The ANZACs* of 1915 formed a pivotal moment in New Zealand's history as our national identity was forged on the battlefields of Gallipoli, Turkey during World War I. Drawn from a population of just under 1 million, 10% of which served overseas, 2721 soldiers were killed and more than 7000 wounded, the flower of our manhood.
*Australia New Zealand Army Corp
The women during this period, holding the fort at home, have earned my deep respect. When men's presence is required elsewhere, whether it be for protection, provision, or pioneering and exploration, women often have to shoulder tasks that require unaccustomed strength and courage, mental and physical acumen. The challenge was then and still is how to cope with these upheavals whilst keeping our femininity. I wonder, how did the Anzac's women do it?
Over the past decade, it's been amusing to watch the constant fossicking into the past by up-to-the-minute fashionistas. Trends dip into the weird as well as the wonderful, mixing eras in a hodge-podge of fine and freaky, dotting question marks over the distinction between classic, vintage, and historic. Among this season's fashion tableau, I've found a few reflections of early 20th century fashion, but first, so you get an idea of the era, let's look at these newspaper illustrations, circa 1915.
The photographs contrast the dainty, refined woman and the active, outdoor woman. Fashion was adapting to cater for energetic pursuits.
In 1915, a lady of elegance dressed in fine cottons, voiles, and muslins, with white stockings and white, heeled pumps.
Here, women of Wanganui hoe potatoes to raise funds for wounded soldiers. Every single girl wears a white blouse, many with a tie or scarf at the neck. Most hems are above the ankle. This view shows half of the original photograph, in which there were 27 women and only one did not wear a hat.
Below are a selection of dainty whites available from www.AprilCornell.com. I've popped a swishy April Cornell skirt in the middle for effect. Everything at April Cornell is currently 15% off.
Cotton voile, pintucked, trimmed with fine crochet
Will need camisole or undershirt
Woven cotton in white or pink
Cotton voile, lined
Charlotte Ladies Camisole
Kerry Ladies Camisole
Cotton/linen blend, available in white or coral
www.OverlandFootwear.co.nz. Stores are stocking this style with a variety of heel heights.
Belted coats and knit jackets with wide lapels or collars are readily available this year. The next 2 styles are available from Ezibuy in New Zealand (follow the links) and Australia.
Ballentynes offers drapey knits to go over a feminine blouse. Note that the sleeves are all quite close-fitting. Sleeve fashion is in transition from form-fitting to 80s batwing (oh horrors), so check that your blouse will sit comfortably underneath.
A year ago I wrote Fashion Forum on the Farm, discussing options for active women. That theme continues to crop up. When life requires you to handle tasks traditionally the responsibility of men in trousers, how do you retain your femininity?
It's so easy to slide into convenience, and the slide can be so subtle we don't notice it's happening. When you're handling the hoe or coaxing the cow, driving the Datsun or dicing the dinner, do you still look and feel like a girl? There are no absolutes for what a woman should or shouldn't look like, but let's celebrate the womanhood God has given us. I hope you'll think on that this weekend as we remember the heroic men and women who've gone before us.
To add to your ponderings, here are two snapshots of life that addressed themselves to me this past week:
1) Restroom signs for the illiterate depict a male with a silhouette of trousers and a female wth a silhouette of a dress.
2) A 4-year-old boy asked his grandmother why she wore skirts and he didn't. How would you respond?
Merino jersey: Sally Mac's, Amberley (available now)
Scarf: The Warehouse
Suede wool-lined shoes: Mr Strong, the Shoemaker