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1900s Edwardian Era - La Belle Epoque

Art Nouveau Edwardian Lady Pendant
 
 

For more information on this decade in fashion history, check out our list of books and reviews at Recommended Reading. Also please visit our Links page.

For bibliography referencing, the author of this page is April Ainsworth.

Women's Antique Fashions of the 1900s

Silhouette The popular figure was termed the "Grecian bend" or S-bend, comprised of a pigeon-breasted bosom, tiny corseted waist, and full, swayback hips. High, boned collars were worn in daytime with long sleeves, while some evening gowns were extremely low-necked with a band or ribbon for a sleeve. Wide picture hats were worn through the decade; all skirts swept the floor.

Common Designs in Antique Clothing

  • One- or two-piece trimmed shirtwaist dresses in white, black, or brown
  • A white, high-necked, trimmed cotton blouse with a heavier, dark skirt
  • Sheer white afternoon gowns with extensive handwork
  • Tailor-made jackets and skirts for working women
  • Silk evening gowns either in high-necked day style or with sultry bare arms and neck

Fabrics Available Natural fibers (linen, cotton, wool, and silk); cotton or linen was choice for most households' daily wear, in sheer organdy and batiste or opaque poplin. Evening wear was most often silk of some kind; wool was seen in the tailor-made suit and outerwear.

Popular Colors and Prints Daywear was most often in shades of white, brown, and black, commonly in a small figured or floral print; embroidered polka dots were often seen. Lightweight fabrics were normal, with medium weights seen in skirts and suits. Evening meant lightweight silks in sometimes brighter solids or light-colored hazy prints

Trims and Detailing Fancy trim meant status at this period, so trim was as excessive as possible on shoulders, waist, and lower half of skirt. Lace, embroidery, jet beading, flowers, ribbon, and net were all common trims. Tucks in fabric provided less expensive decoration and were especially common in wide bands on the lower half of skirts.

Hemlines Day and Night Both day and night, hemlines were to the floor; evening wear (and some daywear) was even longer.

The Latest Fads

  • Bicycling craze with tailored suits created for this purpose
  • Pastel silk sashes round young women's waists or tied flamboyantly in their hair
  • Men's straw boaters
  • Specially-engineered "health" corsets
  • Huge picture hats piled with flowers, ribbon, and stuffed birds or feathers
  • Gibson Girl fashions inspired by artist Charles Dana Gibson

Innovations

  • Shirtwaist blouses were developed for new working women
  • Sergers first used in the clothing industry