As this September, 1918 The Designer magazine was going to press, World War I was winding down in Europe. The Allies had begun the Hundred Days Offensive, and the Germans were looking for a way out without total surrender. At home, though, women continued to harvest the crops and to do other important jobs that were left vacant as male workers joined the armed forces. Many women wore pants, in the form of farm overalls or certain uniforms, for the very first time.
I’m presently reading an advance copy of a book about the clothing of WWI, Dressed for War: Uniform, Civilian Clothing & Trappings, 1914 to 1918, written by Nina Edwards. Much of the information in the book is about dress in Britain, though Ms. Edwards includes information about clothing in Germany and the US and in the other participating countries. It’s about so much more than clothing, and it paints a vivid picture of the hardships both at home and in the trenches.
WWI is now 100 years in the past, and that is a very long time. People who can actually remember the conflict are pretty much gone, and as for my own experience, the shared memories of my father and his contemporaries of WWII (which had ended only ten years before I was born) greatly overshadowed any tales I might have heard from a WWI soldier. My grandfather and great uncles were of that magic age where they were too young for WWI, but too old for WWII.
So while WWII seems so real to a Baby Boomer like me, WWI seems so very long ago. It is important to read books like Dressed for War, because the author drew heavily from the diaries and written records of people who experienced life during that horrible conflict. We need to remember that wars are not just dates to memorize in history class. It is from the stories of history that we can truly learn.
Dressed for War: Uniform, Civilian Clothing & Trappings, 1914 to 1918 is being published by I. B. Tauris, and is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Release date is December 31, 2014.