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  1900s womenswear specifically they write:

“The S-bend corset was fashionable during the 1900s. It thrust the hips backwards and forced the chest forward into a fashionable pouter-pigeon shape, emphasised with puffed, frilly blouses that were often embellished with decorations like lace collars and broad ribbon ties. Separates were popular, with skirts fitted over the hip and fluted towards the hem. 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-brim hats with low crowns, and adorned all over with flowers, lace, ribbons and feathers.”

Hilma Theodora "Dora" Thompson and Husband

Fig. 1 - Photographer unknown. Hilma Theodora "Dora" Thompson and Husband, 1900. Source: Rootsweb Ancestry

Man and Woman, Outdoors, Paris, France

Fig. 2 - Unknown. Man and Woman, Outdoors, Paris, France, 1900. Source: New York Public Library


Of 1900s menswear the V&A notes:

“Men wore three-piece lounge suits with bowler or cloth caps. Jackets were narrow with small, high lapels. Most collars were starched and upstanding, with the corners pointing downwards. Some men wore their collars turned down, with rounded edges and modern knotted ties. Beards were now reserved for mainly older men, and most young men sported neat moustaches and short hair.”



Historical Context

Wikipedia: 1900-1909
  • 1900 – By the end of the century, high collars, long-line bodices, colored tights, and high heels are fashion must-haves.
  • 1901 – President McKinley assassinated, first Nobel Prizes
    1902 – Rayon spinning developed, J.C. Penney, the American retail magnate, opens his first department store in Wyoming.
  • 1903 – First airplane flight, The straight-fronted corset, also known as the swan bill, popular from the turn of the century until the 1910s. It forces the torso forward and makes the hips protrude, removing pressure from the abdomen and creating an S-shaped silhouette.
  • 1904 – Russo-Japanese War
  • 1905 – First Paris exhibit of the Fauves, Norway and Sweden separation, artificial silk made from viscose (known as “rayon” after 1924) is first sold commercially in the UK. It reaches the US in 1910.
  • 1906 – Madame Paquin introduces the empire-waist dress in imitation of the fashion of the Regency period.
  • 1907 – Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
  • 1908 – First Ford Model- T; Cellophane invented; Mannequin parades are introduced at the House of Lucile in London and become very popular.
  • 1909 – Peary reached the North Pole, First flight over the English Channel, bobbed or short hair for women is introduced to Paris fashion.

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)
Les Modes : Revue Mensuelle Illustrée Des Arts Décoratifs Appliqués à La Femme (1902-1937), 1900s. http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb32817646w/date.r=les+modes.langEN.
Dreiser, Theodore, George Barr Baker, Honoré Morrow, Marie Mattingly Meloney, and Oscar Graeve. The Delineator. Vol. LX #3-6 Sept-Dec. Butterick Pub. Co., 1902. http://books.google.com/books?id=4DYXAAAAYAAJ.
The Harper’s Bazaar Archive (Subscription Required), 1900s. https://www.proquest.com/products-services/Harpers-Bazaar-Archive.html.
Vogue Archive (Subscription Required), 1900s. https://login.voguearchive.com.
Méliès, Georges. A Trip to the Moon, 1902. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0000417/.

