Women’s costume 1900-1930
Women’s costume 1900-1930
Further publications have been devoted to particular periods from the 18th century to 1900. With this number, the sixth of the series originally envisaged, the account of the development of English Costume as illustrated in the collection at Platt Hall is brought up to 1930, not 1940 as was intended, it having been found more convenient to limit its scope, pending the completion of thd series at a later date.
The growth of the Collection has been so rapid, however, that it seems appropriate at this stage to give some indication of its increasingly representative character. So many additions have been made, both by gift and purchase, including examples of men’s and children’s wear, that it is now one of the richest collections in the country of costume from 1700 onwards. All kinds of clothes, underwear, outer garments and accessories, have been acquired and, where possible, series of each type of garment are being formed in order that every aspect of British costume may be studied and the continuity of its development demonstrated. Of items earlier than the 18th century there are necessarily few, owing to the scarcity of surviving specimens but the range of the collection goes back to a shoe of the 15th century and a group of knitted caps of the 16th century, whilst a number of 17th century articles are included.
Such purposeful expansion and the evidences of it which have been provided by periodic exhibitions, on themes like Fashion Discovers History; The Waistcoat, its Flowering and Decline 1750-1950; Footprints of Fashion (showing the changing shape of the shoe from 1700-1950); Fashions of One Lifetime; and Sport, its Influence on Women’s Costume, 1850-1950; are their own tribute to the knowledge and enthusiasm of Miss Anne Buck, who has been Keeper of the Gallery of English Costume since 1947.
Director, Manchester Art Galleries.
The first generation of the twentieth century achieved the most revolutionary change that fashion has yet brought to women’s dress. This change made its full impact in the 1920’s. Between 1925 and 1930, for the first time, women’s legs below the knees are visible as they walk the streets, in stockings of flesh- coloured shades of silk, or of a new fabric whose fibre, for the first time, is not a natural one, but made by man. The head where helmet-like hats fit closely over short-cut hair has also bowed to revolution.
The dress worn to greet the new century, darkened in the following year to mourn for Queen Victoria, still belonged, with society, to the century and reign which had passed; and, like society, was now breaking into its last, luxuriant expression. Already during the last two years of the 19th century, the form of the 1890’s had loosened and softened as the skirt was cut to follow more closely the curves of the body, and to fall in a softly curving line at the hem. Soft fabrics, light and open in texture, pale in colour, with merging patterns, emphasise and multiply the new undulations. After 1901 the lines of the bodice are blurred by the wearing of a short bolero over a loose blouse or by loose overhanging layers of construction and trimming.
Within this curved and flowing form the first hints of change enter by 1907 as a vertical line begins to appear amongst the intricacies of construction and ornament. The waistline rises slightly, lengthening and slightly straightening the curving line of the skirt. The bodice draping folds more closely to the figure, and a long slender line, still showing slight curves, as the waistline is moulded into the bodice, leads, by 1911, to a vertical line, a straight, narrow skirt with a raised and marked waistline. This form, in its long vertical and short horizontal lines suggests the dress of a hundred years earlier, a likeness which once again revives classical inspiration in a transparent tunic draped over the skirt. This introduces a new horizontal line at the level of the knee.
The war of 1914*8 now breaks into the movement of fashion. The* narrow skirt swings out at the hem, which rises 1915-7, to give the shortest dress yet seen in historic times in Europe. But the war was not the origin of the changes which followed, although it may have swerved or driven change further. The dominant line of the changes of the 1920’s was already set by 1912. The direction of the later movement, the lowering of the waistline, had appeared in the dress of young children before 1910.
With the end of war, dress returns to the vertical line of 1914, but keeps its shorter length. The waistline moves downwards towards the hips, 1920-2, giving a looser and wider line; a temporary lengthening of the skirt follows, 1923-4; but with the waistline settled at its new, low level, the skirt once more rises in 1925 and, within a year, rising almost out of existence, has reached the knee. Here it remains until 1929 when, in evening dress, the first movements of a new style appear, as the skirt tentatively reaches for the ground, in panels falling below the hemline and in a hemline dipping at the sides or back. These bring a new flowing line into the rectilinear form, the basis of the new form of the 1930’s.
