The Early Teens Walking Suit- A Brief Look

 

The walking suit represented a major step in the evolution of women’s wear during the late 19th and early 20 Centuries. Starting in the early 1890s, the walking suit was considered an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe and by the Teens, it occupied a prominent place in fashion. Style details, construction, and fabric varied depending on price point but the objective was always the same- a outfit that a woman could wear out in public that was practical yet stylish. In response to the growing popularity of walking suits, clothing manufacturers produced walking suits in a variety of fabrics, colors and styles. Walking suits became to widespread that even the major couturiers couldn’t ignore it.

Walking Suit 1910

Walking Suit, 1910

In response, couturiers began to offer an ever-expanding line of practical day wear of which the walking suit was a key element and each couturier put their own twist on the basic design as with this walking suit by Paquin:

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Paquin, Walking Suit, 1912; National Gallery of Victoria (2015.670.a-b)[National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased with funds donated by Mrs Krystyna Campbell-Pretty in memory of Mr Harold Campbell-Pretty, 2015 © Paquin]

The above example illustrates one jacket style was designed to give the effect of a robe or kimono; naturally, this effect tended to work better with a lighter fabric such as a linen.  Here’s another one from Maison Worth:

Walking Suit Worth c. 1913

Worth, Walking Suit, c. 1913; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1980.16.3a, b)

Jackets also followed more conventional styles such as with this one:

Paquin Walking Suit 1910 Front

Jeanne Paquin, Walking Suit, Spring/Summer 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.474a–d)

The walking suit below from Redfern features a more tailored jacket (which would come as no surprise given Redfern’s background):

c. 1911 Walking Suit Redfern

Redfern, Walking Suit, c. 1911; V&A Museum (T.28&A-1960)

c. 1911 Walking Suit Redfern

Three-quarter rear profile.

And jackets could also have more of a greatcoat style:

Walking Suit Redfern c. 1910

Redfern, Walking Suit, c. 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (2009.300.107a, b)

And just to round things off, here are a few from unknown makers:

Walking Suit c. 1912

Walking Suit, c. 1912; McCord Museum (M976.35.2.1-2)

Walking Suit c. 1912

And here’s one from 1915:

Walking Suit 1915

Walking Suit, 1915; McCord Museum (M983.130.3.1-3)

Walking Suit 1915

And sometimes, it was hard to tell where “suit” left off and “dress” began…here’s an example from 1911:

Walking Suit 1911

Walking Suit, 1911; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1976.290.7a–c)

The above examples are only a small fraction of what was out there but it’s clear that the walking suit had arrived as a major wardrobe item. We hope that this will serve as a source of inspiration for those looking to recreate the day wear of the early Teens. And finally, just to tie this into something more contemporary, consider this:

Boarding Dress3 Titanic Movie Walking Suit

Enjoy! 🙂

Structuring & Silhouette…

With the shift towards unstructured fashions during the 1910s, it appeared to many that the corset’s days were numbered as a major fashion item. Leading the way, designers such as Paul Poiret and Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix introduced styles that harkened back to Classical Greece and the Directoire, styles that were diametrically opposed to the tightly structured s-bend corset/pouter pigeon silhouette of the early 1900s.  However, while garments themselves were no longer structured to follow the lines of the corset, the corset still lived on in modified forms such as the ones pictured in this advertisements published in the August 15, 1914 edition of Vogue Magazine:

Vogue Aug 15 1914_Corset Ad

Now the emphasis was on styles that were free and unrestrained yet at the same time, the body was still structured. What is also interesting is that the advertisement refers to a style created by Margaine-Lacroix, a designer who had recently acquired notoriety for a series of skin-tight body contour dresses that defied convention. However as seen below, many of Margaine-Lacroix’s designs were squarely within the major trends of the time:

Margaine-Lacroix 1914

Margaine-Lacroix c. 1908 - 1910 Dress

Margaine-Lacroix, Dress, c. 1908 – 1910; Metropolitan Museum of Art (1979.346.32)

Margaine-Lacroix c. 1908 - 1910 Dress

Flat Detail View

As with fashion in general, foundation garments were also changing but their effect was somewhat more muted and in another ten years, fashions would evolve into even more unstructured styles. Stay tuned for more as we bring forward various bits and pieces of fashion history for your please. 🙂

 

Haute Couture – 1910

Haute Couture has played a major role in fashion history for over 100 years and its influence is felt today even in the “everyday” clothes that we wear today. For those with an interest in fashions of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Parisian Haute Couture has exerted a near-irresistible force on perceptions and a focus for those attempting to recreate those fashions. What’s not to like? Exquisite fabrics, flawless construction, and an attention to detail that’s simply mind-boggling combine together to create what can only be called masterpieces of art.

