This post from Ruby Pierce is the fourth of a series of four to share the text she wrote to accompany the four historic looks in the fashion show at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center in October.

During World War I, women did a great deal of important work. ­­Some were on the front lines, acting as nurses, spies, and unofficial soldiers. By the end of the war it was clear that women’s clothing would never be the same. Women required much more freedom and less fuss with their wardrobes; thus the “boyish” silhouette of the 1920s was born. As we see here, the corset was banished, and a complete de-­emphasis of the waist began.

Many women rejected traditional femininity during this period, particularly as it had been expressed in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. This can be seen not only in the silhouette, but also in the popularity of short hair and suits. These changes were combined with a rising skirt hem. This look embodies an essential shift in women’s fashion and in women’s liberation — from the extremes of the robe à la française to the pouter-pigeon silhouette, the look of the twenties marked the beginnings of a new kind of personal freedom for women, the benefits of which we still enjoy today.

The model for this look was Christie Honore.

Sources:

Helen Zenna Smith, Not so quiet: stepdaughters of war (New York: Feminist Press at the City University of New York, 1988).

The Victoria and Albert Museum, s. v. “Fashion Drawing and Illustration in the 20th Century”, accessed November 15, 2015, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/f/fashion-drawing-in-the-20th-century/

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, s. v. “1920s in Western Fashion ”, accessed November 15, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1920s_in_Western_fashion

Blanche Payne, Geitel Winakour, and Jane Farrell-Beck, “Early Twentieth Century: 1900-1945,” in The History of Costume (New York, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc. 1992), 568.

This post from Ruby Pierce is the third of a series of four to share the text she wrote to accompany the four historic looks in the fashion show at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center in October.

 

Styles changed rapidly in the first 20 years of the 20th century, and this Edwardian period ensemble is an example of those changes. Several artistic factors influenced the look of the day, including the Art Nouveau movement, interpretations of Chinese and Japanese styles, the styles of ancient Greece, and many more. The hoops of the past had been utterly abandoned, in favor of a smoother, elongated silhouette. This silhouette consisted of a small waist and narrower hips, with additional fullness at the back of the skirt. Women’s undergarments during this period began to vary some. During the earlier years of the new century, the corset was still desirable for the creation of a small waist and full bust. Other, lighter options soon became available, including the bust bodice: a shortened corset meant to enhance the size of the bosom.

Around 1900, the desired womens’ silhouette was distinctly S-shaped in profile. This is now often referred to as the “pouter-pigeon” look. This was often achieved with a shirtwaist blouse: an independent dress shirt with a collar that was tucked under the skirt at the waist. These were usually very full, and could be starched like men’s shirts, or more feminine with frills and lace. The walking outfit you see here is an example of this, with a pouter-pigeon styled blouse and jacket, combined with a sweeping skirt with additional fullness at the center back area. Women at this time were doing more work in the public sphere, and the fashion reflected that. This look was ideal for more independent movement, with reduced interference around the legs and a slightly freer waist.

The model for this look was Hadley Seufert.

Blanche Payne, Geitel Winakour, and Jane Farrell-Beck, “Early Twentieth Century: 1900-1945,” in The History of Costume (New York, New York: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc. 1992), 555.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, s. v. “Corsets in the Early 20th Century”, accessed November 15, 2015, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/corsets-early-20th-century/

 

This post from Ruby Pierce is the second of a series of four to share the text she wrote to accompany the four historic looks in the fashion show at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center in October.

The Rococo look was long-lived in it’s influence on fashion, evidenced by the similarities present in the Crinoline look, almost 100 years later. The extremely small waist was in vogue again, emphasized by an enormous and full skirt. The skirt was supported by a cage crinoline, or hoop skirt, which was among the most significant fashion innovations of the Victorian era. This silhouette was seen by some as a revival of the hoops that were used for garments from the 18th and 16th centuries. This silhouette would have been first accompanied by a chemise: a slip-like undergarment, which would have been worn under the corset. A camisole or corset cover would have been worn over the corset, and the hoop placed over that. A petticoat (or perhaps a few) would have been placed on top of the hoop, in an effort to create additional fullness.

