Monday, July 28, 2014

The War to End All Wars

Today is the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War I- which we have to enumerate because it was not the war to end all wars. (Makes your head spin to think of all the wars that have followed and which continue to rage around the world.) When  I was growing up, that 1914 - 1918 conflict was just" the war." By my teen years, we had to add the "I" Both my and my mother's high school years coincided with war years, even though in her case, the United States was not actively involved until 1918. Both wars had to do with Germany, too. She remembered calling sauerkraut "Liberty cabbage," a ridiculous euphemism of the type that resurfaced not long ago in calling one of America's favorite bad- for- you foods "freedom fries."
Apparently, the popularity of Downton Abbey's WWI episodes  and ""War Horse" have sparked an interest in what is also called "The Great War" to go along with this sad anniversary. The Kent State Fashion Museum is featuring an exhibit  of women's fashions from that era. Their advertising touts the Downton Abby connection, hoping to attract fans of Lady Mary's and Lady Edith's costumes to pour into the display.  They will be disappointed, I fear. It's a fine exhibit, but the emphasis on the clothing of women who served during the war-nurses, canteen servers, auxiliary aides and the like. There are some absolutely stunning posters by artists of the period, some great gaitered, high-buttoned, pointy toed shoes, a few big hats I would love to own and about a dozen dresses, none of which are anywhere near as spectacular as the ones we saw on TV. So it's  an interesting exhibit but DA does not loom large.
Since it was the era of my parents' youth, I dug up some artifacts of that long past time to ponder.
The picture above is one my mother did in her high school art class. The assignment was to design what I think was called a walking outfit, although those shoes don't look that comfortable, though tres chic.

That's my father perched jauntily like a hood ornament. He is wearing his ROTC garb. He was a college student during the war, commissioned a second lieutenant upon graduation, by which time the war was over. What he is wearing is pretty much what the WWI doughboys were wearing in the trenches. He has on what look like gaiters instead of those wrapped puttees.
My Uncle Ed, my mother's older brother, was in the army and was sent to France. He was traumatized by fear of poison gas, and couldn't wait to get out of there. The picture below is on of the souvenirs he brought back from France to my mother.


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