Further to our recent delves into the archive of SHOWROOM Vol.I, here is a wonderful insight and example of resistance through style penned by regular contributor and ‘antiquous oracle-ius’ Simon Andrews.
FRENCH RESISTANCE – IMPOVISED STYLE IN OCCUPIED FRANCE – by Simon Andrews.
New York, August 1939, and Time magazine, reporting on the Parisian autumn collections, somewhat prosaically notes that, “whoever runs the world, Paris intends to go on making his wife’s clothes”. However, within a few months, as German forces hovered on the perimeters of France, it was clearly evident that no European city would be able to boldly claim such influence. What was to evolve, by contrast, was a hybrid yet distinct style borne from necessity and infused with covert and symbolic aspects of a defiant national identity.
‘FTPF FFI’ Communist Résistance brassard, white cotton and embroidery, with Phrygian bonnet motif, France, c.1943-1944.
Paris, May 1940, the eve of the invasion, and Lucien François, editor of Votre Beauté magazine, observes that “every woman in Paris is a living propaganda poster”, acknowledging the proliferation of cheerful summer colours, patriotic silk scarves and the use of popular Gallic imagery. However, such buoyant optimism masked the practical realities that necessitated the stockpiling of many materials now deemed necessary for the war effort, and the sober consciousness that fashion, or rather clothing, should now bring considerations of practicality to the fore. Although the Parisian couture houses were to remain operative, supplying a wealthy elite throughout the duration of the war, the humble reality was that most materials – silk, leather, and even wood were rationed by 1941. Prompted by a paucity of materials, the fashion-conscious Parisienne, now obliged to improvise, personalized a distinctive silhouette of high hemlines, towering headdress, and clattering wooden- soled platform shoes – the latter jauntily celebrated in Maurice Chevalier’s `La Symphonie des Semelles de Bois’.
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