Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the Kent State University Museum will launch an exhibit examining the war’s dramatic and lasting impact on women’s dress and societal roles. “The Great War: Women and Fashion in a World at War, 1912-1922” opens in the museum’s Stager and Blum Galleries on July 24, with an opening reception taking place the same day from 5 to 7 p.m.
The outbreak of war a hundred years ago ushered in a period of immense social change, rapid technological evolution and the loss of millions of lives. At the same time, women’s workforce participation and social influence expanded considerably.
“Women directly served the war effort, not just as nurses, but also in roles that had previously been reserved for men, including service in the Navy and Marines,” said museum and exhibit curator Sara Hume. “Immediately following the war, women in the United States, Canada and several European countries received the right to vote.”
Against this backdrop, women’s clothing and fashion adjusted to suit lives increasingly lived outside the domestic sphere, precipitating a shift in women’s dress that would long outlast the war.
“Women adopted shorter skirts and a looser, less confining silhouette,” said Hume. “While many of women’s inroads into the workforce were quickly reversed once the war ended, the fundamental changes in how women dressed endured.”
The exhibit — which examines women’s lives at work, at play and at home — includes nearly 30 ensembles ranging from eveningwear to military uniforms to bathing suits. Also featured are a selection of contemporary propaganda posters, fashion plates, undergarments and accessories. “The Great War” will run through July 5, 2015.
The Kent State University Museum, 515 Hilltop Drive, is at the corner of East Main Street and South Lincoln Street in Kent.