The Gazette du Bon Ton and the 1915 War Issue: Aligning Art and Commerce Through Fashion Illustration
thesisposted on 22.10.2013, 00:00 by Serena Washington
Amid news of men in the trenches of the First World War, and encroaching German soldiers, a group of couturiers, fashion illustrators, and writers huddled together at the Studium’s press in Paris to create the 1915 special edition of La Gazette du Bon Ton. Published in both French and English, and funded by Condé Nast, these artists sought to bring news of the latest fashions from Paris to the United States, where American socialites had been eagerly awaiting news of what was being worn in Paris since the war began. Both the Parisian publishers and the American market had something to gain by maintaining Paris’ hold as the crown of the international fashion market: Paris kept its cash cow since Americans, who were not yet involved in the conflict, had more money to spend on fashion and luxury than Europeans; Americans felt a sense of pride by supporting France in the war effort and wearing the so-called patriotic dress of the ‘war crinoline.’ The new ‘war crinoline’ style was exceedingly feminine compared with the ‘androgynous’ look that had dominated the years leading up to the war. However, the new fashions also featured a shortened skirt—reaching all the way to the mid-calf that allowed Parisians to walk more easily since transportation had been coopted by the war effort. The new style of dress fostered a tension between tradition and revolutionary innovation, at once reiterating the bell-shaped silhouette of the 1850s, but slicing inches from the hemlines to accommodate necessity. Parisian couturiers showed the new style of dress at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition to maintain control over the American market in spite of the war ravaging French soil. Both Lucien Vogel and Condé Nast attempted to hold onto the old world of Parisian taste dominating luxury fashions, even if it required Paris to come to San Francisco.