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Book Review: Women's Lives and Clothes in WW2

This illustrated insight looks into the experiences and fashions of women worldwide during WWII and its aftermath.

Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2: Ready for Action, by Lucy Adlington (ISBN 9781526712349, Pen & Sword distributed by Casemate Publishers, 908 Darby Road, Havertown, PA 19083, 610.853.9131; Hardcover, 296 pages, 250 color & black-and-white illustrations, 2019, $49.95)

This book answers the question, “If you were a woman during WWII, what would you wear?” It actually digs deeper: “How would you dress for a winter mission in the open cockpit of a Russian bomber plane? At a fashion show in Occupied Paris? Singing in Harlem, or on fire watch in Tokyo...?”

Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2 is a unique, illustrated insight into the experiences of women worldwide during WWII and its aftermath. The history of ten tumultuous years is reflected in clothes, fashion, accessories and uniforms. As housewives, fighters, fashion designers or spies, women dressed the part when they took up their wartime roles.

Attractive to a general reader as well as interesting to a collector or reenactor, Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2 focuses on the experiences of British women, then expands to encompass every continent affected by war. Woven through all cultures and countries are common threads of service, survival, resistance and emotion. Historian Lucy Adlington draws on interviews with wartime women, as well as her own archives and costume collection. Well-known names and famous exploits are featured as are many never-before-told stories of quiet heroism.

While all will enjoy this book, it really isn’t directed at collectors or reenactors of female military personnel. Rather, you’ll indulge in stories of luxury fashion, bridal ensembles and enticing lingerie, as well as thrifty make-do-and-mend. You’ll learn which garments were essential to wear during a bombing or how a few scraps of clothing would keep you feeling human in a concentration camp. It is a much better read than a guide to collecting.

Women’s Lives and Clothes in WW2 is richly illustrated with many period photographs of 1940s costumes and fashion images. This book provides a foundation to understanding female fashion of the era.

You may also enjoy:

*Book Review: Deutsche Kriegsmarine

*Military collecting: Not just an "old boys' club"

*Catherine "Kitty" Chappel: A WWII Red Cross Volunteer

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