Secondary Sources

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

“History of Fashion 1900 - 1970,” July 11, 2013. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/h/history-of-fashion-1900-1970/.
“Introduction to 20th-Century Fashion,” October 18, 2012. http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/i/introduction-to-20th-century-fashion/.
Abel, Richard. Silent Film. London: Athlone Press, 1999. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/878136501.
Abel, Richard. The Ciné Goes to Town: French Cinema, 1896-1914. Updated and expanded ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/799504752.
Alessio, Agostino d’ [from old catalog. The Art of Designing, Cutting and Grading Gentlemen and Boys Clothes with Elegance and Perfection without the Aid of a Teacher. New York city, Stamperia italiana V. Ciocio, 1906. http://archive.org/details/artofdesigningcu00ales.
Amnéus, Cynthia. A Separate Sphere: Dressmakers in Cincinnati’s Golden Age, 1877-1922. Costume Society of America Series. Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2003. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/907017627.
Basinger, Jeanine. Silent Stars. New York: Knopf, 2000. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/248803651.
Bishop, Louis N. [from old catalog. The Modern Designer. A Work Showing the Natural Way of Producing Garments That Are Perfectly Balanced. [Cincinnato, Ohio, 1900. http://archive.org/details/moderndesignerwo00bish.
Boucher, François. 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment. Expanded ed. New York: H.N. Abrams, 1987. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/979316852.
Braun, Emily. “Futurist Fashion: Three Manifestos.” Art Journal, Clothing as Subject, 54, no. 1 (March 22, 1995): 34–41. http://www.jstor.org/stable/777504.
Brown, Susan, ed. Fashion: The Definitive History of Costume and Style. New York: DK Publishing, 2012. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/840417029.
Browne, M. Prince. The Practical Work of Dressmaking & Tailoring, with Illustrations. London: H. Cox, 1902. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008599061.
Card, James. Seductive Cinema: The Art of Silent Film. New York: Knopf, 1994. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/833449790.
Colavita, Philip] [from old catalog. The Alfred Scott System of Actual Measure of Coat and Vest. Richmond, Va., P. Colavita, 1906. http://archive.org/details/alfredscottsyste00cola.
Cole, Daniel James, and Nancy Deihl. The History of Modern Fashion from 1850. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2015. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/900012311.
Costume, Society. La Belle Epoque: Costume 1890-1914; Proceedings of the First Annual Conference of the Costume Society, April 1967. London: Victoria & Albert Museum, 1968. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/877604555.
Croonborg, Frederick Timothy. Grand Edition of Supreme System for Producing Men’s Garments. New York, Chicago, Croonborg Sartorial Co, 1907. http://archive.org/details/grandeditionofsu00croo.
Denieffe, Joseph [from old catalog. The Geometric: A System of Cutting Garments for Ladies and Gentlemen on Geometrical Lines and Principles. Chicago, Ill., 1900. http://archive.org/details/geometricsystemo00deni.
Doolittle, Oliver Taylor [from old catalog. Straight Shoulder Rules, Systems and Methods of the Present Day. Philadelphia, O. T. Doolittle, 1901. http://archive.org/details/straightshoulder01dool.
Doolittle, Oliver Taylor. [from old catalog]. Straight Shoulder Rules, Systems and Methods of the Present Day. Philadelphia: O. T. Doolittle, 1901. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/009566690.
Etherington-Smith, Meredith, and Jeremy Pilcher. The “It” Girls: Lucy, Lady Duff Gordon, the Couturière “Lucile”, and Elinor Glyn, Romantic Novelist. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1986. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/18627273.
Evans, Caroline. The Mechanical Smile: Modernism and the First Fashion Shows in France and America 1900-1929. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/855558337.
Finamore, Michelle Tolini. “Fashioning Early Cinema: Dress and Representation in American Film, 1905-1930,” 2010. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/609666883.
Font, Lourdes M. “International Couture: The Opportunities and Challenges of Expansion, 1880–1920.” Business History 54, no. 1 (February 1, 2012): 30–47. https://doi.org/10.1080/00076791.2011.626977.
Garvey, Ellen Gruber. The Adman in the Parlor : Magazines and the Gendering of Consumer Culture, 1880s to 1910s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/300413491.
Glickstein, Philip. Glickstein’s System; Ladies’, Misses’ and Children’s Garments, Practical Methods of Designing According to Proportions. New York, The Reich Printing Co., 1909. http://archive.org/details/glicksteinssyste00glic.
Gnoli, Sofia, and Sofia Gnoli. The Origins of Italian Fashion: 1900-45. London: Victoria & Albert Publishing, 2014. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/963875018.
Gordon, S. S. [from old catalog. The “Standard” Work on Cutting Ladies’ Tailor-Made Garments; New York, The J. J. Mitchell co., 1908. http://archive.org/details/standardworkoncu00gord.
