Thursday, 5 March 2015

Edwardian Fashion by Daniel Milford-Cottam


published 2014


Edwardian



Perhaps the most defining garment of the early 1910s was the hobble skirt, which appeared towards the end of Edward VII’s reign. The concept of a skirt that actually inhibited walking was irresistible to satirists and cartoonists, inspiring hundreds of cartoons and comic postcards. However it offered an undeniably elegant silhouette that contrasted with the voluminous petticoats of a decade earlier. The slender skirt and attractively detailed blouse were the foundation of early 1910s fashion, and, a century later, rising hems notwithstanding, still represent a classic womenswear look that has never really gone out of style…

One of the great ironies of the hobble skirt was that it emerged at a time when women were becoming increasingly active. The sweeping skirts of the previous decade had at least permitted ease of walking, which, at its narrowest, the hobble certainly did not. It severely limited the fashionable woman’s ability to hurry for a bus, climb into an automobile or a carriage, or even – had she strong enough suffragist leanings – participate in a ‘Votes for Women’ march. Even more ironically, many smart women could not place their feet sufficiently far apart to properly perform the new and increasingly popular ballroom dances.


observations: It is a great pleasure to feature today on the blog this marvellous book by one of Clothes in Books’ best and most helpful commentators, fashion expert Daniel Milford-Cottam. When he did a guest post recently – on corsets, tight lacing, and the alleged 16 inch waists of the Victorians – I thought it really was time I got hold of his recent book on Edwardian fashions. And what a joy it was – really, I could do endless blogposts from it, and I want to feature all the pictures. It’s short, has amazing illustrations on every page, and is readable, accessible, entertaining, and endlessly informative. Daniel writes beautifully, and puts the clothes perfectly in the context of the times, as you can see from the excerpt above.

Many blog interests are represented: corsets (of course) and the designers Worth, Cheruit and Poiret. The book explains the obvious point: we might have a picture in our heads of an Edwardian look, but fashions and silhouettes and hemlines changed as much in a few years as they would now. And of course – pictures and fashion plates won’t necessarily show what real women looked like or wore. Vogue models today don’t particularly look like women you would see on your local streets.

The book has a way with a good anecdote too: my favourite is about a Russian princess who
notoriously described one of [Poiret’s] audaciously simple komono-inspired cloaks as a sack fit only to hold the severed heads of peasants.
[You can see some of Poiret’s amazingly beautiful coats in this entry.]

Anyone who has an interest in clothes and the history of fashion should read this book: very highly recommended.

The picture shows a dance called The Grizzly Bear, illustration by Edouard Touraine 1912 – Daniel took it from his own collection of fashion images to put in the book.

Vita Sackville-West’s novel The Edwardians has given us a number of blog entries featuring fashions of the time.







18 comments:

  1. You had to mention Cheruit!! I'm still really embarrassed that I published her name as Madeleine, when recent research has confirmed that she was actually called Louise - the Madeleine is a VERY long-standing academic error that has tripped up SO many academics/researchers. I did wonder which part of the book you would choose for your blog, and I am very, very pleased that you chose this one - it's one of my favourite images. (I also love the image of the hobble-skirted ladies swathed in furs at a roller-skating rink...) I do have to note, as I did in the book, that many women in fact wore far more moderate and wearable versions of the extreme-slim skirted look.

    I recently realised that the Russian princess (named as Princess Bariatinsky) must have been Leonilla Bariatinskaya - a fascinating lady who actually lived to be 101 (she died in 1918, escaping the Russian Revolution.) and would have been in her 80s when she dismissed Poiret's kimono styled cloaks.

    You also know a bit more about Lucile's fashion shows and Marie Corelli's disgusted reaction, and of course, Mrs Pritchard... ;)

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    1. It was a pleasure to read your book Daniel, I really enjoyed it. And I definitely believed Cheruit's name was Madeleine!
      I was surprised and impressed by the rollerskating too.

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  2. Moira - Oh, this does sound like an excellent read. And I thoroughly enjoyed the accessible, yet informed, writing style of the bit that you shared. I still can't possibly imagine wearing a hobble skirt though! Or a corset.

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    1. Hobble skirt is a terrible name isn't it? As Daniel says, and to our great relief, not all the skirts were too restrictive.

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  3. Well without wishing to be a party pooper, I'm afraid I'll take a rain-check,

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    1. Daniel Milford-Cottam5 March 2015 at 18:47

      I'm in very good company then with 99%of other highlighted books/authors on this blog. ;)

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    2. Indeed Daniel, it's practically a compliment not to get on Col's list, unless you had ambitions to write about the noir, hard-boiled style of Edwardian clothing....

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  4. Reminds me of happy hours reading bound vols of Punch. There was a "harem skirt" too that never caught on (too like trousers). In a few years land girls were working in the fields wearing jodhpurs.

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    1. Yes, it's there in the book Lucy. I think you'd really enjoy reading it...

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  5. Love the image Moira, thanks very much. I know my Mum will be fascinated by this so will definitely punt it in her direction as she has a birthday coming up very soon!

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    1. Oh great Sergio, I'm sure she'll like it - anyone with an interest in clothes or history (or better still both) will enjoy Daniel's writing.

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  6. This does sound lovely. I like the illustration, too. I am always fascinated by what people are wearing. Don't you think most of the designers of hobble skirts must have been male? Perhaps they were in fact a reaction against women's growing independence.

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    1. It would be interesting to try an actual one on wouldn't it, and compare it with other fashions of the time? Daniel writes very interestingly about it - just like in modern times, there would have been extreme versions of it but most people wouldn't have been wearing them.

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  7. Hey - by the way, if you see any pictures in the book you would love to use on other blog posts, let me know and I am happy to send you on better quality copies - there's only maybe a few I can't do this for (mainly object shots.)

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    1. Ooh, fabulous, thank you very much, I'll definitely bear that in mind.

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  8. I am late to read this post that I was looking forward to. I have a VERY BRIEF ban on buying books online (my husband says I have too many orders out). But I will get this very soon. When I read the extract, I thought along the same lines as Christine. Perhaps the hobble skirts were to deter the new activity and independence of women.

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    1. One of the best things about the book is the way Daniel links the fashions with what was going on in the world, Tracy - you will enjoy it!

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  9. Great information. Thanks for providing us such a useful information. Keep up the good work and continue providing us more quality information from time to time. Fashion Books

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