Fashion narratives of the First World War

Whitmore, Lucie (2019) Fashion narratives of the First World War. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Due to Embargo and/or Third Party Copyright restrictions, this thesis is not available in this service.
Printed Thesis Information:


This thesis asks how women’s fashionable dress in Britain was altered by the First World War, drawing primarily on museum collections of dress and contemporary periodicals as evidence. Fashion from the First World War period has been widely overlooked, both in dress history scholarship and museum practice. Though it has been suggested that the war ‘had a deadening effect on fashion’, this thesis argues that it sparked a range of creative, emotive and assertive sartorial responses, and fundamentally changed women’s dressing practices. This thesis further asks how Britain’s widely underused collections of garments from the First World War period can effectively be used in museums to ‘sum up, or make coherent’ aspects of the civilian female experience of war for museum visitors.

The main body of the thesis is divided into five chapters. The structure sheds light on the processes of finding, forming and sharing narratives of war through fashion objects. Chapters One and Five are centred around collections and their usage, while Chapters Two, Three and Four focus on dress historical study. Using the methodological approach of defining fashion as the material culture of war, the three dress history chapters each apply a different lens to investigate the relationship between war and women’s fashionable dress, focusing on austerity, modernity, and the embodiment of warfare. In doing so, this thesis fills a gap in dress history knowledge and reattributes significance to objects that have lost their provenance or been overlooked for other reasons, and argues that they should be used in the public domain to widen understanding of war and its impact beyond the Fighting Fronts. Attention is also paid to those objects from the period that have been lost, and it is argued that immateriality should not prevent objects from being used to form and share narratives of war.

This thesis demonstrates that fashionable dress is a powerful medium that can both generate and effectively communicate historical knowledge; covering such diverse subject matter as rationing, the development of synthetic fibres and the impact of air raids, all through the lens of fashion. This study represents a significant and timely contribution to dress history, dress museology, and the historiography of the First World War.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to third party copyright issues the electronic version is not available for viewing. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Keywords: Dress history, fashion history, First World War, wartime fashion, women's history, fashion and museums, museum practice, material culture, object-centred research.
Subjects: A General Works > AM Museums (General). Collectors and collecting (General)
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D501 World War I
N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Lennard, Professor Frances and Wieber, Dr. Sabine
Date of Award: 2019
Embargo Date: 4 March 2022
Depositing User: Miss Lucie Whitmore
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-41061
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 18 Mar 2019 15:07
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2024 09:01
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.41061

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year