The hoop reached its peak size in the 1860s, however, the largest hoops were reserved for the wealthy and only worn on special occasions. The majority of women sought a relatively more comfortable and reasonable silhouette, like the one seen here. Most daily wear for women was made out of taffeta, cotton or linen, which were stiff enough to maintain the desired skirt shape, but also quite easy to clean. Photography at the time was black ­and ­white, but clothes certainly weren’t ­­– many women opted for wearing bold colors such as this. Synthetic dyes were developed in the 1850s, which produced shocking and vibrant colors such as mauve and red. This look would have been for an evening affair, such as a dinner or semi­-casual dance, which is evidenced by the dropped neckline and higher quality of the fabric.

The model for this look was Audrey Aller.

Sources:

Phyllis G. Tortora and Keith Eubank, “Costume for Men and Women: The Crinoline Period,” in Survey of Historic Costume (New York: Fairchild Publications, Inc. 2005), 309.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, s. v. “Corsets and Crinolines in Victorian Fashion”, accessed November 15, 2015, http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/corsets-and-crinolines-in-victorian-fashion/.

 

This guest post from Ruby Pierce is the first of a series of four to share the text she wrote to accompany the four historic looks in the fashion show at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center in October.

This 18th century women’s garment is a product of the Rococo era. This era was characterized by pastel colors, curving shapes, and excessive detailing. These characteristics were present in all forms of art of the day: paintings, architecture, textiles, furnishings, and especially garments. Perhaps the most famous example, the wardrobe of Queen Marie Antoinette was lavish with these elements, and extremely influential for the world of fashion. This iconic silhouette combines an extremely wide skirt and a miniscule waist, exaggerating the natural curves of the human form.

A variety of intensive supporting undergarments created the desired shape of women’s costume during this period. Traditionally, a garment such as this is supported by an oval-shaped farthingale with graduated hoops of boning, or by wide side hoops called panniers. Both of these foundation garments support the structure of the gowns giving them an almost architectural appearance. This particular gown is called robe à la française, characterized by a full, pleated back and a fitted front. The term “Watteau back” is often associated with these gowns because they were commonly featured in paintings by the famous French artist, Jean Watteau. Sleeves usually ended just below the elbow, in order to flaunt the wearer’s beautiful forearms, and were finished off with one or more ruffles called engageants. Combined with the high pouf or pompadour hairstyle of the time, with additionally elaborate and descriptive decoration, this look was truly impressive.

The model for this look was Carrie Plover.

Sources:

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Rococo style”, accessed November 15, 2015, http://www.britannica.com/art/Rococo-style-design.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, s. v. “Marie Antoinette”, accessed November 15, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Antoinette.

Phyllis G. Tortora and Keith Eubank, “Costume for Women: 1730-1760,” in Survey of Historic Costume (New York: Fairchild Publications, Inc. 2005), 239.

In October we were very pleased to participate once again in a fashion show at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center (FLLAC), here at Vassar College: “Intimates and Unmentionables: Constructing the Silhouette.” We collaborated with Contrast magazine, the Department of French and Francophone Studies, and the FLLAC.

Here are some photos from the event, by the photographers from Contrast:


The fashion show was preceded by a wonderful talk by Mary Davis on the subject of ”The Sound of Style: Music in Vogue.” Davis is the dean of the School of Graduate Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and specializes in cross-disciplinary studies of music, fashion, and culture.

In addition to the looks styled by the team from Contrast, the Vassar Drama Department Costume Shop provided four historic reproduction looks. These were coordinated by Ruby Pierce, Robin Piatt-Stegman, Kenisha Kelly, and Arden Kirkland. The models were Audrey Aller, Carrie Plover, Christie Honore, and Hadley Seufert. Narration for their looks was written by Ruby Pierce and presented by Olga Voyazides.

We also displayed two dresses from our historic collection, in the back gallery at the FLLAC. On the left is our Dress of Metallic Floral Brocade and Black Net (#VC1992102), from the 1910’s (see more of this dress on our collection website). On the right is our Pink Patterned Dress (#VC2001074) circa 1903 (see more of this dress on our collection website).

Many thanks to Francine Brown and Joann Potter from the FLLAC, and Susan Hiner from the Department of French and Francophone Studies, for making this possible!

If you missed our fabulous French Connection event at Late Night at the Loeb on November 17, you can watch this video of the fashion show from YouTube. (If you’re in a hurry, fast forward to about 5:10 to see all the models walk at the end). This video comes to us via Contrast, Vassar’s style magazine, one of the co-sponsors of the event. Check out their blog!

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