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However, behind the glamour and beauty was the reality that these garments were created by armies of seamstresses, milliners, tailors, pattern makers, et al., laboring mostly behind-the-scenes. Recently, we came across some pictures that were part of a book published in 1910 entitled Les Créaeurs De La Mode  by Leon Roger-Mills which gives an overview of the fashion industry in Paris. We have not done a complete translation of the book but it’s safe to say that it was no doubt intended for public relations. What is especially interesting is that in contrast to 1900 or before, the various couture houses were forthcoming with information and permitted photography of their operations.

Up until the early 20th century, Couturiers were extremely averse to much in the way of publicity for fear (often rightly so) of others using that information to steal designs and create knock-offs. The House of Worth was especially adamant about avoiding the press and it wasn’t until the passing of Charles Worth that the House of Worth engaged in any sort of publicity.

As with today, Haute Couture of the time dealt in the creation of one-of-a-kind garments made custom to fit the individual client. While ready-to-wear was becoming commonplace, it was definitely absent in the world of Haute Couture. When a client came to a couture house to shop for a dress, various styles would be modeled and the client would make their selection (couture houses maintained crews of models who were available at a moment’s notice). In some cases, a style would be selected for the client by the designer (Charles Worth was especially noted for this).

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A key thing to note is that couture houses often worked off of standard patterns modified to the individual; underneath all the trim and decoration the pattern pieces were often simple and *relatively* uncomplicated. 🙂

Now we go behind the scenes…

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Atelier of Designers

From the designers to those who did the construction and assembly…

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And then final fitting:

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And finally, delivery:

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Parisian Haute Couture relied on an army of skilled specialists to execute the designs and they often worked in less-than-optimal working conditions and pay (needless to say, none of those people could afford the garments that they made). Today, Parisian Haute Couture is not as prominent or influential as it was 100 years ago but the legacy still lives on and it never fails to inspire us here at Lily Absinthe.

1914 Fashions – A Brief Overview

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1914 marked a violent transition between worlds which saw the unleashing of forces that ultimately saw the end of the stable and orderly political, social, and economic European-dominated world order. The events of the First World War ultimately led to a near-complete reordering of political, social, economic and cultural institutions that saw the elimination of the certainties of the prewar world and more importantly, it shattered people’s belief in a world that was constantly improving and becoming a better place for all.

As with other institutions, fashion was deeply affected by the war and the evidence can be readily seen in the shift in silhouettes away from the structured forms that had dominated fashions since the 19th Century. More profoundly, the war saw the introduction of more utilitarian designs in response to women’s changing role in society. Women were now increasingly working outside of the home, primarily in response to labor shortages due to men going off to war, women were increasingly working outside of the home and fashions evolved in response. At the same time, fashions changed in response to outside forces such as materials shortages and changing social attitudes. Finally, it must be noted that many fashion trends that occurred during the First World War did not represent a complete break with the past; many fashion trends we see during the war were a continuation of trends which had been developing from about 1908 on.

So what were some of the basic style details trending in 1914? First, the most obvious is that hemlines were significantly higher than anything previously. Since the early 1900s, hemlines (mostly in daywear) had been steadily moving up, starting with the ankle and moving up to the lower leg. Second, clothing had evolved towards a less structured silhouette with the introduction (or rather re-introduction) of the empire line/Directoire style. Also, this trend towards a more flowing, looser look was also inspired by Oriental fashions and the draped clothing of Classic Greece.

To begin, here are some typical day dresses from various sources. First, we start with some fashion plates:

1914 Pattern2

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And for some extant examples:

Below is a day dress from 1910:

Day Dress 1910

Day Dress, 1910; Glenbow Museum

And another day dress from c. 1914 – 1915:

Day Dress 1914

Day Dress, Anne Talbot, c. 1914 – 1915; Victorian & Albert Museum (T.166 to B-1967)

And finally, one from c. 1915:

For evening/formal wear, one can see a variety of new designs to include the return of the empire/Directoire style:

The influence of Orientalism can be seen here:

Probably one of the most dramatic designs were those by Mariano Fortuny and in particular, his Delphos Dress which was reminiscent of Classical Greece:

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Delphos Dress – Mariano Fortuny, c. 1910

So by 1914 the perfectly sculpted, corseted figure created by the s-bend corset had disappeared and while clothes still retained some structure, that structure came from the clothes themselves, rather than from the undergarments. However, to be sure, structured undergarments were still worn but the effect tended to be more subtle and not so obvious.

