The 1910s were a decade of great disorder and change in the United States. The first part of the decade started with peace and prosperity where America was declared as the richest nation of the world, but it ended with one of the greatest wars of the history-World war I. This war had a drastic effect on society and culture and eventually in fashion. The fashion of this decade features two periods-before the war and during the war. The basic changes in women’s fashion in the 1920s are often regarded as changes caused due to World War I. Fashion in the first half of the decade in the western countries was categorised by great wealth and luxuriousness and by a dull colour during the great war. Men wore cuffed trousers up to ankle length and were creased. Women’s skirt length rose above the ankle and they began to keep a bob haircut and finally, this paved a new way for fashion which was later associated with the jazz age of 1920s.
Women’s outfit in 1910:
Eminent designers such as Paul Poorer, Lucile (Lady Duff Gordon), and Jacques Doucet transformed fashion by producing clothes that defined the natural contours of women. They had to rebel against the old Edwardian notion, where women were required to have a constricted waist. Instead, they promoted silhouette which was less restrictive and more comfortable because women were looking for healthier lives and clothes to deal with the situation. Below given are the popular women outfits of the 1910s.
The 1910s Silhouette was softer than before and was dominated by the “S- shape”. While this natural silhouette was created by straight fronted corsets, it still maintained a touch of the previous decade by retaining the echoed style on the bust. The ball gown by G&E Spitzer shows how the S- curve is softened despite keeping top-heavy look. Soon, the s – shape began to disappear and skirts began to be thinner towards the end like a Doeuillet which emerged as a completely new style bringing a revived empire waist in fashion.
The fashionable silhouette became much thinner, soft, and graceful in the early years of the 1910s. When Ballets Russes performed Scheherazade in Paris in 1910, there was a sudden mania about the Oriental cultures. The designer Paul Poiret was the first one to bring this popular style into the fashion world. Poiret’s clients were once dressed up as harem girls in flowing Pantaloons, turbans, and vivid colours, geishas. The Art Deco movement was emerging and its influence was evident in the designers of many countries. Simple hats, turbans, and tulle replaced headgear which was popular in the 1900s. The first fashion show with the first female designer – Jeanne Paquin was organised during this period. Also, she was the second Persian to open branches in London, Madrid, and Buenos Aires.
Jacques Doucet and Mariano Fortuny were the two most influential fashion designers of the decade. Jacques excelled in superimposing pastel colours and his elaborate glossy dresses suggested the impression of reflected light. His loyal customers never lost a taste for this unique fashion ideas. Without any doubt, Doucet was an extraordinary design with a unique taste of fashion. Many people tried hands in fashion, but nobody could achieve success like Doucet.
Mariano Fortuny Madrazo, a Venice based designer became a popular figure in this age. For designing his dresses, he adopted a special pleating procedure and a new dying process. He produced long clinging sheath dresses and gave the name Delphos. The name Delphos has been derived from the long statue of the charioteer at Delphi. Delphos was made up of the finest quality of silk. It had a unique colour which it got after being repeatedly immersed in dyes. The shades mostly suggested moonlight or the reflections of the Venetian waters.
- Tunics and hobble skirts
The most popular silhouette of the period was the tunic on top of a long underskirt. Initially, women wore dresses of the directoire or the empire style and hence the waistlines started just below the bust. Such high waistline dresses gradually faded away when full, hip-length lampshade tunics were preferred on top of draped, narrow skirts. Later, skirts became wider towards the hip portion and had an extremely low ankle. These were called the hobble skirts which made walking in long steps difficult. Tunics worn over full-length skirts became a popular wartime trend just like utilitarian, simple clothing. Some french stylists like Jacques doucet designed simple clothes made up of cotton during the times of the first world war. During that time, women started to wear uniforms, which included trousers and overalls, especially those who worked in munitions factories or hospitals as nurses.
All dresses had soft and loosely defined waistlines. Gradually, their length dropped and by the mid-1910, they were waist length and remained so as long as the war continued. Even sometime after the war, waist-length waistlines were in fashion. Eventually, tunics became longer and underskirts shorter and fuller. By 1916, calf-length dresses came to be in fashion. Gradually, dressed had even more undefined and lower waistlines.
- Suits and coats
The tailored suit comprising a matching skirt and jacket was preferred, especially for travel, though women wore when in town too. Jackets were similar to tunics of the era, had defined raised waist. Aristocratic women of the age paired this look with fashionable hats and fur stole or scarves and carried matching muffs as well. Mostly, the coats were kimono shaped or cocoon-shaped, broad through the shoulders and streamlined at the bottom. Fur coats were also worn.
Women’s clothing after the first world war
Clothing after the first world war was influenced by more by necessity than by style and fashion. With the increasing number of women joining the workforce, hospitals, factories, etc. clothes that suited their work were needed more. Most women preferred shirtwaists and tailored suits. These dresses allowed them to do anything comfortably. All social activities and events were postponed as the number of dead and wounded kept increasing. A new monochrome style developed which wasn’t seen earlier and was unpopular among women of the age. Women simplified their clothing and dropped the heavy and unmanageable underskirts from their tunic and skirt dresses and wore shortened skirts instead. War crinoline dresses came up, which featured full skirts that had hemlines at calf length. These dresses were promoted as being practical and patriotic. Corsets were lined longer and hewed in a way that embraced the natural shape of the bodies of women. Later in the period, bras and other undergarments were introduced. The shapes, materials, and lines were softer and other dresses too became less heavy and more manageable.
When the first world war came to an end, a new type of dress called the barrel as silhouette emerged. Long skirts continued to be worn but stylists attempted to design body-hugging clothes. This outlook further developed into the popular flapper girl look of the great Gatsby period in the 1920s.
During 1910, small or solid figured prints were preferred during the daytime. Black, white, brown, or shades of grey were mostly worn by women. In the evenings, women wore brighter and more vibrant coloured dresses having larger, exotic prints. Fortuny and Poiret were famous for their wildly vibrant and concocted styles. Dresses had extensive embroidery or beadworks. Mostly daytime and evening wear dresses featured such designs on them. Gradually, the dresses had furs, tassels, and feathers on them, symbolising the new look of fashion. The hemline of the skirts was somewhere between the ankle and the instep. Evening dresses were, however, floor-length.
During 1910, women took care of their accessories too. Shoes had slightly curved and high heels. When they wore shorter skirts, they paired them up with stockings. Gaiters were worn during winters paired with casuals. A special design of shoes called the tango shoes featured criss-cross straps at the ankles which could be seen peeping from the wrapped and draped evening skirts. When the first world war continued, women wore laced shoes that had wedge heels and round toes. Large hats having broad brims symbolised the peak of fashion in those times. These gradually shrank to smaller hats which had flat brims. As we already said, short hair was introduced and women kept Bob cut hair to flaunt their style. The very popular dancer and actress and fashionista, Irene castle helped to popularise the short hairstyles. The short hair look was further enhanced with small wigs, postiches, curls, and buns.