Edwardian and World War I Periods


The Edwardian and World War I Periods (1900-1920) are named after important political events. King Edward VII of England, who became king in 1901 after the lengthy reign of his mother, Queen Victoria, gave his name to the Edwardian era. The World War I era refers to the years before, during and after the Great War. The war had a major effect on fashion in fabric restrictions, style changes due to women taking over men’s jobs while they were away at war, and the adoption of some clothing styles such as sweaters and trench coats that were worn by the military.


The silhouette of the Edwardian Period is characterized by an S-shaped curve with full, pouched bodice, high neckline, and skirt flattened in front with a rounded hipline in the back. Skirts hugged the hip and flared into an upside down tulip shape. The lingerie dress was popular during this period and was made out of soft, frilly fabric. The full bottoms of the skirts are countered by the large picture hats worn atop the pompadour, the popular hairstyle of the day.


By 1909, the S-shape curve was followed by a straighter, more simpler line. An Empire revival during this period can be seen in the raised waistlines. Skirt lengths also began to rise and by the beginning of World War I, they were six to eight inches above the floor.

Woman and Child, La Moda Elegante Ilustrada, no. 9, March 6, 1901 Woman in Blue Dress, La Mode Illustree, suppl., September 1904 Two Women, 1909 Woman, Costumes Parisiens, no. 141, 1914

The woman is wearing a lingerie dress, which was worn indoors and allowed for less corseting. The dress is decorated with pleating and frills. Her little girl’s outfit is very similar to the adult’s with the exception of the shorter length.

The blue two-pieced dress with the bodice tucked into the skirt, is decorated with ruffles and lace. The large picture hat counterbalances the fullness at the hem of the skirt. This is an excellent example of the S-silhouette, with a full chest, narrow waist, and full back created from the full skirt.

The silhouette of evening dresses has become straighter. The gown at left shows an Empire revival with the high waistline as well as Oriental influences seen in the decorations on the gown. Sleeves were now fitted and trains were popular for evening. Both women wear the wide brimmed hats popular at the time.

The woman is wearing a two piece brown suit with a hobble skirt. The circumference of the bottom of the skirt was so narrow that only small steps could be taken. Also worn are Louis style shoes, with a curved heel and a small hat decorated with a feather.


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