One other significant trend was the movement away from the hobble skirt. Originally developed by Paul Poiret around 1908, the hobble skirt with it’s narrow skirt was visually appealing but severely inhibited the wearer’s movement. Below is just one example of the controversial hobble skirt style from 1910:

Later, the more extreme features of the style were somewhat mitigated by various designers by including hidden gussets and various other contrivances in an effort to restore practical movement yet maintain the style. Jeanne Paquin was noted for including incorporating hidden pleats at the bottom of her dresses to allow for more fuller movement, such as with this dress:

Jeanne Paquin - Hobble Skirt

Finally, to conclude, here are a couple of humorous views of the hobble skirt trend:

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Punch, 1910

Hobble Skirt Postcard

For the fashion world in France, the outbreak of the war in 1914 was a catastrophe. With the country mobilizing for war and Paris under threat from the advancing German armies, there was mass economic disruption and the bottom fell out of the luxury goods markets resulting in mass layoffs and many of the great fashion houses either closing or scaling back their business. With the Battle of the Marne eliminating the threat German to Paris, the war settled into a long-term affair and the fashion industry was able to recover by by contracts for the production of uniforms for an expanding French Army.

The preceding survey is just a small has been a brief one and we are admittedly painting with an extremely large brush. However, we want to emphasize that fashion never exists in isolation from the rest of society and that it is subject to the influence of world events. For the fashion world, the First World War marked a definite and final break with the past. In future blog posts, we’ll further explore these themes so stay tuned.

Nadezhda Lamanova- Between Two Worlds, Part 2

In our last post, we took a brief look at the career(s) and work of the Russian designer Nadezhda Lamanova as she built a reputation as a designer of Haute Couture for Russia’s upper classes and subsequently reinvented herself as an avant garde designer for the masses in the new revolutionary Russia. Now we’re going to take another look at Lamanova’s designs prior to 1917.

To start, here is one particularly striking example from circa 1910 – 1914:

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Evening Dress, Nadezhda Lamanova, c. 1912 – 1914; State Hermitage Museum

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Rear View

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Side Profile

The above dress design reflects the shift from the earlier tightly structured silhouette of the S-bend corset towards a more vertical silhouette employing a tubular dress shape. Make no mistake about it, the underpinnings were still there but now the dress flowed loosely in a manner reminiscent of the Classical Grecian Chiton.

The dress itself is two layers, the underlayer composed of a turquoise/jade green satin and an overlayer consisting of a black chiffon embroidered a floral motif consisting of the flowers and leaves of chrysanthemums. The embroidery itself is in a golden-green silk and gold thread. One can see the combination of different textures, contrasting colors and a separate overlayer with metallic embroidery creates a three dimensional effect to the dress and this is especially evident when one looks at the train. The above pictures simply do not do justice to the dress.

Now, for something a little different from the Mid-1890s. This is a visiting dress that belonged to the Empress:

Visiting Dress, Nadezhda Lamanova, Mid 1890s; State Hermitage Museum

Visiting Dress3

Close-Up

The above visiting dress is from the mid-1890s, characterized by the leg of mutton or Gigot sleeve style and it’s a princess line dress. According to the description, the fashion fabric is of an ivory/cream (depending on the light) silk velvet. Metallic sequins have been stitched to create a vine motif with vertical lines of sequins suggesting some a trellis of sorts which serves to accentuate the vertical lines/silhouette of the dress.

The above examples are a tiny fraction of Lamanova’s output and they reflect the major fashion trends of the times and while much of what she created was fairly mainstream conventional as in the case of the above visiting dress, there were also attempts to push boundaries such as in the case of the above green ballgown. It wasn’t until after the revolution that Lamanova came into her own as a designer, creating ready-to-wear designs for the masses while at the same time creating avant garde designs. Lamanova is a designers that we should know more about.

Postscript: We find it amazing that so many dresses of the early 1900s have managed to survive revolutionary turmoil and two world wars. 🙂