★ Lovely illustration showing a selection of day outfits designed by Gabrielle Chanel, published in ‘Les Elegances Parisiennes’ in March 1917. A product of changing social realities and the harsh practicalities of the First World War, these three outfits are the embodiment of late-1910s style.
Motivated by the practical needs of women who were entering the workforce as part of the war effort, styles departed from earlier heavily-corseted shapes. In an overall silhouette that was the most popular and longest enduring of the decade, the belted tunic jackets feature deep V-necklines with looser-fitting and more softly defined waistlines, and are paired with full, calf-length jersey skirts. These outfits also show clearly the trend for rising hemlines, with the tiered skirt (centre) in particular foreshadowing the knee-length skirts that would become fashionable in the 1920s.
Details too are indicative of the era, with the outfits having far fewer embellishments than designs from the opulent ‘Gilded Age’ of only a few years before. Fashion and all its frivolities were heavily impacted by the deprivations of the First World War, and you can see that extravagant and expensive decorations like lace, beads and feathers no longer feature on either the clothing or the ladies’ hats. The look is altogether simpler, less restrictive and more practical than in earlier eras, and is indicative of the general direction of women’s fashion into the 1920s and beyond.