World War I had a dramatic impact on the fashion and film industries in the United States and many of the resulting changes had long-lasting effects on the development of Hollywood’s wardrobe departments. The satirical presentation of French designs in American film from its earliest days related to large and complex cultural issues, including nationalism and economic competition. After the outbreak of World War I in Europe in 1914, the quest for “American-ness” in both film and fashion intensified, eventually affecting film content, as the United States sought not only to capture European film markets and establish the country as the center of the industry, but also to challenge France as the center of the fashion industry.1 US popular culture media’s resulting association of French cinema, “Frenchness,” France, and fashion with immorality, pretension, and bad taste was established in opposition to an increasing focus on American design, which was presented as less commercial, more practical, and, most importantly, informed by “authentic” American values. The “American” values that were being reinvented during this period affected not only what was produced in the film and fashion industries, but also how fashion was presented on the screen. The US film industry benefited greatly from the disruption to the European film industries during the war, continuing its expansion in Europe and increasing its growth in markets outside of that continent.2 Contemporaneously, as the film industry continued its move to the West Coast of America, the foundations were being laid for an expanded industry, based on a more sophisticated, corporate studio system.
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- World War I and “American” Design in Fashion and Film
Michelle Tolini Finamore
- Palgrave Macmillan UK