FINE ARTS

Paris Fashion and World War Two: Global Diffusion and Nazi Control

Bloomsbury Visual Arts. Jan. 2020. 360p. ed. by ed. by Lou Taylor & Marie McLoughlin. ISBN 9781350000261. pap. $37.95. DEC ARTS
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Written by an international group of fashion historians, this comprehensive book challenges the view that while the Germans occupied France during World War II, no fashion innovations or exports came out of Paris. In fact, designer Lucien Lelong, then president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, convinced the Germans to keep the Paris haute couture industry in place, where it continued to operate through the war. The wives of high-ranking Nazis and French collaborators bought couture fashion in often elaborate, exaggerated styles that were said to mock them. While news of Paris fashion was disseminated most regularly to neutral countries such as Sweden, some Parisian couturiers such as Edward Molyneux decamped to London and ran their businesses there. Also, French couture clothes were available for sale and copy in the United States before the country joined the war. After the war’s end, the Allies looked again to Paris as the major fashion capital and arbiter of style, which was borne out by the success of the traveling exhibition of French fashion, Théâtre de la Mode of 1945–46, and of Dior’s New Look in 1947.
VERDICT Scholarly in tone and ambitious in scope, this book is recommended to readers interested in the fashion and history of the World War II period.

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