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Fashion

Corsets, petticoats, trousers galore! Peel aside the layers that separate us from our Edwardian counterparts.

Women in Trousers

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INDUSTRY DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR: WOOLWICH ARSENAL
INDUSTRY DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR: WOOLWICH ARSENAL © IWM (Q 27839)

A female worker operates a naval gun rifling machine in the Royal Gun Factory at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, London, in May 1918.

WOMEN IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR
WOMEN IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR© IWM (Q 30678)

Three members of the Women’s Land Army employed on an English farm during the First World War.

WOMEN AT WORK DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR
WOMEN AT WORK DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR© IWM (Q 30804)

A female driver lies on the ground as she works on a wheel with a spanner.

WOMEN AT WORK DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR
WOMEN AT WORK DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR© IWM (Q 30695)

A member of the Women’s Forestry Corps uses an axe to mark felled tree trunks for sawing during the First World War.

THE WOMEN'S ROYAL AIR FORCE (WRAF) DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR
THE WOMEN’S ROYAL AIR FORCE (WRAF) DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR© IWM (Q 12291)

A motorcyclist with the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) on a Clyno motorcycle combination.

WOMEN RAILWAY WORKERS DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR
WOMEN RAILWAY WORKERS DURING THE FIRST WORLD WAR© IWM (Q 109866)

A female gas lamp cleaner of the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway at work outside Victoria station, Manchester.

“[A] newspaper article appeared objecting to women in trousers then worn by those who were undertaking duties which it would have been difficult or dangerous to perform in skirts. The mentality of persons who would prefer a woman to wear a skirt rather than trousers or breeches and a tunic when hoeing turnips, loading hay, clearing out a pig-sty, cleaning windows, or working in a munitions factory is difficult to understand. So comfortable did women find their two-legged dress that some land girls preferred to wear their breeches when off duty and were reported to their superior officers for so doing. These ladies refused to interfere, their opinion being that the dress was a decent and honourable uniform which the public should respect as it respected the uniform of the soldier.”

~ How We Lived Then, Mrs. C. S. Peel

Dressing Like It’s 1920

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1920 cream silk blouseWhen dressing in vintage, one is apt to stand from the crowd. Granted, that is a point in going against the grain of modern fashion, but for those who admire the clothing on Downton Abbey, but aren’t too keen to look too different from folks walking about in 2011, I think the very early 20s are very adaptable, accessible, and classic.

The silhouette is a slim barrel. The waist is natural, but curves are not emphasized, and the look is very casual dressy. Look for slightly A-line or straight skirts that hit mid-calf or three to four inches above the ankle, and slips/petticoats of similar length to give the skirt some “body”. Blouses are neat and embroidered, with jewel or square necklines, or collared, in silk or other soft and elegant fabrics. This was the era of the sweater coat (or jumper in British terminology), and were made of thick, quality knit and came in a variety of colors. The bandeau brassiere made a breakthrough, though the camisole/chemise, drawers, and petticoat still held a firm grip on ladies’ undergarments, and women had yet to dispense with corsets (though these were more girdle-like). Hosiery were black and leather footwear with a louis heel or low heel remained popular. For men, fashions, of course, changed the least. However, the look was more relaxed, and sports clothes (sweaters/jumpers, trousers, rubber-soled shoes, etc) gradually crept into daywear. Hats were also more casual, with the flat cap usually consigned to country tweeds, and the homburg and the fedora, becoming the standard.

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157628039517977″]

The Hobble Garter

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Hobble Garter

Not content with the harness and trappings of various descriptions with which the fashionable woman must needs burden herself in these foolish fashion days, there has now made its appearance in the fashionable shops that cater to the ultra – advanced fashion whims, what is known as the “hobble-garter.”

The new contrivance follows closely on the heels of the much-discussed hobble-skirt, a freakish idea thrown up by the fashion tide, the lasting qualities of which are a moot question among the fashion authorities of both the Continent and this side of the water. Narrow in its confines, uncomfortable in the wearing, because of its pull-back effect, the women who wear them, so it is reported, have discovered that not only is free locomotion well nigh impossible, but if the wearer even makes use of her natural step when encased in one of these new freak gowns there is danger of a stumble and fall when least expected, and there is the added excitement of practically tearing the skirt asunder if it be fashioned of light material, unless a mincing gait is assumed.

Such a walk is not acquired in a day or even a month, and therefore there has been devised for the hobblers a particularly feminine piece of torture—for it is nothing else—which we herewith illustrate and which for lack of creative ability on the part of its devisers is called the “hobble-garter.”

This new dress adjunct may be best described as consisting of two silken garters fastened below the knees with bejewelled clasps (they are not cheap articles) and ornamented with bows of the same shade as the elastic and ribbon used. These are in turn connected by the use of a strap of elastic webbing of the same color, not over a foot in length. It can be readily seen that so equipped the danger of tripping, missteps, or of damaging the gown is minimized, and all this in detriment to the natural gait which is entirely lost by its use. Silly fashions have come and gone, but it remains for the fashions of the fall of 1910 to develop this latest freak—the “hobble-garter.” – Notions and fancy goods, September 1910