1900s Vintage Style Ball Gowns

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1900s Vintage Style Ball Gowns
Victorian style dresses impacted the early Edwardian gowns. (Woman in Victorian dress image by Steve Thompson from Fotolia.com)

The early 1900s marked the end of one era and the beginning of another, but the line between the two eras blurred during this age within the realm of fashion. The fading Victorian era left behind a general emphasis on maturity and elegance, particularly for ball gowns, while the incoming Edwardian era introduced more free-flowing silhouettes for gowns.

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Victorian Influence

Ball gowns of the very early 1900s still consisted of late Victorian era elements, even though the era technically ended in 1901 with Queen Victoria's death. By the late Victorian era, fewer women wore gowns with full bustles, crinolines or cages, opting for gowns with soft bustles that only slightly accentuated the hips. The soft bustle quickly fell to the slim-fitting style by the end of the era, and gowns flared out only slightly near the lower hips, sporting a slight train at the bottom of the skirt.

Edwardian Changes

The Edwardian era began immediately after the Victorian ended, bringing with it an elaborately decorative style of gown. The "S-bend" silhouette of dresses flowed out more than Victorian styles permitted. Skirts curved outwards at the behind and fell downward to the knees naturally, at which point the skirt bent slightly inward before sharply flowing outwards towards the sweeping train of the hem. The upper portion of gowns tilted the shoulders back and the bosom forward, and the tight sleeves gained fullness at the wrist, which draped over a tight cuff.


The material used for a ball gown depended largely on age and relationship status. Young women, both married and single, wore lighter dresses but no silk if they intended to dance. Young married women occasionally wore a moire of partial silk, however, if trimmed appropriately. Young single women wore the lightest materials, and their dresses often included tulle, fine muslin, lace and similar light accents.


As a general rule, young women often wore white or lightly tinted colours, but occasionally opted for richer colours when complexion and body type called for doing so. Slender women most often wore light colours, while plump women wore more brilliant colours to avoid the appearance of having added bulk. In an effort to match the dress to the wearer's appearance, blonde women also gravitated towards pale colours like pink, light blue, apple green and white, while brunettes wore richer variations of these colours. Women in deep mourning wore black and scarlet or violet, but women near the end of their mourning could wear white with mauve, violet or black trimmings.


Undergarments included the chemise, drawers, corset, corset cover and petticoat. The chemise, a type of undershirt, typically consisted of cotton or linen. The corset shaped the body into the fashionable shape and the corset cover protected the outer garments from the metal strips that closed the corset. The petticoat added proper volume.

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