1900s Fashion

The first flight by the Wright brothers, the first silent movie and L. Frank Baum publishing The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; the turn of the 20th century determined much of what would happen in the decades that followed. It was also a time of revolution for fashion as Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel rebelled against the impractical and extravagant look of the time but it wouldn’t be until a decade or two later that their influence was really seen.

Edwardian fashion celebrated hourglass silhouettes created by corsets, floor length dresses with trains, puffed sleeves and wide brim hats with flamboyant decoration. The most affluent fashionistas of the time would sport an entire stuffed hummingbird on their millinery. Paris was very much the epicentre of trend setting and the most prominent designers of the time were based there including Charles Worth (whose fashion house was continued by his sons after his death in 1905), Doucet, Lanvin and Paquin. However some British couturiers have also left a legacy in including Lucile, the fashion house founded by Lady Duff-Gordon. Fashion magazines, such as American Vogue, would feature the illustrations of these designers as well as gradually introducing photography and by 1911 the first fashion photoshoot took place using Paul Poiret gowns. It was published in French magazine Art et Décoration.

Men’s fashion was structured on suits for different occasions. Boxy, looser styles remained on trend and button flies were used until the zip was invented in 1913. Shirts often had detached collars, most often with tipped ‘wings’ and ties were slim and long. Top hats were still worn for formal occasions, while bowler hats were common every day wear. For informal affairs, striped shirts and straw boater hats were popular.

Whilst the styles from this time may not be so wearable, they are incredibly valuable. Most couture dresses by Poiret and his contemporaries are with private collectors or in museums. Other collectible items from the decade include Hamilton pocket watches and Louis Comfort Tiffany jewellery, which was produced for Tiffany & Co. and often featured chunky motifs of nature and scarabs.

A more wearable way to introduce 1900s fashion in to your modern wardrobe is Art Nouveau jewellery such as cameos, long pearl necklaces and stones such as agate, garnet and opal. Many, more affordable, costume jewellery pieces are easy to find and make wonderful statement pieces.

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