Thursday, October 13, 2016

"80 Years of Fashion": Part Three

The Gibson Girl... and guy

What follows is part three of the complete, unexpurgated essay I wrote for English class during the school year of 1954-55, age twelve. I assume the attempts at humor were intentional, but it was too long ago to know for sure. I think I may have gotten tired of writing as everything became a popularity contest.

1890 - 1900
Tubed pants for men were very popular. Women looked much older than they really were because they wore entirely too heavy and too bulky kinds of clothes. The colors and styles that were popular definitely didn't grace the woman of the 1890s. Sewing machines were cheaperizing clothes. The poor continued to copy the rich people's clothes. The famed Ballon and Leg-of-Mutton sleeves were very popular. The bell-shape look took the place of the hour-glass. As you've probably gathered, the late Victorians were so busy with their money that they didn't have time for anything else, let alone clothes.

Legs of mutton and bells on parade

The dinner jacket was introduced at Monte Carlo because the men gambling there complained of the discomfort in wearing a stuffy Frock coat all evening. There was a complete change in men's clothes because of the artist Charles Dana Gibson. Men's clothes were becoming masculine again. Maybe you've seen some of Gibson's drawings; his men were heavy and muscular, and they had extremely square jaws.

Color harmony was popular in women's dress. Trains were worn at night. Cheapness was desired everywhere. The result was poor dyes and cheap materials. Starch was used as a face-powder.

Victim of Little Lord Fauntleroy

This was another age for boys— the ridiculous "Little Lord Fauntleroy" look. Sailor suits, the exact replica of HRM Navy were also quite popular.

1900 - 1910
The hour-glass look was back and the Gibson Girl look was still popular.  Women wore odd goggles for automobiling. Kimono gowns and other Japanese modes were popular.

Fashionable mourning dresses were popular with women. Deaths were almost pleasant because then a woman could go buy a new dress for the funeral. The soft, flowing silhouette was popular. Skirts were tight around the hips. Bolero dresses were worn at the beginning of the period. High, wired necks are characteristic of the early 1900s. 1,106 yards less material than was needed fifty years before was used.  At the death of Edward VII in 1910, the reign of lingerie and corsets came to an abrupt halt.

Evelyn Nesbit, 1900s "it" girl

Mother Hubbard dresses were introduced. These were loose-fitting house dresses— not too beautiful but very comfortable. Cartwheel hats were popular.  There was a tremendous "Merry Widow" influence. Feather boas, properly saturated with lavender were worn over dresses like stoles are today.

Red flannel undies were very popular with men. Also popular was a big, loose coat with a heavy, padded shoulder. Dark colors— mostly blues, blacks, browns and dark green were worn.

Buster and his dog Tige

This was still another age for children's clothes, however this time it affected the girls, too. This was the age of the comics character Buster Brown. Boys wore suits with wide starched collars and topped off with a "dashing" gigantic bow-tie. The girls wore low-waisted dresses which vaguely resembled a Chinaman's coat. Girls wore big bows on their hair.
Sally, Ida and Jean—my aunts and my mother (in the middle)
to be continued...


  1. My favorite line: "Sewing machines were cheaperizing clothes." Thanks for this wonderful glimpse into your past.

    1. What? You mean "cheaperizing" isn't a word?!!! It's a wonder my English teacher let me get away with that, but I think she might have been tired reading too. : > )

  2. I laughed at "cheaperizing" too! I absolutely adore this essay, and I can see the dry humour in it!

    1. Thank you! Part Four (aka The End) will be coming as soon as I stop laughing.