freedom of movement, and to show off neat boots and well-darned stockings.

5. CORSET CONTROL

A wartime corset and cotton combinations.

Most wartime women wore corsets in normal life and for war work. Made of silk, cotton, or denim jean, they sat just under the bust and inspired designs for bust-bodices to cover the bosom, as well as the famous 1914 patent for the Caresse Crosby brassiere.

6. COUTURE SURVIVES THE WAR

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International couturier and Titanic survivor Lady Lucy Duff Gordon travelled to New York to promote her luxury styles—and to tell American women that economizing on fashion was unpatriotic. "After all," she said, "the men don't want to come home to frumps." In 1915, Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel (above) opened her second dress boutique in the South of France. She revolutionized the use of soft jersey fabric, and followed a wartime trend towards looser less-fitted clothes.

7. FEMALE SERGEANT-MAJOR

Yorkshire-born nurse Flora Sandes was the only woman officially to join an Allied army in combat. Highly decorated and respected, she rose to the rank of Sergeant-Major in the Serbian Army—wearing full male uniform. A Royal princess saw Sandes presented to Queen Mary and sighed, "I wish I could wear clothes like that."

8. BEST FACE FORWARD

Actress Gaby Deslys was said to have the perfect peaches-and-cream complexion.

Cosmetic pioneers Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden both opened beauty salons in New York in 1915. Rubinstein's marketing campaign in 1918 issues of Vogue promoted her products as antidotes to the wrinkles and gloom caused by wartime struggles.

9. BELLES OF THE (SOCCER) BALL

The first team photograph of the Dick, Kerr's Ladies soccer team in 1917.

Soccer was the most popular women's sport of the war in Britain. Munition workers raised huge sums of money for hospital charities, playing to packed-out stadiums. The most famous team were the Dick, Kerr's Ladies who played in shorts and jerseys like the chaps ... and without corsets. They toured North America in 1922, proving tough opponents for the top male soccer teams.

10. DEATH KNELL FOR MOURNING

It was said that a "tide of black" swept across Europe as the death toll mounted.

Full, traditional 19th-century-style mourning—requiring unremitting black and social exclusion—was impractical and depressing in wartime. Instead, everyday clothes were dyed black and black armbands were sold by city street vendors. Very few women wore widow's caps of black crape with sheer silk veils. Courtauld's, leading manufacturers of mourning crape, turned their attention to buying up patents for modern manmade fabrics such as rayon.

11. AN INTERESTING CONDITION


Maternity clothes made little concession to a changing body shape.

War enouraged a break-down in chaperonage for young women and a sharp "live-for-the-moment" ethos. Inevitably, maternity clothes were required. These were usually homemade smocks, worn over pregnancy corsets to support the bump. One young mother was too modest to tell her husband serving at the front that they'd had a baby daughter. Instead she wrote a discreet postcard saying, "Cushion Arrived Without Tassels."

All images courtesy of the author unless otherwise noted.

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11 Classic Facts About Converse Chucks
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iStock

Converse’s Chuck Taylor sneakers have been around since the early 20th century, but they haven’t changed much—until recently. In 2015, The Chuck II—a new line of Converse that looks much the same as the original shoe but with a little more padding and arch support—hit stores. In honor of the kicks' staying power, here are 11 facts about Converse Chuck Taylor All-Stars.  

1. They were originally athletic shoes. 

The Converse All-Star debuted in 1917 as an athletic sneaker. It quickly became the number one shoe for basketball, then a relatively new sport (basketball was invented by James Naismith in 1891, but the NBA wasn't founded until 1946). By the late 1940s, most of the NBA sported Chucks. They remain the best-selling basketball shoes of all time, even though very few people wear them for basketball anymore. (Many teams switched to leather Adidas in the late ‘60s.)

2. Converse previously made rain boots.

The company started in 1908 as a rubber shoe company that produced galoshes.  

3. The All-Star design hasn’t really changed since 1917.

The updated Chuck II is Converse’s first real attempt to update its flagship product since the early 20th century. The company is understandably reticent to shake things up: All-Stars make up the majority of the company’s revenue, and like any classic design, its fans can be die-hards. In the 1990s, when the company tried to introduce All-Stars that were more comfortable and had slightly fewer design inconsistencies, hardcore aficionados rebelled. “They missed the imperfections in the rubber tape that lines the base of the shoe,” according to the Washington Post. The company went back to making a slightly imperfect shoe.

