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Lesson 12 The Turn of the 20tynth Century | History of Fashion Design

Lesson 12 The Turn of the 20tynth Century

The Turn of the 20th Century

Step 1:Read any new comments and/or questions written by the instructor (Tara Maginnis) and others relating to the posting of your description of your garment. Follow any instructions given, and/or try to answer the questions Tara has posted to the Message Board.

Step 2:

Read the online “lecture” on dress at the Turn of the 20th Century below and click on any links that interest you.  You are not required to read all the material on all the links, however:

Dress at The Turn of the 20th Century


La Belle Époque 1890-1914

Women’s dress in the 1890’s continued to be built in a sturdy, heavy, upholstered style, but the silhouette changed to that of an hour glass.  Female bodies were corseted to a small waist, and then padded in the buttocks, hips, bosom and sleeves to exaggerate the apparent wasp-waisted effect.

Hats began to grow larger in the 1890’s, a trend that continued steadily until 1911.

Men’s Dress in the 1890’s took a turn towards greater formality and dandyism in Europe, and went in the opposite direction in the U.S. where the popular mode was brightly colored sportswear.

American men of around 1900 tried to emulate the image of the “Arrow Shirt Man” drawn by J.C.Leyendecker, with brightly colored shirts and hard white tubular collars worn under the sporty Sack Suit jackets, that had recently moved up from sport clothes to business wear. During this period in the US, the European fashion for Frock coats like the Prince Albert Coat and the Cutaway is gradually displaced by the sack, so much so that even rich American men sport an evening version of the sack, the Tuxedo, to male only parties and semi formal events.

  • Menswear of the Turn of the Century
  • Sack Suit Choices

The Hourglass shape of the woman of the  1890’s transformed after 1897 into the “S” curve of 1897-1908. This change came from longer lined “health” corsets that supported the spine and abdomen, especially when they were over-laced by the fashionable. Fashionable women in this period seem to be leaning into a wind. The curvaceous clothing line of this period meshes perfectly with the curving lines of the dominant decorative style of the day, known as “Art Nouveau”.

Most women’s dress in this era was highly influenced by the advancing feminist cause, which after 1903 escalated to widespread civil disobedience by “Suffragettes” (radical suffragists).  Women modeled their behavior and appearance upon the Gibson Girl the popular image of the “New Woman”.   Men’s clothing styles such as the suit, shirt, hard collar and tie were worn by women forcing themselves into professions formerly occupied by men. Health fads of the 1890’s and 1900’s also encouraged women’s sporting activities, particularly bicycling, which, in turn promoted sport clothing as a fashion.

Aesthetic dress worn for a recital “In a Berlin Singing Academy”  in Max Von Boehn’s Modes and Manners of the 19th Century

Dress reform, continued to be a hot topic in this period, even gaining such notable adherents as Mark Twain.

Artists such as Mariano Fortuny in Italy and the Wiener Werkstaette group in Austria continued to design Aesthetic reform costumes such as Fortuny’s Delphos Dress, and  dress became progressively more comfortable, practical and aesthetically pleasing in this whole era.   The beauty of the designs worn in this era are so apparent that the period 1890-1914 is commonly called la Belle Époque (“The Beautiful Epoch”)

  • YouTube – Otis Fashion Presentation Mariano Fortuny
  • wiener-werkstaette.com
  •  “The Reformed Dress”, 1902 in Max Von Boehn’s Modes and Manners of the 19th Century

Women’s clothing after 1900 became lighter and lighter in construction and materials.   A popular style in this period was the “Lingerie Dress” a feather-light white cotton dress inset with strips of open work lace and net.

After 1908, women’s dress became more vertical in line, and less “S” curved.   The vertical line became so pronounced after 1910 that highly fashionable dresses tended to hobble the wearer.  Corsets began to be replaced by brasseries and other light foundation garments.

  • YouTube – Fashions in corsets and lingerie, year by year: 1900 – 1950

The Ballets Russes  production of Sheherazade, designed in 1910 by Leon Bakst,  pushed Paris fashion towards an Orientalist style in the early Teens, a fashion which was to give birth to the “Art Deco” style.  As a result of the Orientalist style, Parisian designer Paul Poiret again introduced “harem” pants for women, although they were, again, not widely adopted.


  • YouTube – Fashions in corsets and lingerie, year by year 1900 – 1950
  • YouTube – Fashion Shows 1911-1926
  • YouTube – Vintage Fashion Vintage Clothing French Fashions of 1913
  • YouTube – Vintage Clothing 1917 Fashion Show

Poiret “harem pant” costume for the races, c.1912

  • Russian Influences on Fashion

Costume after 1911 again goes into a sharp transition period, which continues until the early 1920’s and ushers in the Modern period of dress.

Step 3:Imagine you are producing a play set in this time period, or are having to outfit a group of reen actors for a period event such as The 1900 House.  You have a huge budget, but little time, and need to buy pre-made costume items (NOT antique/vintage items) and commercial patterns in order to get the job done on time.  Using the Pattern page, the Victorian Links page, the 1900-1910 Links Page, and the Costumes for Sale page, and an online search, find suppliers for most of the items you might need.  Describe what you could, and could not, find online in a post to the Message Board by this weekend.  Be sure to include links to sites you think will be useful to your fellow students.


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