Clothing in America 1900- 1914

Commonly called the la Belle Époque era, European countries still heavily influenced the clothing during this period and the elegance carried on from the late 1800’s. Women modeled their behavior and appearance upon the Gibson Girl the popular image of the “New Women” and were highly influenced by advancing feminists. Styles were formal and romantic, shoulders were padded and fabrics were light. Women often wore straight front corsets to accentuate slim waists and long torsos. The trends for both men and women were designed to accommodate their rapidly evolving lifestyles and also represented a ‘costumy’ feeling. Fashionable women started buying more dresses for every occasion, some which were basic and meant to be simply worn around the house.

Clothing was more accessible and could be produced for lower prices so women changed their outfits quite frequently throughout the day. Surprisingly, women wore suits with blouses and acquired sporting clothes for more active events, ideas that were previously only applicable to men. People starting to test the elements of fashion, mixing men and women’s clothing, styles and patterns and the idea of fashion started to represent a form of expression rather then simply a social status. Men reflected the changes in tailoring and fashion after the Gilded age, undershirts were made of silk and tops and trousers were both short and long.

Fashion rapidly spread throughout the country, from designer stores and department stores to tailors, so the concept of custom fitting clothing according to the client’s measurements was not uncommon. People started to experiment with fabrics, making bolder statements and taking risks that were new to the world such as belts around the waist, velvet skirts, and beaded trim. Although many women did sport corsets it was not as bizarre to go without one, some thought it to be a passing fashion and the corset-less empire dress from the early 1800s came back into style. The photo below shows the favorable slim waists, long torsos, vibrant patterns and colors, and  a looser flow.

Designers such as Paul Poiret and the Tirocchi sisters heavily impacted the revolutionary changes in American clothing with their influential loose gowns, high waistlines, colorful peasant embroidery and free- falling form. The haute couture movement in Paris set a tone for the rest of the world and wealthy men and women sought these Parisian designers out and had their clothes imported. Quite frequently, horse races served as a debut for important new fashions and well-known designers sent models to attend these races wearing their latest creations.

In 1914 after the start of WW1, attention and materials were drawn away from fashion design and no significant developments occurred again until peace was declare at the end of 1918.






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