4. Chuck Taylor was a basketball player and trainer ...

Chuck Taylor in 1921. Image Credit: North Carolina State University via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Taylor was a Converse salesman and former professional basketball player who traveled around the country teaching basketball clinics (and selling shoes) starting in the 1920s. His name was added onto an ankle patch on the sneaker in 1932

5. ... And though he sold a lot of Chucks, he wasn't always a great coach.

Taylor is in large part responsible for the shoe’s popularity with athletes (the company rewarded him with an unlimited expense account), but his training advice wasn’t always the best. As former University of North Carolina player Larry Brown told Spin in an oral history of the shoe:

My greatest memory of Chuck Taylor—probably ’61 or ’62—is that he told Coach [Dean] Smith that he’d make us special weighted shoes in Carolina blue. The idea was that we’d wear the weighted shoes in practice, and then during the games, we’d run faster and jump higher. Well, we tried them for one practice and everyone pulled a hamstring.

6. Converse didn’t intend for their shoes to be punk.

“We always thought of ourselves as an athletic shoe company,” John O’Neil, who oversaw Converse’s marketing from 1983 to 1997, told Spin. “We wanted to sell a wholesome shoe.” The company was still touting its shoes as basketball sneakers as late as 2012, and some of its non-Chucks sneakers still have pro endorsers.

7. The company owns a recording studio.

Finally embracing its role in the music scene, the company launched Rubber Tracks, a Brooklyn-based recording studio where bands can record for free, in 2011.

8. Not all the Ramones were fans. 

Chuck Taylors are associated with punk rockers, especially the Ramones, but not everyone in the band wore them. “Dee Dee and I switched over to the Chuck Taylors because they stopped making [the style of] U.S. Keds and Pro-Keds [that we liked],” Marky Ramone told Spin. “Joey never wore them. He needed a lot of arch support and Chuck Taylors are bad for that.”

9. Chucks were initially only high tops. 

In 1962, Converse rolled out its first oxford Chuck Taylor All-Stars. Previously, it had just been a high-top shoe. Four years later, the company would introduce the first colors other than black and white.

10. Rocky ran in them.

In 1976, All-Stars were still considered a viable athletic shoe. If you look closely at the training montage from Rocky, you’ll see the boxer is wearing Chucks. 

11. Wiz Khalifa loves them. 

The rapper named his record label Taylor Ganag Records, in part due to his appreciation for Chuck Taylors. In 2013, he launched a shoe collection with Converse featuring 12 styles. 

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Adidas, Mari Orr
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Adidas Collaborates With Artists to Create Sneakers for All 50 States
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Adidas, Mari Orr

For a recent project from Adidas and Refinery29, artists were given a women’s running shoe to use as their blank canvas. Their only prompt: Design the sneaker to represent one of the American states. The results are as varied and colorful as the nation itself.

As Adweek reports, the initiative, dubbed BOOST the Nation, takes an all-American look at Adidas’s UltraBOOST X footwear line. Refinery29 selected several artists—all women—to put their regional stamp on the plain white shoe. Some have been decorated with state flora. For instance, the Florida sneaker sports a tropical frond and the shoe for North Carolina is embellished with Venus flytraps. Food is also a popular theme: Wisconsin cheese, Maine lobster, and Tennessee barbecue have all been incorporated into sneaker designs.

Each sneaker is one-of-a kind and only available through auction. All proceeds raised will go directly to Women Win, an organization dedicated to bringing sports to adolescent girls around the world. The auction runs through Tuesday, July 11, with current bids ranging from $110 to $2000. Check out the artists’ handiwork that's for sale below.

Sneaker designed to look like a peach.
Georgia

Checkered running shoe.
Indiana

Adidas, Jen Mussari

Yellow running shoe with cracker tag.
Wisconsin

Sneaker designed to look like a mountain.
South Dakota
Adidas, Mari Orr

Sneaker decorated with wheat.
Oklahoma

Adidas, Jen Mussari

Sneaker embellished with fake roses and leaves.
Kentucky

Pink running shoe with lobster claw.
Maine

[h/t Adweek]

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