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.