An unprecedented examination of the impact of fashion on society in France throughout the Great War. This fascinating exploration of French women’s fashion during World War I is the first in-depth consideration of the role that fashion played in the upheaval of French society between 1914 and 1918. As the fashion industry—the second largest industry in the country—mobilized to help the war effort, Parisian couture houses introduced new styles, aggressively disseminated information through magazines, and strengthened their propaganda efforts overseas. Women of all social classes adapted their garments to the wartime lifestyle, and practicality was increasingly introduced in the form of pockets and “sportswear” textiles like jersey.

While women were heralded for contributing to the war effort, the clothes they wore while doing so often provoked debates, particularly when their attire was seen as too masculine or militaristic. With focused studies of wartime garments such as skirt suits, nurse’s uniforms, work overalls, and mourning clothes, this volume brings to life the passionate debates that roiled the French fashion industry and reveals the extent to which fashion was a hotly contested topic and a barometer for social tensions throughout this tumultuous era.


Maude Bass-Krueger is postdoctoral fellow at the Center for the Arts in Society at Leiden University. Sophie Kurkdjian is a research fellow at l’Institut d’histoire du temps présent (IHTP-CNRS).

The exhibition French Fashion, Women, and the First World War is on view at Bard Graduate Center Gallery from September 5, 2019 through January 5, 2020.