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The "Stylish Battle" World War II and Clothing Design Restrictions in Los Angeles


This dissertation explores the wartime fashion culture of the city of Los Angeles during the Second World War in order to explore consumption-based tensions that emerged in response to federal restrictions for the purpose of conservation. The War Production Board's General Limitation Order L-85 took decisions over the measurements of clothing (i.e. hem width or sleeve length), the presence of embellishments (i.e. pockets or dolman sleeves), and the general silhouette of fashion (i.e. relative skirt fullness) out of the hands of fashion designers. Through L-85, the fashion industry, an industry once famous for the principle of planned obsolesce, was transformed for the duration of the war into an "effective mechanism" of war that could satisfy the dual needs of the military and civilians. Even more so, through their use of patriotic marketing strategies, L-85 potentially helped consumers first articulate, and later demonstrate, their acknowledgement of the war effort. By purchasing streamlined, simplified fashions, female consumers, in the words of fashion designer Gilbert Adrian, could "register taste without extravagance," and thus potentially participate in a communal performance of patriotism.

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