The mobility and freedom of die dress of the late 1920’s is its most striking character, the complete loss, for about five years, of the skirt which twenty years before had swirled and rustled in volume to the ground. From the beginning of the century plainer, more practical versions of the contemporary style were worn for active occasions and ways of life, but they shared and followed the basic line of the time. For this brief period the influence of mobility and freedom dictates and dominates the whole form penetrating into formal and leisured dress, a reflection of deep social movements which, like fashion, through the upheaval of war, have reached the climax of change.
Anne M. Buck Keeper, The Gallery of English Costume.
NOTES ON THE PLATES
SILK EVENINQ DRESS AND CAPE, 1900-1
A separate bodice and skirt is still the usual form 1900-10 (Pis. 1, 2, 4). The bodices of Pis. 1, 2, 4, 11 are lined and boned; the skirts of Pis. 1, 2, 4, 5, 14 are lined or mounted on an underskirt. Bodices in Pis. 1, 2, 4 fasten at the front, skirts, at the back in Pis. 1, 4, at the left front in Pi. 2; fastenings in Pis. 11, 12, 14 are at the back; there are no fastenings in Pis. 15, 17, 20. Pockets are in the hems of the underskirts in Pis. 1, 2.
Evening dress, 1900-1, bright pink silk chiffon and cream, machine-embroidered net; cape, cream figured silk, quilted lining, white feather trimmings and sequin embroidery.
The rippling flounce at the hem emphasises its new line.
Afternoon dress, 1903, white woollen muslin, printed in pink, green and blue, bobbin lace and net; hat, black velvet and pleated silk muslin, blue silk flower and metal bar ornament; parasol, mauve watered silk.
The flounced skirt sweeps to a slight train, the bodice, pleated and lace-edged, falls loosely as a bolero and pouches at the waist, repeating this effect in the lower sleeve.
Parasol, printed chiffon lining, hat and bodice of dress, 1903 (PI. 2).
Hats rest lightly on a high, wide hairdressing. Parasols have elaborate linings 1900-5.
Bodice construction of dress, 1903 (Pis. 2 and 3); cotton lining, thirteen bones, centre front fastening of hooks and eyes; vest and stiffened collar, silk-lined, fastening at left, shoulder and back of neck; left bodice front fastening over vest; pleated silk belt sewn to lining; sleeves tucked down upper arm, falling full over cuff; maker’s name on waistband.
The fitted, standing collar is worn on day dresses until 1913. Complicated fastenings hold the loose and draped layers of bodices in place.
Evening dress, 1907-8
Blouse and skirt, 1907-9, white woollen crepe and lace; red wool, black leather belt, metal buckle. Dark cloth costumes, or, more informally, a blouse and skirt, the dress of growing numbers of women employed in business and the professions, give the bare, practical version of the contemporary style.
Chemise, 1911, white cotton, embroidered and threaded with blue silk ribbon, and lace; matching PI. 8b.
The chemise grows shorter, by the 1920’s has disappeared into the vest. Lighter cottons and linens replace more solid fabrics and underwear loses its weight and volume.
Corset, 1906, cream figured silk, lace and clribbon; eighteen sections, spaced boning, vertical and diagonal, busk fastening.
The busk is straight, held in position by suspenders now attached to most corsets; the elaborate shaping with gussets gives freely curving lines to the breasts and hips. After 1907 corsets become longer and straighter.
Drawers, 1911, white cotton, embroidered and OU threaded with blue silk ribbon, and lace; matching PI. 7.
This form is now disappearing, replaced by knickers seamed down the centre, fastening each side.
Combinations, 1907-9, white muslin, embroidered and threaded with pink silk ribbon, and lace.
