Monday, November 30, 2009

The Influence of Circumstances

Thank you for allowing me to re-post this series while we were out of town. I will now post the conclusion of them and get back to real blogging. Hope the re-posts have helped someone, somewhere. :)

Royalty, high society, Paris, Hollywood...many things have influenced women's fashions over the years. There is one other thing that has caused major changes to what women wore and that is outside circumstances.

One thing that necessitated a change in clothing was the bicycle. As bicycling became more popular in the early 1900s, something had to be done to the dresses women were wearing at the time. In fact, during that time women became more physically active in general. The women's dress reform movement worked to improve women's health and comfort. It was met with great protest, but did succeed in changing women's undergarments and helping women have more sensible choices for activities like biking and swimming.

Another outside circumstance that necessitated change was wartime. Throughout recent history, clothing became more utilitarian and practical during times of war, and returned to more feminine styles during times of peace. I was very interested to learn that. Skirts became a bit shorter--thereby using less fabric. Cuffs, double yokes, knife pleats, full skirts...anything that used extra fabric unnecessarily was out. During the 40s there were rations on clothing that really affected how people dressed. Also during the war, women were urged to cut their hair shorter. Hairpins were unavailable, there were coupons for hats, and safety for women working in factories was a real concern. Some movie stars publicly cut their hair shorter in the hopes that their fans would follow suit.

Of course the Great Depression affected women's fashions as well. Mostly, women had to find a way to make do with what they already had. Women learned to turn collars that were worn out, jazz up the same dress with different accessories, and re-hem worn out dresses. Fashion was not on very many people's minds for a few years. In the same way, women had to make do without certain things during wartime. They painted "seams" on the backs of their legs when nylons were not available, and wore more functional, utilitarian dresses. Which personally, I think were still beautiful!

After World War II, longer, fuller skirts returned. With no more clothing restrictions, designers responded with lots of luxury and femininity. Women had enough of functional! I think it's very interesting that women who were used to wearing jeans and shirts for factory work would return to feminine dress after the war. Of course, the books don't say how many women wanted to return to that style, just that they did for the most part. There was a major advertising campaign encouraging women to go back home to make room for the returning men who needed jobs. So although they regained their femininity, they did not have such luck holding on to their new independence. I sure would love to hear from someone who remembers those days. Anyone got a Grandma they can ask?

Interesting things I've learned....I'm telling ya.


  1. I didn't know about the bicycle changing fashion, etc. That was very interesting. I guess the feminism of the 20's and before, encouraged women to be more active.

    I remember learning about women using less fabric for clothing during WWII for dresses and that's why they got shorter, but I didn't know about the hair and hairpins and hats. Isn't that interesting?

    I remember my father saying how WWII changed a lot of things in our country, including women going to work for the war effort and not wanting to return to the homes.

    BTW, your picture looks lovely. My husband would say that you look "Texified", his word for Texas ladies who have big hair, makeup, jewelry and pretty clothes. (We lived in Texas for many years and graduated from Abilene Christian University.)

    When I really dress up, he says, "Oh, you look Texified!"

  2. Very interesting! I read a lot of period pieces and the fashion aspects of the stories I always find interesting.

    I also wanted to come by and you that I've popped by several times lately to read your posts and I've cleaned out my closet and set to improving my wardrobe. So much so that I DREAMED about trying to find nice, feminine things to wear. "Oh I found the perfect item! Wait...where'd it go on the rack?! Search the rack item by item until I find that perfect garment again!" HAHA!

  3. Oooh! I like your new picture! :)

  4. Great picture! Isn't it interesting how many new things you can find by studying history? (:

  5. I've been really enjoying these series of posts you've been writing. Lots of interesting facts you've dug up.

    I was not yet born during the great depression, so can't help you with memories of any details of that era.

  6. Brenda, I'm LOVING your series.

    Thanks for giving me Terry's post - I hadn't seen it.

    I forgot about my 'Keeping it Real' picture and I'm going to add it to my post from last night! LOL! I have a hard time remembering that you are all not supermoms just because you're home! :)

    Lady in the Making

  7. By the way - I LOVE YOUR LONG HAIR! It looks gorgeous on you. :)

  8. I'm loving this! I just added this series to my blog post on Feminine fun!


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)