Saturday, 28 April 2012


There was no change of direction on the political, economic, or fashion scenes to mark the start of the new decade. The war was over and life for the people of the 50s was good. The 1950’s were conservative, optimistic and sophisticated with the new captivating dimension of Television.  

The women of the 50s had the house to clean, the children to look after and barbecues and cocktail parties to plan. The focus of women in the fifties was to be the house wife. There were many occasions to dress up and dress up she did.  Christian Dior’s “New Look" and Coco Chanel helped out immensely with their glamorous designs to give her the “every inch the lady” look that was taught virtually from the cradle.  She wore gloves and simple feminine swing or pencil styled skirts that accentuated the hour glass figure. Teen girls were as conservative and preppy as their parents.  They wore dresses every-day, and petticoats over big gathered shirts. Cardigan sweaters worn backwards with the buttons down the back with a string of pearls or scarf. With Marilyn Monroe performing in The Asphalt Jungle and All about Eve, both in 1950, attention started soaring for the actress and model. Marilyn, even now is known as a pop and cultural icon.

America had emerged from the war years with increased prosperity. Wartime restrictions had been quickly removed, and the new “consumer society” was forging ahead, helped by such new developments as the start of the credit card system in 1950. But many European countries, Britain included, were still rebuilding their shattered economies, and there rationing continued well into the next decade. The new colours of the 50s were pastels – feminine shades, that would usually  be associated with bedroom and bathroom interior became popular in the kitchens. 

Friday, 27 April 2012


As the decade began, fashion had not really changed and was not very attention grabbing. The silhouette for the man and woman had hardly changed from the previous years. The female shape consisted of wide, padded shoulders; a narrow natural waistline; thin hips; and a skirt that fell to just below the knee. For men also, the line fell in an inverted triangle from square shoulders down to the waist and hips.
Accessories were still essential for women. Hats remained popular, with styles varying from those tipped over the forehead to those planted firmly on the back of the head. During the war, however, hats were increasingly replaced by fabric head scarves and turbans, especially for women involved in war work in factories. It could be said that hats were one of the casualties of war. For a time, there was also a vogue for “snoods,” a kind of pouch made of fabric or of knitted or crocheted yarn that held fashionable long hair in place at the nape of the neck. Purses took the form of small box bags, especially in black plastic patent with a mirror in the lid. For daytime, women carried over-the-shoulder bags or large “clutch” bags without handles. “Crushed” suede gloves with flaring cuffs were popular for day wear. These were elbow length but were worn casually pushed down the arm; hence the name crushed. For evening wear, shirred (gathered with elastic thread) rayon jersey gloves were considered a glamour accessory around 1944 as fabric replaced leather. Despite this continuity, there had already been occasional hints of change on the runways of the fashion salons in both Paris and New York, where a number of designers had been experimenting with a new silhouette focusing on the waist. 

In 1947, Dior introduced the "New Look", featuring longer and fuller skirts and a return to the classic femininity of a nipped waist. 


Fashion of the 1930s was directly influenced by the great Wall Street Crash and the depression that the crash caused. The crash also directed the beginning of the decade saw women sewing more and clothing was mended and patched before being replaced which meant less ready-to-wear garments were purchased.
A softer, more feminine style replaced the boyish, flapper look of the twenties. At the beginning of the decade, hemlines dropped dramatically to the ankle and remained there until the end of the thirties. Necklines were lowered and darts were replaced by soft gathers and the dress waists returned to the natural waistline. Necklines were often with wide scallop-edged or ruffled collars. Skirts were also designed with great detail with the layered and ruffled looks being popular. The skirt bottom was often full with pleats or gathers.
The entertainment industry continued to exert a strong influence over fashion. Movies were one of the few escapes from the harsh reality of the Depression. Movie star endorsements of styles and accessories became common, especially with evening wear. A popular formal look was the empire-waist gown, with ties at the back, and exaggerating the look with butterfly or large, puffy sleeves. Hemlines fell at the ankle and trains added a further formal touch. Bows were another popular accent.
Fur of all kinds was worn extensively during this era, both during the day and at night. Fur capes, coats, stoles wraps, accessories and trimmings adorned women’s dresses. Pelts in demand were sable, mink, chinchilla, Persian lamb and silver fox.
Women’s sportswear was influenced by a more masculine style. Sport suits, leather jackets and middy slacks became popular. The cloche hat was replaced by the beret which was worn at an angle. Pill boxes became popular along with brimmed hats.
Washable, easy-care fabrics were introduced during this decade. The first openly synthetic fibres were developed in the 1930s. In 1935 the DuPont de Nemours Company successfully synthesized nylon. Nylon was introduced in stockings during 1939 but its use in fashion was interrupted by World War II which meant the use of the synthetic fibre was not widespread until after the war.

