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Mondays at the Manor – Dressing through the Decades / The Great War Era

     In 1914, the world was thrown into the “war to end all wars” and life was never the same. As men were sent to the front, many women stepped up to do their part in the war effort and work in the factories and on the farms. This change in the role of women required a change in the clothing styles prior to the beginning of the war.

     Prior to the war years, trousers were not worn by “proper” ladies. When men left for war, women took their place in the factories. Even with skirts being raised three to four inches, there were many reports of accidents when skirts were caught in machinery and women were injured or killed.

     For non- working clothing, tunics worn over skirts were a popular wartime fashion, as were simple, utilitarian clothing. Women began to wear uniforms, including overalls and trousers, as they worked in munitions factories for the war effort.

     For women, military uniforms had elements of current fashion: the long skirts with tunics or jackets worn over them were reminiscent of civilian dress. The white uniforms of the female Navy Yeomen are especially evocative of styles worn by the Suffragettes.

     Like clothing for women, men saw a divide between before World War I began and during/after the war. Of course, many men joined the war effort by enlisting in the military. Though men’s fashion would return to the three-piece suit after the war, the conflict did have a lasting effect on both men and women’s fashion. Though part of their uniform and not a fashion statement at the time, the trench coat saw its rise in the desperate conditions on the front in World War I and was given it name for civilian clothing due to the wearing of the long coat in the trenches.

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