Fashion Under the Occupation
Before the outbreak of WWII, French fashion represented the very pinnacle of style, and French women the epitome of chic. At home and abroad, couturiers’ wealthy clients eagerly awaited the latest collections, and design houses throughout the world looked to Paris for inspiration. Unparalleled for glamour and elegance, all things French were noted and emulated - and especially French fashion.
One morning in September 1939, into this idyllic world of haute couture and Café society came the shattering experience of war, followed by the German Occupation. French women, determined not to give way to the inevitable austerities, sought innovation: hats made from blotting paper or newspapers - the latter signalling political allegiances - and blouses made out of parachute silk, often obtained through dubious means. Not only did life go on, but creativity flourished - culottes, which enabled stylish bicycle journeys, became the vogue, and couturiers capitalized on deprivation with wit - dubbing designs ‘Coal’ and ‘Black Coffee’, or naming an entire collection after Métro stops.
Fashion under the Occupation provides the only in-depth history of these blackest years in French history, long overlooked by fashion history because of the impoverished industry and deprivations that affected design. Widely acknowledged as the authoritative work on fashion during this period, it is available in English for the first time and will be essential reading for anyone interested in fashion, French cultural history, and particularly the German Occupation of France.
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