In 1914 clothing transitioned from uptight Edwardian fashions, named for the British king who died in 1910, towards more modern styles. Previously, women wore heavily embellished dresses with tightly laced corsets underneath. As World War I broke out in Europe, these restrictions loosened. Men still dressed in traditional suits while children wore more practical clothes. The first bras sparked the beginnings of more modern styles.
A Year of Change
As World War I broke out in July of 1914, the British army needed fabric for the war effort and people desired less frills. American women looked to Europe for fashion inspiration, but once the war began, communication and travel became difficult. Americans evolved their own styles and encouraged their own designers. Various structures, in both fashion and society, began to break down. Hemlines slowly rose, and theatres and restaurants relaxed their dress requirements.
In 1914 women gave up their straight long skirts for a less structured style called the "peg top silhouette." They wore full top skirts or tunics over a straight underskirt; the hemline was at the instep and the waistline was less defined. Designers cut slits into the narrow underskirt so the women could walk; the public called them "hobble skirts."
Men's fashions did not change much in 1914. American men continued to wear the sack suit, a traditional three-piece outfit with trousers, vest and coat made of the same material. In 1914 these suits had patch pockets. The trousers were wider at the hips and narrower at the ankles than styles from previous eras. Formal clothes were snug but well tailored. At fancy gatherings, men wore black cutaway coats, white ties, and patent leather shoes. Collars were straight or with small wings.
Children's clothes became more childlike instead of a scaled down version of adult fashions. Girls wore shorter skirts, and dress yokes often extended down to the thighs. Boys wore suits with knee length shorts. Kids' clothing in 1914 was simple and more sensible, with less lace and velvet.
Most underwear was still old-fashioned in 1914. Men, boys and girls still wore union suits. This one-piece snugly-fitted garment was often made of flannel. Children's union suits in 1914 had shorter sleeves and leggings. In 1914, American Mary Jacobs patented the first bra. Women previously wore restrictive corsets to provide shape and support in rigid fashions. Now designers considered the bra when developing the new, looser styles that would continue in later decades.