1900 Fashion and Fabric


Introducing Fabric and Fashion of the Early 1900s

In  the early 1900s fashionable women needed dresses for many different social gatherings  such as,  morning dresses, afternoon dresses, evening gowns and simpler dresses that were not occasion-specific.  They also wore suits with shirt waist blouses and coordinating jackets.  Favorite sport activities were swimming, tennis, ice skating and cycling.  On the streets of New York at that time the ladies looked like they had just visited the Garment District New York City.  You would not find the ladies of that day not dressed in the finest designs which were made with luxurious quality fabric.

Custom dress makers such as the Tirocchi Sisters were in great demand, thus fabric was also in demand.  The fabrics used in men’s clothing were mostly light backgrounds with stripes or small figures.  The lighter men’s  fabrics were often used  for quilts to contrast the burgundy, navy,  black and dark green which were popular at that time.  Dark colors were very prevalent in the fabric of the 1900s. These colors were reflecting the Civil War, mourning the death of Queen Victoria and the 1929 crash of the stock market known as Black Tuesday.  However, the advances in newer dyes in the mid 1920s brought forth a palette of pastels which ushered in a huge array of solid and calico fabrics created to celebrate the vibrancy of the decade. No matter what garment they wore in the early 1900’s it was designed to show off a woman’s tightly corseted torso.

Ladies of the 21st Century we should be very grateful that we did not endure anything like this.

Can you say ouch and I can’t breathe.  During the  19th Century ladies often wore corsets.  The corset was designed and fashioned with channels running throughout the garment. It was constructed with tightly woven fabric and leather. The vertical ribs were inserted, called boning as they were often made of whale bone.  Ivory and wood were also used. Worn at all times, after all you had to maintain that 16 inch waist line. The laces were tightened from the back.   This tightening process could sometimes be extreme.   This sounds terrible and possibly could cause injury.

Many stories of the 1900’s Indicated that the well bred women of this time were quite emotional. When faced with even the slightest emotional or physical shock they would loose consciousness.Dropping like flies or at least as far as many stories indicate.

Over the years there have been several theories as to why this seemed to happen, from the women’s garb to simply conforming to societal expectations.

The evil consequences of tight lacing are universally admitted and it is believed that the Corset was the

cause of some of the fainting.  Also others believe that the Corset put enough pressure on the body to break ribs and displace organs.

In 1907 Paul Poiret designed the first loose elegant dresses with high waist lines which instigated the demise of the corset.  Might I just add thank
you Paul.

Dresses in the 1900’s required more fabric than dresses of today.  The wardrobes of the 1900’s seem to be much like those of ladies of today.

As I said fabric was in great demand in the 1900s.  Fabric shops were open and selling fabric.  I don’t believe they were familiar with our now most sought after fabric which is available at fabric stores in 2017 such as Fat Quarter Shop.

8 thoughts on “1900 Fashion and Fabric

  1. Greetings Sherry,

    I used to work in the garment district in New York City on 7th Avenue, otherwise known as Fashion Avenue, so I have a love of anything to do with fashion and especially fabrics. Mind you, I don’t sew, but I still buy fabric and find some creative uses for them.

    I read how corsets were damaging to the woman’s body, but I didn’t know that whale bone was constructed into the corset! That’s insane! What does impress me about the styles of the 1900 century is that even if they were just going to the corner store, they were dressed! I feel as if we’ve gotten a bit lazy over the years, but I’m glad the construction of garments have drastically changed. All I can say is: We’ve come a long way, baby!

    1. Did you also know that from 1900 to 1999, 2.9 million whales were depleted. Not just for the corset but oil. I am working on the next one. Now all we want is spanx.

      Thanks a lot for the review.


  2. Hello

    Very interesting article on women’s fashion so long ago, the photographs did make me simile I just could not imagine the ladies today wearing such outfits.

    Most the ladies today prefer pants over dresses unless it is a special event such as a wedding. How do you think woman back then would think of how the ladies dress today?

    1. Thanks for the comment Jeffery. I like to look back at the past and know how far we have come. I suppose the women back then would frown at today’s dress and especially the casual ware. They sure would not be invited to a bridge party.


  3. Wow, that was a good article because it showcases something of which I guess is the earliest of sexy fashion back then, as many fashions had come and went in a timely manner as well. Nowadays things seem to stay more in for a longer time or is that just me? Maybe my man perspective you might say.

    1. Thank you Andrew for your comment. Yes it is a very interesting topic. I can’t even imagine how that Corset could damage bones and organs. Ouch.

  4. That silhouette looks extremely painful.However, even the Kardashian sisters have been sporting something on the very similar lines calling it a body wrap.
    The article is indeed interesting and there is a lot of interesting pieces of information here. I guess an easier way to say someone that you hate them would be to gift them a corset, LOL. I never knew they caused so much damage, I mean displacing organs is serious!

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