Edwardian Look from the Contrast Fashion Show

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/


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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported
This work by Vassar College Costume Collection is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.