1939 — The War’s Start


The final fall fashion show in Paris ended just days before was was declared. At this point in time Europe as a whole was creating practical clothes in the domestic market, with beauty in mind.
(An example pictured below is an evening gown, which would have been worn by those invited to parties in higher social class circles. It’s a body supplementation, with the top being enclosed by bows)



In Germany Jewish designers and manufacturers were
excluded from Economic life in Germany, shops and
department stores were forced to shut down, eliminating
some of the best talent and skill in the country. “Adefa”
(A German acronym for the German Aryan Clothing
Manufacturers) labels could be found in certain articles of
clothing. These labels guaranteed that the garment was made
with Aryan hands.
At the time of the fall fashion shows, the German labor front leader was quoted in Time magazine as saying that the current economic policy is “…to abandon a dress when it is used up and not when it becomes unfashionable.” Hinting to the world at large, that war was on the horizon. By November of 1939, they had begun rationing clothing.



Sketch of Balenciaga “Infanta” evening dress; from Vogue Magazine (September 15, 1939). Carl Erickson/Conde Nast Archive; © Conde Nast

France was just wrapping up a summer of glamor in Paris, more than it had seen in almost a decade.
French Magazine Marianne reported in August,
“this winter’s very extravagant fashion calls for a certain dignity and an enormous amount of style.”
Those gowns are both beautiful, and extravagant. Corsets, bustles, full crinoline skirts, puffy sleeves, or bare shoulders are common in the designs of these dresses. On example, pictured in a painting below is a beautiful and full ball gown. It is made of a pink satin, with black embellishments. This gown has both a scooped back and a large bustle.
In December a very different sentiment was expressed by Marianne, owing to the changes from pre-war fashions, just months before. “Born in peacetime, created for carefree days, our gowns have retired for a deep and unexpected sleep.”


Things were a little different in Britain at this time.
Shortly after war was declared, bags specially created to carry gas-masks went on sale.
The Daily Mirror reported the creation of a new hairstyle, ‘The Gas Mask Curl.’ It consisted of curls on either side of the head, with a part down the center, perfect for accommodating the gas mask strap.


Siren suits, suits to be worn when the sirens sounded, began to appear in store windows. Jumpsuits (which served as body enclosures) with a zipper in the front, which could easily be worn over pajamas, were just the thing for a quick run to the air raid shelter.


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