Clothing Styles in the Early 1900s

Written by amanda hermes
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Clothing Styles in the Early 1900s
Women's wear in the early 1900s was very feminine and formal. (Woman in Victorian dress image by Steve Thompson from

In the early 1900s, popular fashions tended to be formal, even daywear. In the beginning of the 20th century, women's wear followed the restrictive, feminine, elaborate trends of the Victorian era. Later in the first decade of the 1900s, ladies' fashions took a turn towards comfort and simplicity. Men's wear, on the other hand, remained mostly the same, focusing on tailored suits.

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Men's Wear

James Laver from Encyclopaedia Britannica writes that early 20th-century men usually wore black frock coats with grey striped trousers for formal day wear and a black tailcoat, trousers and bow tie with a white waistcoat for evening wear. New Yorkers introduced the tuxedo jacket at this time. For less formal day functions, men usually chose three-piece lounge suits with knee-length overcoats. Most men wore close-fitting shirts with narrow sleeves and short, narrow jackets. Informal attire usually consisted of light trousers with a dark jacket and long tie. The Norfolk jacket and knickerbockers remained popular choices for casual wear. At this time, men began to wear neckties with suits.

Women's Wear in 1900

According to Laver, women's wear transformed during the first decade of the 20th century. In 1900, most women wore uncomfortable, boned corsets that were long and rigid in the front and shorter in the back, creating an S-shaped figure. Their extremely feminine dresses contained lots of flounces, lace, embroidery and frills. They also featured high necklines and floor-length skirts. Most women wore picture hats on top of pompadour hairstyles. According to the Department of History at the University of Vermont (UVM), women's fashions at this time appeared more decadent than previous decades. Most women chose elaborate and constrictive clothing, and daytime wear varied little from evening wear.

Changes in Women's Wear

While men's wear remained consistent through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, women's wear underwent dramatic changes. Laver writes that women's wear began to transform considerably in 1907. According to UVM, women grew tired of their complicated wardrobes and the constant repair of delicate lace and frills, the long time it took to get dressed and the constant state of discomfort from tight corsets, heavy skirts and frilly blouses. More colourful fabrics gained in popularity, and an early version of the brassiere began to replace the S-shaped corset, which was gradually abandoned, by 1912, in favour of a new elongated style, according to Pauline Weston Thomas and Instead of full, billowy skirts, women often chose hobble skirts, whose tightness at the ankles made it difficult to walk. In 1908, women began wearing tailored suits and simpler blouses and skirts.

Working Attire

Working women usually wore skirts and blouses and sometimes uniforms. Some wore trousers, depending on their professions. By 1915, women's and men's clothing become more casual, with shorter skirts, lounge suits, sports jackets and flannel trousers. Men who performed manual labour often wore bib overalls.

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