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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree November 2018 > New directions in fashion

New directions in fashion

Jayne Shrimpton looks through the wardrobes of our female folk in the First World War era, studying the practical and vogueish garments favoured at the time


These McCall sewing patterns, 1915, show narrow Directoire-style evening gowns and the new wider daywear modes, the blues, greys, brown and tan shades typical of the war years

1914 -1918

Our ancestors’ lives were irreversibly changed by the First World War (August 1914 – November 1918) and its aftermath. Reflecting these momentous times, female dress experienced some of the greatest changes in fashion history.

Edwardian summer years

By the late-Edwardian era, the artificial, voluptuous hourglass silhouette, rustling flounced skirts and ornate high-necked bodices of the early 1900s were giving way to less cluttered, more natural modes. Influenced by the slender, highwaisted Empire or ‘Directoire’ line from France, female dress grew more streamlined from 1908/09, prompting styles that historians regard as the beginnings of modern fashion.

Paul Poiret, pioneering French couturier who promoted the new columnar image claimed to have ‘abolished’ restricting corsets: in reality few women discarded their reassuring foundation garments, but the sleeker fashions spreading from Paris throughout the western world, from city to provincial town, encouraged simpler underwear – fewer petticoats and more flexible elasticated or unboned corsets, ideal for women who cycled and danced and soon to become useful during the war.

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About Family Tree

Soon the Last Post will sound as we commemorate the Armistice of 1918, a century ago. If you'd like to find out, or discover more, about your ancestor's time during the First World War - look no further. Our November issue is a First World War centenary commemorative issue, packed with information and advice about the records and the medals of First World War people. Have a read, do some research, and then, this year on Remembrance Sunday you'll be able to say that you truly have remembered them.