Friday, 13 April 2012


Youth in this decade was at a minimum because so many young people were killed during the war. As a result, teenagers had a new freedom that they used to usher in the Afro-influenced jazz age. Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, Rudolf Valentino, and Josephine Baker were popular stars of the time, personifying many of the modern ideals.
For women, face, figure, coiffure, posture and grooming became important fashion factors in addition to clothing. In particular, cosmetics became a major industry. Glamour was now an important fashion trend, due to the influence of the motion picture industry and the famous female movie stars.
 The 1920s saw the emergence of three major women's fashion magazines: Vogue, The Queen, and Harper's Bazaar. Vogue was first published in 1892, but its up-to-date fashion information did not have a marked impact on women's desires for fashionable garments until the 20's. These magazines provided mass exposure for popular styles and fashions.
During the early 1920s, waistlines were at the waist, but were loose and not fitted. Women wore suits with long hemlines and somewhat full skirts, often with belts at the waist of the jackets. Dress and suit bodices alike were worn loose, even baggy. By 1923, waistlines began to drop to a point between the natural waist and hips, while styles continued to be loose and baggy. In 1924 the waistline dropped to the hip.

In 1925, "shift" type dresses with no waistline emerged. At the end of the decade, dresses were being worn with straight bodices and collars. Tucks at the bottom of the bodices were popular, as well as knife-pleated skirts with a hem approximately one inch below the knee.
In 1928, styles changed again, hemlines rose to the knee and dresses became more fitted. These changes laid the foundation for the elegantly styled fashions of the 1930s.Women, celebrating such liberties as the right to vote in , were now more daring than ever before. It was considered fun to smoke, visit speakeasies, wear makeup, swear, and otherwise shock conventional thinkers. In 1927 when short skirts were all the rage; young women strove to show off their knees. Many girls even rolled down their stockings and painted rouge on their knees in an effort to emulate a "naughty schoolgirl" look. The curiosity for exotic arts and culture was fueled by the discovery of Egyptian King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922. Egyptian themes appeared in everything from furniture to clothing. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012


In the early part of the decade, fashion was fairly calm and collected, but this all changed in 1914 when World War I broke out. The war changed the world and fashion forever. WWI was the most dramatic event of the decade and even past decades, but a number of other important events  also happened. Events like the women's suffrage movement, the roots of Prohibition, and the Great Influenza epidemic of 1918 fundamentally changed American society. The RMS Titanic sank on her maiden voyage in 1912. Frank Lloyd Wright's Arts & Crafts movement began to take hold, and silent films featuring stars such as Charlie Chaplin and Mary Pickford were adored.
Dresses took on a whole new look. Gone was the corseted waist and in its place was the hobble skirt taken from the Middle East where it was known as the “harem”. Paul Poiret who as the time was a well-known designer was credited for his work in fashion as he was heavily influenced by the eastern design and colours. Some of his skirts were so narrow that it was nearly impossible to move in them. Shoes and hosiery also became more exotic and colourful, most notably when Poiret commissioned the Perugia shoemakers to create a line of Eastern-style jewelled slippers.

The Great War (1914 to 1918) had changed people's lives in every aspect. Family men and everyday men went off to fight in Europe and the women were left at home to work in the local factories and look after their homes and family. As the women's independence increased, so too did their levels of activity and their desire for practical shoes. Shoes and clothing were collected as part of the war effort and people were encouraged to be less delicate. Clothing became more practical, taking on a tailored, mannish appearance. Hemlines began to inch up as wartime shortages made fabric hard to come across.  Fashion again took a dramatic turn when the war ended. As interests changed, so did clothing. Sportswear was increasing in popularity and such fashions were soon incorporated into everyday dress. U.S. Rubber developed the first sneaker, called Keds, in 1917. 


The period between 1901-1910 is often called the Edwardian Era, also known as La Belle Epoque which means ‘the beautiful era.’ This was a time when woman’s fashions took on a new opulence and extravagance, inspired by the decadent lifestyle of Britain's King Edward VII. It proved to be an era consisting of beautiful clothes and the peak of luxury living.

As the century changed so changed clothing design trends. Gone was the bustle (a pad at the rear end) and heavy fabrics of the previous century. A new, lighthearted concept overtook women's fashions along with a sentiment of eternal summer with dresses made of light weight fabrics for a more active lifestyle. This came hand-in-hand with the women entering a changing, more commercial workplace and wanting more independence in the future.

Traveling suits were also necessary since motor cars had come into vogue and those who could afford them purchased them and spent many a weekend day traveling. Since these cars were usually open, they created dusty and dirty atmospheres as country roads were often unpaved. Along with the ladies' traveling suits, loose topcoats in leather were worn, or special motoring coats from Burberry or Aquascutum. These also acted as protection from the weather and cold. Oil blasts could be a problem so women also wore thick face veils with their hats and even goggles. Very deep high lace fabric collars that reached right under the chin elongated the neck. High necks were usual by day, but by night exceptionally low sweetheart, square and round low-cut necklines allowed women to wear quantities of fine jewellery and no cleavage was visible as the bust was suppressed into a tight monobosom.

Early in the decade, with all the fussing about with the top portion of the female body people developed a preference for narrow feet, which was believed to be a sign of breeding and gentility. Both men and women regularly wore shoes that were a full size too small. Some women even opted to have their little toes removed to achieve narrower feet.

The years from 1900 to the outbreak of World War I were a time of extravagance and ostentation. The function of clothing was becoming more practical especially with the motorcar coming into vogue. The late years of the decade were geared towards making the 'world safe for democracy'. WWI changed not only fashion, it changed the entire world forever.