Grieveson, Lee. The Silent Cinema Reader. London: Routledge, 2007. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/552119039.
Higashi, Somiko. Virgins, Vamps, and Flappers, 2000. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/85041410.
Hill, Daniel Delis. History of World Costume and Fashion. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2011. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/768100950.
Holley, Jennifer Kay. “Elinor Glyn: A Novelist and Screenwriter Recounts Women’s Fashion, 1900-1927,” 2006.
Hutcheson, James Happle, and Heinrich Friedrich Wampen. Dr. Wampen’s World Renowned System of Anthropometry as Simplified and Americanized. Chicago, J. Happle-Hutcheson, 1903. http://archive.org/details/drwampensworldre01hutc.
Jno. J. Mitchell Co. The New Standard Vest System; a Short-Measure Method of Drafting Every Kind of Vest for Every Size and Shape. A Complete Treatise on the Art and Science of Vest Cutting. New York: The Jno. J. Mitchell Co., 1907. https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011434892.
Koda, Harold, and Andrew Bolton. Poiret. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/81452910.
Lane, Andrew. Motoring Costume. 197. Princes Risborough: Shire, 1987. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/925335863.
Majer, Michele, Lenard R. Berlanstein, Marlis Schweitzer, and Sheila Stowell, eds. Staging Fashion, 1880-1920: Jane Hading, Lily Elsie, Billie Burke. New York: Bard Graduate Center, 2012. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/777951295.
Mansfield, A. D., and Phillis Emily Cunnington. Handbook of English Costume in the Twentieth Century, 1900-1950. Boston: Plays, Inc, 1973. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/1008080843.
Mendes, Valerie D., and Amy De La Haye. Fashion since 1900. 2nd ed. World of Art. London: Thames & Hudson, 2010. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/751457342.
Merwin, Pearl [from old catalog, and Kansas City American college of dressmaking. The American System of Dressmaking. Kansas City, Mo., The American college of dressmaking, 1907. http://archive.org/details/americansystemof02merw.
Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, and Harold Koda. Fashion: A Timeline in Photographs: 1850 to Today. New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc, 2015. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/905518225.
Phelps, E. L. The Scientific Tailor, Based on Geometry; [Buffalo ?, 1904. http://archive.org/details/scientifictailor00phel.
Proud, A. H. The Americanized French Cutting Method. Chicago, Ill., 1906. http://archive.org/details/americanizedfren00prou.
Ratner, Henry Wolf. Ratner’s up-to-Date Method of Designing; School of Designing, Cutting, Grading and Fitting, for Ladies’, Gentlemen’s and Children’s Garments, Ready Made and Order Made, Also Dressmaking and Furs .. Chicago, Cosmopolitan Printing Co., 1908. http://archive.org/details/ratnersuptodatem00ratn.
Regal, Samuel] 1866-[from old catalog. The American Garment Cutter; a Complete, Practical, up-to-Date Treatise on the Cutting of Men’s Garments According to the Latest and Most Approved Method. New York [etc.] American fashion company, 1904. http://archive.org/details/americangarmentc01rega.
Regal, Samuel] 1866-[from old catalog. The American Garment Cutter. New York [etc.] American fashion company, 1908. http://archive.org/details/americangarmentc00rega.
Roger-Miles, L. (Leon), and G. Agie. Les Createurs de la Mode. Paris : C. Eggimann, 1910. http://archive.org/details/lescreateursdela00roge.
Rude, A. D. Text-Book of the Great Modern System for Designing and Cutting Ladies’ Garments. [New York, Cleveland, A. D. Rude & son, 1900. http://archive.org/details/textbookofgreatm00rude.
Schoeffler, O. E., and William Gale. Esquire’s Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men’s Fashions. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/993378739.
Schulman, Louis. The Schulman System of Garment Cutting. [New York?], 1904. http://archive.org/details/schulmansystemof00schu.
Seeling, Charlotte, Neil Morris, Ting Morris, and Karen Waloschek. Fashion, the Century of the Designer, 1900-1999. Cologne: Könemann, 2000. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/778990757.
Stephenson, Andrew. “'Wonderful Pieces of Stage-Management’: Masculine Fashioning, Race and Imperialism in J.S. Sargent’s British Portraits, c.1897–1914.” In Transculturation in British Art, 1770-1930, edited by Julie F Codell, 221–42. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012. http://www.worldcat.org/oclc/859382990.
“1900-1960 Fabrics & Textiles,” 1900s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1900-1960-fabrics-textiles/.
“1900s Bodices & Blouses,” 1900s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1900s-bodices-blouses/.
“1900s Fashion Illustrations,” 1900s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1900s-fashion-illustrations/.
“1900s Fashion in Photographs,” 1900s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1900s-fashion-in-photographs/.
“1900s Men’s Fashion,” 1900s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/1900s-fashion-men/.
“1900s Patterns & Tutorials,” 1900s. https://www.pinterest.com/pocketmuseum/patterns-tutorials-1900s/.