Wear and Tear: Life Stories and Sartorial Experiences in the First World War

Date

2024

Advisors

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

ISSN

1749-6306

Volume Title

Publisher

Edinburgh University Press

Type

Article

Peer reviewed

Yes

Abstract

During the First World War, 1914–1918, the British Army uniform provided an important tool in the transition from civilian to soldier and a symbol of a mass collective identity. However, soldier writings from the war and post-war years reveal the more individual experiences of their uniforms and the intimate relationships that formed between their physicality and the materiality of the garment. Focusing on the uniform experiences of British servicemen during the First World War, this article explores the narratives recorded in soldier correspondence, diaries and life writing to discover how men, despite wearing military uniform, continued to express the sartorial identities and practices developed as civilians. The uniform was central to soldiers’ physicality and their writings show that the materiality of the uniform became a conduit for their sensory and haptic experiences of the landscape around them. Yet the uniform remained only a temporary sartorial shift and, underneath, civilian identities and sensibilities remained resolute. Evidence of sartorial interventions and personalization expose the attempts to ameliorate the fit and feel of the uniform. Shining a light on these narratives of the uniform on a more personal and affective level challenges us to reconsider the boundaries between uniformity and individuality.

Description

The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.

Keywords

First World War, uniforms, sartorial identities, personalization, sartorial literacy, object biographies

Citation

Neal, R. (2024) Wear and Tear: Life Stories and Sartorial Experiences in the First World War. Costume. 58 (1), pp.48-70. DOI: 10.3366/cost.2024.0286

Rights

Attribution 2.0 UK: England & Wales
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/uk/

Research Institute

Institute of Art and Design