Fashions from the Turn of the Century

Shoes. 1900. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Let’s start up with clearing up a few things.

1) I am keeping this blog running HOWEVER since I’m currently in the home stretch (spoiler: I’ve never ever seen a game of baseball in my life) of my final year as a University student updates may be a bit sparse until I’m done with exams etc.

2) I’ll be posting a couple of posts related to the “anniversary” of Titanic’s demise. I hate using that word to describe such a sad event, but it seems it’s the best word English can offer.

3) This blog has a new layout! And whenever I find the time to make one, a new header too!

Unless you’re living under a rock, you may have noticed that Titanic’s Centennary is coming up right soon. You may also have watched Downton Abbey (which I thought was called Downtown Abbey for the longest time). I’ve watched most of Downton Abbey, mostly for the costumes because the drama in season 2 turned me off most of the characters, to be honest.

I’ve long since been fascinated with historical fashion. My mother recently reminded me that I could often be found looking through books on historical fashion I had brought home from the library, studying them quite intently.

So since the centennary of Titanic is coming up, I though I might take a look at what the ladies of Titanic and Downton might be wearing. Think what you want about the 1997 Titanic movie, Kate Winslet’s costumes were porn for fashion nerds.

Beginning with the basics, the silhouette of the Edwardian lady changed quite a bit with the advent of the S-shaped corset. The difference is illustrated below. Putting it into the words the new style of corset would push the torso forward, by putting pressure on the stomach and spine.

The difference between a "regular" and an S-shaped corset illustrated.

The S-line corset is so named because it makes the lady's figure vaguely resemble an S

Dress. 1908. The Kyoto Costume Institute

Ball Gown. Jean-Philippe Worth, 1900. The Kyoto Costume Institute

Dress ca. 1908 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ball Gown. Jean-Philippe Worth, 1900-1905. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The gowns above show us what wearing the corset would make a gown look like in action. You can tell how the bust tips forward, and the stomach slopes inward. The dress shown from the back is interesting also, because it shows that wearing an S-corset almost creates a mini-bustle effect, harking about 30-40 years back in time.

Evening Dress. Jean-Philippe Worth, 1900-1905. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Necklines were often high (if you can even call the above example a neckline). Ball gowns were more liberal with the amount of cleavage shown, but walking gowns, evening dresses and basically anything not used at balls would close at the neck or envelop the neck itself in fabric. This can also be referred to as “My Biggest Nightmare” in a gown. I can’t abide turtlenecks, and however much I adore the dress-type above I could never dress like that day in and out.

Dress. Jeanne Paquin, 1906-1908. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Evening Dress. Jean-Philippe Worth, 1906-1908. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. For the Turn of the Century Goth!

Dress. Jean-Philippe Worth, 1900. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The pink dress almost reminds me of 1790 post French Revolution gowns. I think it’s the bodice.

Evening Dress, 1911. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ball gown ca. 1900-1903 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Evening Dress. 1907.The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Of course, it takes more than just a gown to complete an outfit.

Cape. 1905-1910. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is an example of Turn of the Century outerwear.

Turn of the Century hats grew to astounding sizes and were elaborately decorated. I love how over the top they are.

Hat. Mme. Pauline, ca. 1911. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hat ca. 1908-1910 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hat. 1905. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Hat. Madame Alphonsine, ca. 1910.

And also these swim costumes, because they are amazing and I want to wear them everywhere, except, perhaps, the beach.

Bathing Suits. 1900s. The Kyoto Costume Institute

So that’s an insight into what Turn of the Century, Edwardian, Gilded Age, Nouvelle Vague, whichever term you prefer,  ladies might wear out and about. Now, should I work my way backwards through fashion history or not? Decisions, decisions.

2 comments on “Fashions from the Turn of the Century

  1. Laura says:

    i would suffocate in those necklines. and sleeves. i can’t even wear regular t-shirts without fidgeting all day.

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