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College of Human Ecology

K-State 'Ration To Fashion' exhibit to feature world war II-era clothing

Thursday, October 20, 2005

MANHATTAN -- The Kansas State University Costume and Textiles Museum will open a new exhibit with a reception at 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, in Justin Hall's Hoffman Lounge. The exhibit, "Ration to Fashion," will feature fashions and military uniforms men and women wore during World War II and the postwar era.

The exhibit will be open 1:30-4:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays and by appointment through Jan. 11, 2006. Displays will be throughout the building and in the Apparel, Textiles and Interior Design gallery in 328 Justin Hall.

"We are very excited to open this exhibit to the public," said Marla Day, curator of the museum. "Our collection will feature around 120 to 150 different ensembles."

Friends of the Costume and Textiles Museum have supported the research, collection and display of the items. Their efforts will be evident in the vast array of apparel, according to organizers.

"'Ration to Fashion' is an appropriate title for this exhibit because people during World War II and the postwar period wore fashions that were directly influenced by the rationing of certain fabrics, materials and accessories," said Barbara Gatewood, professor emeritus of apparel, textiles and interior design.

Clothing styles of the time were drastically affected by factors such as the rationing of wool and metal, according to Day. Wool, used during wartime in the making of military uniforms, was not readily available for civilian clothing production so formerly full dresses evolved into simple A-line sheaths. Many different materials were also substituted for wool. Metal, used in zippers, was rationed to make guns and bullets. Small snaps, buttons or ties replaced the zippers.

"Our collection will demonstrate how simple clothing became during wartime, and this includes wedding and evening gowns," Day said. "However, we will have on display a red silk chiffon gown made by one of the only couturier dress houses left open in Paris during the war, which was Lucien LeLong."

Many of the exhibits will feature not only the fashion of the era, but also the stories that go with each item.

"We have numerous gowns from war brides," Day said. "Some of them are very simple. One was made by Martha Streeter, married in 1941, and was made of wool crepe so that it could be worn again. This thinking was very typical for the time period. We will also exhibit uniforms from different military branches of the service such as the Women's Army Corps, along with those of U.S. military veterans."

Donors from all over the nation have contributed to the exhibit. The K-State Historic Costume and Textiles Museum provides a safe and controlled atmosphere for some of these donors' most prized family heirlooms, Day said.

"One of our most interesting displays is that of our 'fallen heroes,'" Gatewood said. "One of our items will be an American flag placed over the coffin of Paul L. Sisson, a K-State graduate in mechanical engineering in 1938. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his acts of heroism in flying bombing raids over Osaka, Japan."

Postwar fashion also will be highlighted in the exhibit, which will demonstrate the extreme shift from wartime styles.

"1947 brought a bold new look to fashion in America," Day said. "Full Dior-inspired dresses were seen for women and tailored sportswear was being worn by men. Hawaiian shirts in bold colors also appeared during this postwar era."

Guests at the catered opening reception will be served elegant interpretations of foods based on items available during this period of resource rationing. For more information or to make reservations for the opening reception, contact Day at mday@k-state.edu or at 785-532-6993. The cost per person is $25.

This article was posted on Thursday, October 20, 2005, and is filed under Apparel, Textiles, & Interior Design.