1910s Fashion History - East Meets West


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 1910s

Silhouette For daywear, head-to-ankle coverage was required, with lowered necklines for the first time in decades. Decollete` and arms were often bared at night. The primary silhouette was a straight, squarish outline with low hips; sometimes a more natural, high-waisted Regency-inspired figure was popular, born out of the Aesthetic Movement. The ankle-length hem was extremely narrow for the hobble skirt style, and wide picture hats narrowed as the decade progressed.

Common Designs in Antique Clothing

  • Horizontal layered appearance in skirt or vertical wrap effect on tailored jacket-and-skirt sets and dresses
  • Long, ethnic-influenced tunic with skirt and waist sash
  • High-waisted silhouette with cummerbund-style wrapped waist, square neckline, and often stylized or Classical draping for evening

Fabrics Available     Natural fibers (linen, cotton, wool, and silk) used, with rayon (artificial silk) a new invention in 1910. Medium to heavy weight fabrics like serge and gabardine seen in tailored daywear. Lightweight, often sheer fabrics- organza, chiffon, crepes- worn in evening and afternoon dresses, with jersey popular as leisure fabrics.  Chanel used denim as a leisure fabric at this period, well before denim's heyday of popularity.

Popular Colors and Prints     Solids or small figured prints worn for daywear, with white, black, shades of gray or brown being most common. Evening saw brighter, varied colors and larger, exotic prints.  Poiret and Fortuny were well-known for their specially concocted, sometimes wildly vibrant hues.

Trims and Detailing     Extensive same-color embroidery and beading commonly seen on both day and evening wear. Braid worn on tailored garments and other daywear. Feathers, furs, and tassels donned for the new mystique look of fashion.

Hemlines Day and Night     For daytime, the hem fluctuated between a few inches above the ankle and the instep. Evening wear was floor-length, often with simple trains, though later styles were ankle-length.

The Latest Fads

  • Couture designer Paul Poiret's influence:
  • Extremely narrow "hobble" skirts
  • Asian and Middle Eastern motifs and silhouettes
  • Turbans and feather-spiked bandeaux
  • Lampshade skirts (wired to the shape of a lampshade hung from the waist)
  • Corsetless "liberated" women

Innovations     Rayon invented in 1910 as the first artificial fiber. It was introduced to common fashion in the late teens, but used by Chanel as early as 1915.