1910-1920: Transitioning Styles

One of the most defining features of women's fashion in the 1920s was the massive shift in silhouette, but this change did not happen overnight. The previous decades had seen extreme corset shaping, as well as multiple layers of petticoats and crinoline, but by the mid-1910s, this type of silhouette had slowly fallen out of fashion. Corsets were still worn, but the effect was focused on slimming the hips and thighs, instead of only the waist.

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The shift in silhouette preference is demonstrated nicely by this orange silk evening gown. It features an empire waist with a long, loosely fitting straight skirt that did not need to be supported by petticoats and would not have draped properly if a corset from an earlier decade was worn. However, the gown still features a tremendous amount of hook and eye closures, along with boning and a stay-belt for support, which reveals that the “slip-on” fashion of the 1920s was still far from women’s minds.

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Asian and Middle Eastern inspired fashion became popular at the beginning of the new century and the rich, vibrant color, beadwork, metallic thread, and embroidered butterflies, were most likely all inspired by this trend. The use of butterflies may also be a holdover from the Victorian Era, when it was believed that they represented the soul and were a popular decorative element.

1910-1920: Transitioning Styles