From corsets to bras: Britain to commemorate history of First World War women

The official commemorations of the First World War are going to explore the contribution of women through fashion

They famously picked up the reins to keep Britain running during the First World War, taking on the job left by men, throwing themselves into manual labour and changing the course of women’s history forever.

The official programme to commemorate the centenary of the First World War will now celebrate how women not only kept the country going, but transformed the world of fashion while they were at it.

The 14-18 NOW project has commissioned an exhibition on “fashion and freedom”, exploring how the women of Britain went from “restriction to release” over the course of four years.

It will trace the history of fashion from “corset to bra” as female workers threw off the confines of their tight clothing to adopt shorter skirts, looser shirts and even in some cases trousers.

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It will show how they donned sturdy uniforms to befit their new physical work, including caps, overalls, and even skirts to work on public transport despite the perceived risk to moral life.

The show, which curators insist is not “frivolous” but central to social and economic history, is part of a year which is intended to celebrate the “changing role of women” during the First World War.

Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, said they would be invited modern designers to “respond and reflect on a moment when women’s fashion changed forever, when we lost the corset and gained the bra”.

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