The 1900s was the height of The Edwardian Era. It was given that name because of King Edward VII of England.
The 1900s body ideal
Every decade had its own ideal body and the relationship between fashion ideals and the ideal body is symbiotic. But how would you describe the Edwardian body ideal in one word, simple: Elegant. It was all about elegance and what comes with elegance is height. Not only being tall but also having a long neck was being considered a body ideal. Next to that having a full bosom, tiny waist and full hips were found most attractive. It wasn’t called The Age of the Hourglass for no reason.
But how did women achieve this shape? Easy with the help of extreme corsets or tapeworms. I know that sounds as gross as it is but what else could women do to achieve this ridiculous body shape ideal. They didn’t want to lose their weight in their bosoms or bottoms so they would drink a beverage with a tiny tapeworm in it. What some people are willing to do for beauty…
The 1900s beauty ideal
The ideal beauty was called ‘The Gibson Girl’. She was invented by Charles Dana Gibson, an American illustrator. She would appear in fashion magazines and advertising. She was sort of snooty looking, her eyes slightly downward cast and it’s incredible hairdo. The name of the hairdo was called ‘A Cottage Loaf’. Why was it called like that you may ask? In the 1900’s there was a type of bread that was popular called a cottage loaf and it’s basically a round bread with another knot of bread on top.
The makeup of that decade was simple really. Women just wore a little bit of rouge and then, of course, they would have their incredible cottage loaf hairdo. Which they would often decorate with feathers and combs and thing like that. It was a very natural look.
Every decade we are going to look at style icons and this is our very first style icon. Her name was Miss Camille Clifford and she was an actress. Originally she was a Belgian but she made it big in New York. She was famous for her incredible thin waist. She really had that wasp figure the people admired in that decade.
Designer of the Decade
The designer of the decade this time is Lucile, actually Lady Lucy Duff-Gordon. She was an English aristocrat and very famous fashion designer. Although she wasn’t very innovative she very much adeers to the ideals of the day and was just very famous. As time went on she became a little bit more innovative and a little bit more dramatic. Lady Duff-Gordon doesn’t just belong to a fashion story. Lucy Duff-Gordon and her husband were on the Titanic, yet she survived. She was one of those upper-class upper deck people who got into the lifeboats.
Fashion of the 1900s
The world was moving much too quickly at the Turn of the Century, so fashion clung on to old ideas of adornment being equal to status. The more stuff you had on you, the more fashionable you were. Modernity, urbanization and the new technology made women cling to ultra-feminine fashion ideals, and to clothing that was inappropriate for a world of cars, trams and very soon airplanes.
This hourglass sort of ideal was really informed by the dominant aesthetic of the era, which was called Art Nouveau. Art Nouveau was a movement in art, architecture, interior design and also fashion. Art Nouveau was all about swirling sinuous curvilinear shapes. Some people say it was a return to nature.
Like I already said earlier one of the most iconic clothing pieces were corsets. There were different kinds of corsets. In the early 1900’s you had the ‘Hourglass’ shaped corset and a few years later the ‘Pigeon Breast’ was introduced. It was called like that because the chest was stuck out like a pigeon’s breast and the butt stuck out at the back. These were also known as the safety corsets because it was believed that they were better for your internal organs.
Another thing that was a real iconic were those big hats. These were named ‘Cartwheel Hats’ because they had the shape of a cartwheel. These hats were enormous, remember that people were still clinging to the idea that the more stuff you had, the bigger it was, the more stuff you put on top of it, the more fashionable you were. Sometimes these hats would weigh up to 50 pounds. It was like wearing a toddler on your head the whole day.
Parasols were ‘the’ accessory for fashionable ladies, but obviously, hats that size were not used to protect a woman from the sun. They were to help her balance as she walked. Imagine you are walking around with a hat that weighs from 10 pounds up to 50 pounds of ostrich feather on your head. You’ve got this weird tight corset on and also your dress, although it’s made with very beautiful lace in a very light palette, it’s going to be heavy.
The Edwardian palette was very soft, very feminine. Lilac was one of the big colors. Other colors were soft dusty rose pink and ivory.
Another iconic fashion item of the Edwardian Era was probably the ‘Shirtwaist’. Basically, it was a blouse and everybody wore them. You would always wear it with a long skirt out of a sensible textile like wool or tweed, always in dark colors. Why? So it was durable so you didn’t have to launder it so often but your shirtwaist could be laundered more frequently to keep you fresh. Even those high fashion ladies wore these at home to boss their servants around.
And what about the Edwardian Gents? They were dressed at their best at all times. They were extremely conscious of the way they dressed up. The shirts that men wore were very sophisticated, long sleeved. The typical look consisted of a collared shirt and a trouser. The shirts were mainly made from linen, cotton, ramie, silk or wool. The color of the shirts was mainly white which symbolized class and sophistication. The men were often seen in sack suits. They were loose fitted clothes, long and simple. The suits that are worn during the present times are kind of similar but they are fitted clothes and they are shorter. These suits came in hues of dark shades like navy, brown, green or grey. Edwardian men were also seen putting on gloves and hats. Ties were a popular accessory too.