Fashion History – 1910-1920

1910 -1914

The style of the ‘S’ shape was being replaced with a straighter line and a waistline that moved up to the empire line. This style echoed the time of the regency era along with military collars and wide collars. 

The skirts narrowed and moved higher off the floor. The high collar around the neck went out of fashion. Women covered their necks for such a long time in fashion that is was a bold step! It is said that the clergy were ‘outraged’ that women would show their necks and health experts predicted there would be an outbreak of pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Dresses were often easier to get in and out of with front buttoned one-piece dresses, sleeves tended to be tight fitting. In 1912 the hobble skirt was introduced, women could barely take a full step in this restricted dress. Not rocket science to assume that this style didn’t last long. Pegtop skirts were also in fashion with the fullness concentrated at the hip and gradually narrowing to the ankles. 

Evening dress was similar to day dresses but with finer fabrics and decorative touches such as wide belts, sashes, embroidery, lace, beading and fringe. 

One of my absolute fashion icons at this time was Queen Maud of Norway. Her extensive wardrobe still survives today and I was lucky enough to see some of the pieces at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. What I remember being most shocked about was her waist. It must have been between 18 – 20 inches!

Maud engaged with contemporary fashion throughout her long life, and commissioned many of the great designers of the day, notably Worth, Blancquaert and Morin-Blossier. Her wardrobe illustrates the impeccable standards of couture dressmaking and tailoring of the period. Style and Splendour showcases some of the most spectacular garments, now in the collection of the National Museum of Art/Museum of Decorative Arts and Design in Oslo, and sets them clearly in the context of Queen Maud’s life and times.

There is a book that you can buy for more images of the fabulous detailed dresses here

1914 – 1918

Brassieres had been introduced 10 years earlier, but within this period they became more popular as underwear moved away from corsets. One piece dresses were still preferred to two piece. During the war years the silhouette grew wider with much shorter skirts. Hems rose six inches from the ground in 1916 and then eight inches by 1917.

The fit on the body was often easy and the waistlines were defined with belts. Necklines tended to be square or v neck. Sailors collars were made popular during this period. Skirts were often full which was achieved through pleating. 

1918 – 1920

This period is often known as the transitional period between the end of the war and the approach to the ‘boom’ era of the 1920s. Due to a lack of supplies from the war effort the silhouette grew narrower, this shape was defined as the ‘barrel shaped’. In 1919 designers turned to narrower skirts but also dropped the hemline back down to the ankle.