When the first World War exploded in the late summer of 1914, armies took the field in bright uniforms and navies steamed to sea flying the colors of their nations. For the ensuing years of global war until the peace treaty was signed on June 28, 1919, most history has centered on battles, leaders and empires.
Throughout this time, a largely unrepresented population in the histories were women in countries involved in the war. Women worked in war industries like agriculture, nursing and transport, while engaged in the fight for voting rights, equal pay and respect. In France, recent scholarship has shown that the survival of women’s fashion also played an important role in keeping up morale, maintaining ties with allies and even helping the war-time economies.
“Silk and Steel: French Fashion, Women and WWI” features original dresses, coats, capes, hats, shoes and accessories from period French designers including Madeleine Vionnet, House of Worth and Hermès. From the evolution of the war-time silhouette, the influence of military uniforms and post-war emancipation, this exhibition provides a new chapter of the history of the war at the Museum and Memorial. Presented by PNC Bank, “Silk and Steel” will run through September 6, 2021 in the Wylie Gallery of The National WWI Museum and Memorial (Kansas City).
“The war effort had an all-encompassing impact on societies, but the role of women is often overlooked,” says Dr. Matthew Naylor, President and CEO of the National WWI Museum and Memorial. “Through the lens of French fashion, this exhibition exposes us to the many ways that women were full and equal participants in the Great War. It is an engaging examination – and the collection that will be displayed is truly remarkable.”
To learn more, visit theworldwar.org.