Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The 1910s in fashion.

In the nineteen teens, the silhouette of what women wore looked a lot like this:

Fashion historians are always going on about what was happening socially defined what people wore. Sometimes they're full of it, but in this case, they were spot on.

Women were fighting for the right to vote here in the US, and getting more liberated all over the world. Check out these suffragists:

Sure, I'm a fashion geek, but whenever I think "right to vote", I think of these clothes. These were what the stylish, independent, badass woman was wearing in the 1910s. (They were independent, but never thought to take off their hats... I wonder if that was a style concern, or a social one?)

One of the first things these independent, badass women did was ditch the corset. Since women had been wearing corsets for a century, no one was quite sure how to dress. Remember our old buddy Poiret? He was one of the first to jump on the no corset idea, and he did a better job of it than most:

Fortuny also worked in this era, giving the world the Delphos gown and loose jackets and capes:

But really, other than a few skilled designers, the bulk of women's clothing in this era was very obviously in transition, between the ruffles and fluff of the 1900s and the sleek glitz of the 1920s. Everyone seemed paranoid at the idea of someone getting a glimpse of an uncorseted breast or waist, and so they layered like crazy. No one's quite sure, but most historians think the bra didn't get invented until the 1920s, so this era was underlined (haha) but a lack of what we think of as proper undergarments. I guess this is kind of how we still dress, when not wearing a bra and worried about stray jiggles. (Don't we?)

Occasionally, you run across something sleeker and slimmer, but I suspect the sleek evening dresses had stays and boning sewn into the dress itself instead of a corset. Not much of a change, except in terminology. (We still do that. I've sewn stays into evening gowns, myself, when making them. These days we use plastic, but we're still using engineering to strap ourselves in.)

Remember, many of the women wearing these dresses were the same ones who'd been wearing corsets in the 1900s. If they grew up wearing corsets, they would have had small waists even after they took the corsets off.

And since we're enjoying the clothes, here are some coats from the same era:


historicstitcher said...

Why would they leave their hats on? Hmm...maybe because a tan or burn was the sign of a laborer and they were still ladies, even if they were not wearing corsets?

Don't forget that socially, a lot of these women still were incredibly religious and until recent times most Christian and Jewish sects still required women to cover their heads in public.

I lean towards the lack of sunscreen excuse as the most likely reason, though.

Sarah said...

Save for the lace at the cuffs, that yellow coat seems almost modern! Of course nowadays it would be much more tailored.

I'm really enjoying this series a lot, especially after a recent foray into the history of men's fashion. I wanted to know at what point it was fashionable to wear long pants rather than knee breeches, and I shouldn't have been surprised when it all started with (a) the French Revolution and (b) Beau Brummel.

Mollie said...

That first coat, I wants it. I imagine that along with the sun exposure aspect, the hats were because all these ladies still had oodles of hair, and it's a lot easier to just pull long hair into a bun and cover it with a hat than to try to style it. Thank god for the bob.

Emily said...

Stunning clothes. Wonderful pics!

Hats? Respectability was still an issue, corset or no, and everybody wore hats...plus the hatpin would have been a handy item of self-defense.

Louiz said...

Gorgeous. I know in this country the suffragette colours were green, white and purple... and a lot of department stores offered clothing in those colours as a way of showing support to their customers, but that was later than the time you've covered here.

Anita said...

Have you ever seen the British series The House of Elliot? It's about 2 sisters who establish their own fashion house in the 1920s. It's wonderful to look at, think you would really enjoy it.

Always enjoy reading this blog!

amy said...

I like some of these pieces an awful lot. Others simply remind me of the type of thing Bea Arthur wore in the Golden Girls. (Is it just me? Maybe!)
Looking forward to the 20s--will there be gin?

Donna Lee said...

First thing the women of the 60's did was take off their bras. Kinda like getting rid of those corsets. I remember watching my mother stuff herself into a girdle (modern corset) and being very thankful I didn't need one.

Roxie said...

Hats as an indicator of status and as a thermal layer. Even men wore hats outside. It wasn't till John Kennedy went bare-headed that men began to forego a natty topper. Now we are left with the feed-store gimme-cap and no manners about when and where to wear it.

Besides, the hats were PRETTY! And remember, women washed their hair maybe once every two weeks if that often.

LOVE the styles! I could carry off most of those coats. . . (she muses)

Amy Lane said...

Oh baby-- the pictures made my day! And it's funny--I do think of suffragettes in those clothes--it seems that no matter what the era of women's lib, it's all about letting things jiggle where they may!