Style in Spite of it All
The dynamic development and growth of the fashion industry of the 1920s and 30s were brought to a halt by the outbreak of World War II. Despite the horrors of the war, Polish fashion did not disappear completely but rather changed its direction and character.
In wartime Poland under Nazi occupation, the pursuit of fashion was part of the struggle for a sense of normalcy. Gaining access to clothing, or even fabric, was nearly impossible, but the drive to do so was a mode of survival.
Not only was there a dearth of textile suppliers, but there weren’t even enough people to sew the clothes. Many of Poland’s tailors had been of Jewish descent and perished in the Holocaust. At the time, DIY was no longer a trend, but a necessity. As the saying goes, ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Military wear, understandably, was a strong influence at the time. Women’s fashion followed this utilitarian current, becoming more functional as it drew its shape from soldiers’ uniforms. Shoulders became more prominent, hemlines were raised and pockets were added. More and more women began opting for trousers.
There was an emphasis on impeccable, pragmatic hairstyles, such as the French twist, which kept the hair neat and away from the face. Two-piece suits and high heels were coveted items that fit in with the aspirational look of the period. Nylon stockings and hats were impractical and difficult to get ahold of, so these were set aside – at least in the summertime.