Great War fashion | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


Fashion and the Great War

When you first think of the Great War, I’d wager that fashion is not the first thing to come to mind. However, it was, in fact, on the mind of many who lived through those years of war.

There are several series dedicated to the topic of fashion that ran throughout the war years and that you can find in The British Newspaper Archive: (1) ‘Woman’s Sphere in War Time’, printed in The Sphere; (2) ‘Woman’s Ways’, printed in The Sketch; (3) ‘The War and Fashion’, printed in The Tatler; (4) ‘The Highway of Fashion’, printed in The Tatler; and (5) ‘Vogue & Vanities’, printed in The Sketch.

In this blog post, we will be highlighting some of the articles and images found in these series. But keep in mind, what we’re sharing is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg!

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Woman’s Sphere in War Time

There is much to be explored in this recurring column outside of fashion, but even when our focus is narrowed solely to that on topic, we are overwhelmed with the information available!

Among all the information provided, this column offers illustrations of uniforms worn for war-related work.

British Red Cross nurse
Outdoor uniform of the British Red Cross nurse | The Sphere | 29 August 1914

The articles also provide insight into at least a portion of the population’s perspective on the war’s impact on what was quaintly referred to as ‘woman’s sphere’, which, of course, included clothing and fashion.

thoughts on economy
The Sphere | 8 April 1916

One question, then, that arises when the economy comes into play is how to be chic on a budget.

chic without expense
The Sphere | 8 April 1916


Explore more articles from Woman’s Sphere in War Time

In the 29 May 1915 issue of The Sphere, the author of ‘Woman’s Sphere in War Time’, focuses her article on the new fashions for summer, a review of the season. In a passage entitled ‘War Conditions and the Shops’, Olivia penned the following:

Strangely enough there has never been a time when fashions were more charming or the shops fuller of pretty and inexpensive things for our adornment than now, and we are grateful that it is so. To tell the truth, we owe our shops and big firms a great debt for keeping the flag flying as they have done since the beginning of the war in face of great difficulties. In no other country in Europe has business as usual been carried on as it has been in England, and it is the bounden duty of every British man and woman to uphold them by buying steadily without extravagance and without parsimony, and by paying promptly. It is one of the best ways of serving our country. As Mr. A. C. Benson somewhere says finely, We must aim ever at more beauty and fulness of life not at husbanding our resources with meagre economy but at spending generously and fearlessly, grasping experience firmly, nurturing zest and hope”. The Sphere | 29 May 1915

The War and Fashion

More insights into economy and fashion are found in The Tatler‘s ‘The War and Fashion’. (Along with an elegant illustration of an afternoon dress.)

inexpensive furs
The Tatler | 23 September 1914

Vogue and Vanities

There are fantastic articles, full of insight and advice on the topic of fashion during a time of war, in the recurring column ‘Vogue and Vanities’. The provided excerpts cover such topics as curfew clothes, lingerie in wartime, the war and wardrobe. Explore them below:

Concerning curfew clothes
Concerning curfew clothes | The Sketch | 17 April 1918
Lingerie in War-Time
Lingerie in War-Time | The Sketch | 30 May 1917
War and wardrobe
War and wardrobe | The Sketch | 1 May 1918

Explore all our fashion findings here!


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2 comments On Fashion and the Great War

  • Thank you , this is an interesting article on 1910s to1918 Women’s fashion.The illustrated newspaper articles themselves are fascinating ,but hard to read.Would it be possible to include a link to the PDF version of the articles to view them enlarged?

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