If you want to know what fashion people were concerned with in any particular period of time, you have to read the books they were writing. In this case, the year is 1941, and the fashion person is Morris de Camp Crawford, editor of Women’s Wear Daily. Crawford’s is not exactly a household name today, but he was the editor of the trade paper before it became such a big deal in the 1960s and 70s. . This was a long time before WWD was making news itself with the infamous feuds between John Fairchild and a number of top tier designers.
In 1941, the big question centered around French fashion and what would happen now that the Germans were in Paris. Crawford had long been a champion of American design, and during the First World War had led a movement to get textile and fashion designers into the country’s museums to see ancient textiles of the Americas. As he put it, “The American designers of the pre-Columbian times had no Paris to refer to for their ideas, but they were undismayed by this circumstance and created loveliness from their own innate sense of the beautiful.”
So you can imagine how he approached the “problem” of US fashion being cut off from Paris. He saw it as not a problem at all, but rather, as an opportunity. He continued to praise museums as places of inspiration, which is not surprising when you know that he was a scholar of pre-Columbian textiles.
While the historical perspective of how fashion was functioning in 1941 is interesting, the book is also full of details about the people who were the fashion producers in the early 1940s. The details about many designers that have passed into obscurity makes this volume a very valuable resource for researchers and fashion history lovers.
Crawford died in 1949, but I find it interesting that so many of his ideas about art and textiles continued to be featured on another trade publication, American Fabrics.
The Ways of Fashion was brought to my attention by my friend Lynne when I was searching for information on Suzy the milliner. She pointed me to the 1948 edition, which is available for reading online. I later found a cheap copy of the 1941 edition in print. The only difference between the two is the addition of another chapter in which Crawford writes about the changes in the fashion world since the war ended.