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The Great War: Women and Fashion in a World at War, 1912-1922 Opens at Kent State University Museum

Posted Jul. 21, 2014
enter photo description
Pictured is a rust-colored silk suit. Label:
'The Linder Co., Cleveland', American,
1914, which will be featured in the Kent
State University Museum's exhibit, The
Great War: Women and Fashion in a
World at War, 1912-1922

(Photo by Vanessa Port)

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 Thursday, July 24, with an opening reception taking place the same day from 5 to 7 p.m.

The outbreak of war 100 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,” says Sara Hume, museum and exhibit curator. “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,” says 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 looks at women’s lives at work, at play and at home — includes nearly 30 ensembles ranging from evening wear 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 is located at 515 Hilltop Drive, at the corner of E. Main St. and S. Lincoln St. in Kent. The museum is open to the public on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. - 4:45 p.m.; Thursday from 10 a.m. - 8:45 p.m.; and Sunday from noon - 4:45 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $3 for children under 18. The museum is free with a Kent State ID and free to the public on Sunday. Parking is free.

For more information, call 330-672-3450 or visit