Wide, skirt-like legs in combinations and knickers appear with the elaboration of underwear 1900-10; both garments become shorter, reaching the knee by 1910.
Fan, 1905-10, white silk muslin leaf, embroidered in sequins; ivory sticks and guards, inlaid sequin and incised decoration; white kid gloves.
Fans become smaller and more delicate in fabric 1900-10, then, apart from a short revival of large feather fans in the 1920’s, gradually pass out of use.
Shoes, 1910-2, cream satin and ribbon, JLvJL) diamante buckle; dress, figured green and silver lame, 1912.
A long tapering shoe develops with the slimmer line of the skirt. Very narrow versions of the skirts, tapering to the ankle and making movement difficult, are worn, 1910-3.
Evening dress, 1911, pink and blue shot and watered silk, tunic pink and blue gauze, embroidered net and Honiton applique lace; back section of skirt overlapping tunic and falling in a square train.
The new line of the skirt, straight and narrow with a high waistline, is often softened by a transparent tunic.
Afternoon dress, 1911-2, white embroidered muslin, with insertions of coarse bobbin lace and netted silk; hat, green and white chip, silk ribbon and white cotton daisies.
Simple in form but elaborate in embroidery these “lingerie” dresses were much worn 1910-4. Hats have grown larger and now span the shoulders.
Sports coat, 1918-20, brown and fawn knitted wool and rayon.
“Norfolk jersey coats” which had appeared by 1905, lose their connection with sport, and penetrate, as cardigans, into everyday dress, bringing machine- knitted fabrics, already in use for stockings, underwear and sportswear, with them. The new fabric, rayon, originally called “artificial silk”, appears mainly in knitted fabrics 1910-20. The hair is now cut short, following the closer, plainer hairdressing of the years of war 1914-8.
Day dress, 1918-9, grey-blue serge, cm- 1 I broidered and fur-trimmed; tunic ending in square collar at back; black kid shoes; black silk stockings.
The skirt which has widened and shortened during the years of war returns to the vertical line of 1914, but retains its looser form and shorter length with a new emphasis on a horizontal line.
Afternoon dress, 1922, cream silk crepe, printed cotton applique and silver thread embroidery, apron front; hat black satin and lace, cream silk stockings.
The waistline falls to a new low level 1921-2; silk stockings in flesh-coloured shades are now generally worn.
Afternoon dress and coat, 1925; dress, beige i-U georgette, navy blue piping and embroidery; coat, blue silk, inside ties, fur (antelope) collar; blue felt hat.
Dresses which had lengthened back almost to the ankle 1923-4, rise again in 1925. Short hair is dressed closely to the head beneath the closely fitting “cloche’1 hat.
Evening dress, 1927, pale orange georgette, pale JL | orange and yellow beads; silver tinsel shoes; beige silk stockings.
The minimum of shaping and fabric is used in the short evening dresses; bead embroidery, often covering the whole fabric, is the usual ornament.
Petticoat, 1928, orange-pink silk crepe, em- JLO broidered; short gathered sections over hips. Silk, in light colours, is now the usual fabric of underwear of simple shape and slight ornament.
Corselet, 1925-30, pink figured cotton and 1/d rayon, elastic, cream lace; short boned section inside front; hook fastening.
Corsets, with elastic panels replacing boning, are now shaped to flatten the figure. They are worn with a brassiere, a garment developed from the camisole, with the new function of flattening the breasts, in this combined “corselet” form.
Knickers, 1925, white lawn, drawn thread LylJ and applique embroidery, bobbin lace. Wide square legs, ending at the knees, gathered and held by elastic at the waist, repeat the line of the short skirt.
Evening dress, 1929, dark blue watered silk over blue georgette and beige crepe underskirt; blue diamante trimming.
Cross-cut panels bring a more flowing line; inset above the low waist they foreshadow its return to a higher level and, falling below the hem, make the first lengthening of the skirt.