Sunday, August 9, 2009

1912 - Titanic Era lovelies

I love the early 1900s fashions. When else could you find something as fabulous as these lovelies, and only pay $1.09 for it? 1912 was most famous for the sinking of the Titanic. Look at these beautiful styles, straight out of the Sears Catalog of that year.

This montage of beauties is from a 1902 Sears catalog, and gives a great overview of the style that had now started to evolve from the full floor length styles, but hadn't made it to above the ankle yet. The waist was still set at the natural waist, so the look is more feminine that what you'd see over the next ten years, when Coco Chanel changed the style to loose and sacklike chemises that were shorter. My wide feet wouldn't have tolerated the pointed toe shoes, but I can imagine how sturdy they were, since most people didn't own many pairs of shoes, and most people, only one.

Colors listed are blue, tan, navy blue, blue stripes, black and brown, indicating the narrow range of dyes available at the time. These colors would also hide stains well, since no one had their Tide stain stick yet!

I don't think I could tolerate those just-below-the-elbow sleeves though -- it'd drive me crazy when I tried to bend my arms. I'd make the longer length sleeve, but probably on the dress on the left, which is my favorite. Sticking to the colorway of the day, I'd make it in blue percale.

I'm not quite sure what the girl at the top, second from the right, has on her head. Help me out here. What kind of headpiece is this?

(Original post edited from erroneous dating of 1902 that was miskeyed.)


  1. Love this spread! There's a small error, as this looks like 1912, not 1902. The hems in F G H are interesting, as I suspect they are distinguishing age and marital status. G's short skirt and giant bow indicates she's an adolescent. H is an older unmarried girl, with hair down and skirt and inch longer. F is a married woman, with hair up and skirt full length. All this would explode by the 1920s!

  2. It really is a gorgeous spread, and thank you for sharing the images! I do agree with Danine, though; if these dresses were from 1902, they would show the infamous s-bend silhouette, pouter-pigeon pouched bodice, and bell-shaped skirt of the day. Early Edwardian fashions were in many ways dictated by the tastes of the King; just as he liked his meals lavish and plentiful, and his entertainments extravagant, he liked women who were built on a lush scale -- or at least looked as though they might be. Ladies who couldn't naturally fill out the pouched bodice styles of the day resorted to sewing ruffles onto their corset covers as "bust enhancers" -- probably the first recorded instance of bra stuffing. Skirts didn't begin to narrow until 1906 and Paul Poiret's first attempt to re-introduce the Directoire look of the Napoleonic era with the hobble skirt. Corsetry began to enforce a more upright posture by 1907, and by 1909 to 1910, the slimmer, more athletic look shown here was in full swing. 1912 seems like a good guess, since that was when the double-skirted looks of the Titanic and 'Teens era started appearing.

    She's right on the money with the differences in hemline; as girls got older, their skirts lengthened, and they weren't allowed to put their hair up until they were ready to go on the marriage market. The headpiece that you were wondering about looks like a combination of an Alice band and a "flapper bow". One of my antique school sewing textbooks as a nifty little diatribe against the ridiculous hair bow widths favored by girls and young women of the day. (The author wasn't against hair bows as a class of adornment; he just thought that they should be daintier and less frivolous. Just goes to show that people have been griping abut teen fashion trends for as long as there have been teen fashions!)

    -- Becca

  3. I suppose what the girl at the top has on her head is a stripe of cloth bound round her head, and behind her head is a huge bow which we can see at the both sides of her head.