Where to „shop” during wartime
During the war, some shops and department stores were still in operation, although their customers were mainly made up of the wives of Nazi German officers. Some Polish actresses, singers and socialites had a bit of money to spend, despite the misery that the war had inflicted upon the general population. The most popular boutiques of the time were Janette de Paris, Stefania i Helena, Józef Morawiec and Femina, along with the ‘fashion salons’ (salony mody) owned by Maja Bożejewicz and Zofia Hebda (pictured).
Here, customers could customize dress patterns that were based on current Parisian trends. They offered women’s and children’s clothing, along with hats, perfumes and accessories, as well as tailoring services. Zofia Hebda had a staff of over 20 people, so it’s certain that there were plenty of women taking advantage of its services (although few were eager to admit they shopped shoulder-to-shoulder with the enemy…).
Those who could, struggled to instill a sense of normalcy in their lives, bring back the customs and routine activities of life before the war, along with the elegance of that era. There was a great deal of attention given to the neatness and tidiness of one’s appearance, including one’s shoes. Tailoring services were in high demand – by the end of the war, there were as many as a thousand tailor shops (according to an unofficial count, as few Poles were willing to admit to such indulgences). Women rationed their perfume, each drop serving as a vehicle that brought them back to a better time through the power of the senses.
While some factories were closed down, many of them continued to produce goods as they provided cheap labor for western markets. Similarly, the labor camps set up in Germany used war prisoners to produce uniforms at ‘no cost’. They also made clothing for the wives of Nazi officers and items for brands that would eventually rise to designer status – such as Hugo Boss and its factory in Germany, where Polish prisoners were forced to produce its goods.
Even prisoners in Nazi labor camps did their best to maintain a modicum of decency through their clothing and appearance as a survival mechanism, expressing their individuality in, for example, the way they tied a headscarf. It was as little and as much they could do to retain a sense of humanity in inhumane circumstances.