The Victoria & Albert Museum in their “Introduction to 20th-Century Fashion” writes of this period:

“Of the early years of the 20th century it is the clothes designed by Paul Poiret and Mariano Fortuny that reveal the richest evidence of historical and multicultural sources. Paul Poiret was much influenced by the art and design of the Middle East and India. In about 1910 he visited the V&A to study Indian turbans and, just weeks later, his haute couture adaptations were on sale in Paris. For his Thousand and Second Night fancy dress ball of 1911, Poiret dressed his wife in a wired lampshade tunic over harem trousers. This was to provide the inspiration for his more restrained `Sorbet’ ensemble of 1912.”

Of  1910s womenswear specifically they write:

“During this decade, frilly, puffed blouses and fluted skirts continued to be popular. A slightly high waistline was fashionable, as was a long tunic-like top worn over an ankle length A-line or ‘hobble’ skirt (cinched in at the hem). During World War I (1914–18), women adopted practical, working clothes and they sometimes wore uniform, overalls and trousers. Hair was worn in a centre parting, often looped around pads and false hair to create a wide ‘brim’ of hair around the hairline. This hairstyle was worn under vast, broad hats with shallow crowns, heavily trimmed with flowers, ribbons and feathers. Towards the end of the decade, younger women sported short bobs.”

5th Avenue Easter Parade

Fig. 1 - . 5th Avenue Easter Parade, 1911. Source: Pinterest


Of 1910s menswear the V&A notes:

“The three-piece lounge suit was commonly worn, but from 1914 to the end of the decade, many men were photographed in military uniform. Hair was worn parted at the side or the middle. Older men sported beards, but younger men wore moustaches or went clean-shaven.”



Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1910-1919
  • 1910 – Edward VII died; George V became King of England, Mariano Fortuny patents his pleating and dyeing process, Paul Poiret designs a range of loose-fitting, Oriental-inspired dresses, paving the way for modern dress.
  • 1912 – China formed a republic, sinking of the Titanic, Nijinsky danced Afternoon of a Faun.
  • 1913 – Armory Art Show, The first modern brassiere is patented by New York socialite, Mary Phelps Jacob. Old fashioned corsets are no longer suitable to wear under new lighter, less formal garments. The tango arrives in most European capitals. Jean Paquin designs gowns to be worn for dancing the tango, which is shown during, “dress parades” at popular “Tango Teas” held in London. Coco Chanel opens a boutique in the French seaside resort, Deauville.
  • 1914 – Panama Canal opened, World War I begins, ushering in an era of darker colors and simple cuts. Women take over men’s jobs, accelerating the trend toward practical garments. Burberry is commissioned to adapt army officer’s coats for the trenches. The trench coat is born.
  • 1915 – Birth of a Nation by D.W. Griffith, Fashion magazine La Gazette du Bon Ton shows full skirts with hemlines above the ankle. They are called the “war crinoline” by the fashion press, who promote the style as “patriotic” and “practical.”
  • 1916 – Margaret Sanger opened birth control clinic.
  • 1917 – The U.S. declared war on Germany, Russian Czar overthrown. Invented by Gideon Sundback in 1913 the zipper is finally patented in 1917. It is first used for closing rubber boots in the 1920s.
  • 1919 – League of Nations chartered, Hollywood’s United Artists founded.

Primary/Period Sources

Resources for Fashion History Research

To discover primary/period sources, explore the categories below.
Have a primary source to suggest?  Or a newly digitized periodical/book to announce?  Contact us!

Periodicals (Digitized)

Secondary Sources

Also see the 20th-century overview page for more research sources... or browse our Zotero library.