The Victorian fashion era began with Queen Victoria’s reign started in 1837 and ended in 1901 upon her death. It marked a critical time in Britain’s history and around the world. The period saw many changes in fashion, including changes in styles, fashion technology, and the methods of circulation. Various movements in architecture, literature, and the decorative/visual arts as well as a change in approach of the traditional gender ‘roles’ also influenced fashion. Modesty and propriety were a very important feature of Victorian fashion, dresses that covered the arms and went right down to the ankles were recommended and looked down upon if not worn. The 1840’s fashion is characterized by low and sloping shoulders, a low pointed waist, and a bell-shaped skirt, that grew increasingly larger throughout the decade. Neckline Bertha (first recorded in 1835–45; named after Bertha who died A.D. 783, wife of Frankish king Pepin) was a staple in the Victorian era for its low-shouldered neckline worn by women. This cut of neckline exposed the woman’s shoulders. It was often trimmed all over with lace flounce (ruffles) or the bodice has a neckline that has been draped with several horizontal rows of fabric pleats to create extra volume. However, the skin exposure around the neckline was only restricted to the upper and middle class, working-class women during the Victorian time period were not allowed to reveal so much flesh.
Edwardian Era. After the passing of the deeply influential Queen Victoria, who died at 81 on the 22nd January 1901, her son Edward rose to over the throne. Known as the decade of the Suffragette, the Titanic, and the Gibson girl. The 1901-19010 transformed the fashion industry unconditionally. Couturiers of Paris introduced a new columnar silhouette, with distinctive ‘S’ shaped curves. This was generated by the introduction of the ‘s-bend’ or ‘health corset. This was the style that altered the wearer’s posture and silhouette. Towards the end of the decade, the fashion turned to girdles and away from the dramatic hourglass silhouettes that have been forced apron women in 1837-1910. Fashion-conscious bustles gave way to long sleeves and a Slim-trim fit. Elongated silhouettes curvy hips and fuller low chests were the unique characteristics of the Edwardian Era. A belt or sash was often worn with different dresses, this would effectively nip in the waists and would complement the dress. Towards the end of the Edwardian Era, (1908) the skirts left the floors and reached ankle length. This saw the beginning of a trend, which continued through the years to come. A new generation of hats also was introduced for daywear in the era. Between the two most popular hats were the automobile bonnet was meant for use while riding and sailors were preferred for tennis matches.
The Roaring 1920’s. The 1920’s fashion centered on the revolution of ‘freedom’ in clothing but also morals. Both men’s and women’s 1920’s clothing broke out of the prim and proper molds of Victorian and Edwardian ideals and into free-spirited casual clothing. The roaring 20’s fashion gained comfort while showing off an entirely new and outrageous use of color and decoration such as beading and different textural embellishment fringing and lace. Casual sporting attire was introduced in the 1920s. In addition to bathing suits, tennis uniforms, and golfing outfits, simple, comfortable skirts, sailors blouses, and the large-brim hates were worn by women to effusive they are free-spirited. Flappers wore short or bobbed hair, a dress that came to the knees; her stockings were rolled below powdered knees. The flapper dress was baggy hid her curves however showed her arms. Young looks that tried to hold on to the look of the prepubescent girl while at the same time being overly, and cursedly sexual. The waists dropped drastically, therefore, creating a more relaxed waisted silhouette. By 1926, dresses reached their shortest length. Short evening dresses are elaborated with brightly colored beading and fringes such dresses gave birth to the famous cocktail dress of today. Overall the central idea of the 1920s woman’s fashion was the worship of youth and sex.
1930’s Bias Cut Clothing. The decade began with the immediate effects of the 1929 Wall Street crash in America, which drained fortunes rapidly and quickly affected the whole American economy, leading to widespread poverty. The ’30s saw the birth and rise of ready-to-wear clothing and therefore the production of clothing cheaper, man-made fabrics like rayon and silk. Fashion was now available to most not just the privileged few and it absolutely was beautifully designed, cut, and made for consumers. The silhouette was long and lean, partially because of the popularization of Madeleine Vionnet’s bias cut, a way that permits fabric draped over the body. This involved cutting the material at a 45-degree angle rather than along the straight grain and salvage age. This method allowed giving emphasis on the woman’s natural carves using a horizontal stretch pattern. Old Hollywood evening gowns include backless, sleeveless long bias-cut dresses also often this might create a tiny low train within the back of the long hemmed garment. Shoulders were exaggerated with puffed sleeves, shoulder pads, full collars, large yokes, and ‘caplet’, ‘butterfly’ or ruffled sleeves to create the waist and therefore the hips appear smaller compared.
1940s WW2. The 1940s was a decade many countries around the world cannot forget. With the second war (WW2) and clothing rationing, the wartime pride of fashion on a budget became the norm. Fashion within the 1940s was an honest mixture of comfort and glamour. 1940s fashion for men and ladies experienced deep changes but also created a number of the foremost flattering designs of the 20th century. With the beginning of the war, and strict rationing on fabric led to the movement of make do and mend, dresses within the 1940s became shorter. Whereas the 1930s featured dresses all the way down to mid-calf, the 1940s brought them up to knee-length. The war also affected the highest of the dress. One of the less predictable consequences of the war was the rise of two-piece swimsuits, resulting in fabric rationing enforced. Woman’s clothes took on a masculine militant look with the invention of shoulder pads. Every dress, blazer, blouse, or jacket was all fitted with shoulder pads that exuded just a touch past the sting of the shoulder, this made for a boxy or square neckline and shoulder angles. There was no cleavage. All top’s dresses designs were modest, revealing little skin. Skirts were long and full within the early 40s towards the tip got sleek. The neckline of the 1940s dress came in a variety of cutouts. Evening dresses were the emotion spaghetti straps or halters tops revealed shoulders and chests but only mid cleavage. In protest to grim times, color swept over the style landscape. Acid greens, hot pinks, reds, and pale blues were popular hues within the early 1940s. Despite the problems of the time, social etiquette still required women never to depart the house without wearing stockings. Fashion essentially ‘paused’ during the war. Many of the couture houses in Paris who were the globe leaders in fashion at the time were closed down or ceased trading during the occupation. The material mills turned their attention to production for the war.
The 1950s The New Look. In many ways, the 1950s took a big step back in time, especially for women. During World War II while the men were away, women began to gain independence. They left their homes to work in offices and factories, earning and managing their own money. Clothing was heavily restricted throughout and just after the war because of rationing fabric. There was a major shift in post-war fashion in the late forties. The collection launched in 1947, it was Dior’s first. Dior’s couture fashion house, which went on to be one of, if not the, biggest influence on post-war fashion. The signature style was made up of certain key elements e.g. full skirts, waspy waists, and soft shoulders. The New Look in summer 1947 emphasized the bust, waist, and hips reasserting female sexuality. Many women were outraged, especially in the United States. Protests were held targeting Dior and his new clothing. Women had just gained a large amount of equality and weren’t ready to give it up – both in work and in fashion. The new clothes used excessive amounts of fabric, needed constant maintenance, and required a complete coordinated accessory collection to be “perfect.” However, after the hardships of the war (WW2), everybody was ready for a change, and by the start of the ‘50s, everybody was wearing the New Look. To understand the fashion of the past fifty years- from the ‘New Look’ to now- it was necessary to review what happened earlier in the century, and to focus, in particular, on the years between 1939 and 1944.