1. In what ways do you see society change in the first half of the 20th Century and how are those changes reflected in fashion?
In the first half of the 20th Century our society has experienced changes, which have never been so rapid before. Two World Wars and the Great Depression completely changed people’s lifestyle and their understanding of the world. These changes could be seen everywhere: in art, music and sports. Surely, fashion could not be unaffected. Having become emancipated, women demanded more freedom in their dresses. The rationalism of the wartime dictated the necessity to introduce austerity into fashion. Thus, male and female clothes were becoming more and more similar, utility suits came to replace corsets and bustles of the previous century. It was hard to imagine that such dramatic changes could take place in less than 20 years, the years which completely changed the life of our society.
2. How did war change Western society in the 20th Century?
Both WWI and WWII had a great impact on the Western society. Firstly, they changed the role of women in the workforce, making them completely equal to men. Freedom has become important not only in politics, but also in fashion. Women were now wearing clothes, which were comfortable and simple. The strict economy of the wartime shortened the skirts, simplified the dresses and made utility suits an important piece in every wardrobe. The recovery from the wars was not easy as well, however the joyous mood of the victory combined with the unprecedented economic growth greatly formed the consumerist trend in the society, which to a certain extent characterizes the lifestyle of the Western world even today.
3. What is your favorite time period in fashion between the 1920s and 1960s?
The period of 1950s-1960s I would call the small “renaissance” of fashion after the 2 world wars. It brought back luxurious fabrics and feminine forms. People were willing to pay more for their clothes; therefore designers could afford creating more elaborate gowns. In my opinion, this period offers the biggest variety of styles and gives us an opportunity to appreciate the work of the designers, who were forced to limit their imagination following the ascetic fashion of the war.
4. If you could go back and wear the clothing from any of these periods, which one would it be?
If it was possible to go back in time, I would prefer to wear the clothes from 1920s, the time of the “Roaring Twenties” and Art Deco. Unfortunately, after the war men’s fashion did not flourish like the one for women. Instead, men got a “uniform”, a flannel three-piece “sack-suit”, which was used by almost every typical American executive. However, during the 20s men could experiment with their style, wearing Plus Fours or Raccoon Fur Coats. In my opinion, the fashion of that time gave men much more freedom to express themselves and to use their imagination in creating their unique styles.
5. How do you feel about the freedom you have to wear whatever styles you wear?
Of course the freedom of choosing your own style is almost as important as the freedom of speech. People tend to express themselves through their clothes, revealing their inner world and lifestyle. However, any periods in history as well as various occasions dictate certain rules, which have to be reflected in clothes. It is rarely mandatory to follow fashion trends to the last detail, however a certain level of conformity is necessary to fit into the society of a certain time period and/or culture.
6. After taking this course, has your perspective on the importance of dress in society changed? How does gender impact fashion during these periods?
Before taking this course, I could never imagine how close the connection between history and fashion is. Clothes can reflect so well the overall prosperity of the country, ideological background and the societal changes. For example, with the abandonment of corsets and the introduction of female pants came the era of emancipation and equality. Women were striving for freedom both in their lives and in their clothes. They no longer only followed fashion trends, but also created them. Thus, Coco Channel developed the whole new vision of the way women should be dressed, promoting an elegant, yet dynamic and independent female look.