The period of the late ‘teens (1915-1919) was
distinguished by two very different fashion silhouettes. At the start
of the war in 1914, styles still showed a strong Edwardian influence, i.e.,
lacy shirtwaists and long, narrow skirts ending at the instep, but with a
strong dash of Poiret thrown in. Hobble skirts and tunic effects were
popular, and the extremely dropped shoulder began to appear.
Skirts and Tunic Effects with Dropped Shoulder Appearing.
In the spring of 1915, however, fashion
changed radically with the introduction of an outline known at the time as
the 'war crinoline.' Hemlines crept upward and the skirt was now very full
and bell-shaped, with wide collars and sloping shoulders. The look was
exaggeratedly feminine and bore a striking resemblance to fashions of the
Victorian Romantic period of the late 1840’s (and oddly enough, a bit of the
New Look 1940’s as well. Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose).
Needlecraft Magazine Fashions 1915-1917
It was denounced in print and from the pulpit
as unnecessarily wasteful at a time when patriotic citizens were being urged
to conserve cloth, as well as immodest (hemlines eventually got a good eight
inches from the ground). Despite this, it was the prevailing mode as
dictated by Paris, which was still the Mecca for fashion-minded women, war
or no war. It hung on for almost three years.
Narrower Fashion Line of 1918 - 1919 With Waist
By January of 1918, skirts had narrowed
again, hemlines began to fall, and by 1919 the precursors of the very
simple, clean, long lines of the 1920s could be seen, although waistlines
were still not going to drop towards the hips for another two years.
My sources are three widely-circulated
monthly needlework magazines of the era: Home Needlework,
which started in the 1890s as the house organ for the Corticelli Silk Mills
company and ceased publication in April 1917 (it merged with Modern
Priscilla); Modern Priscilla, which began publishing at the turn of the
century and died during the Depression; and Needlecraft, which managed to
hang on until WWII.
All of these were cheap (ten cents) and
targeted working and middle class American women with families. Home
Needlework confined itself to the usual needle arts as well as raffia work
and china painting; Needlecraft and Modern Priscilla offered genteel
fiction, recipes and home decorating tips as well.
I have been lucky enough to acquire several
dozen copies of these, from 1914-1925. All of the scans I am sending you are
from Needlecraft and out of copyright under US copyright law. I hope they
are of some use to you.
Shay is a site visitor and also an avid
collector of old magazines and instruction books of the era 1914-1925.
This page began from an email conversation we had about the accuracy of a
particular drawing I had on site circa 1918 and resulted in my making a new
drawing to reflect more the style of the year. Shay then offered to send me some illustrations from a
copy of of dress pattern advertisements from Needlecraft 1914-1919
magazines. Needlecraft was a widely circulated American monthly magazines of that era.
I was delighted when she sent the pictures
that she added some text of her own clearly stating the fashion silhouette
of that small time frame. This page and the simple, but
representative pictures of everyday styles of fashions worn by the average
American woman of the era are the result of our correspondence.
Thank you Shay. It is quite impossible for
one person to be an expert on every aspect of costume and your input will
benefit many looking for illustrations and text of the time span here.
When doing essays and assignments students should always redraw such
pictures in their own style.
This site in the main is about fashion
history from a British outlook and viewpoint. However many of the site
visitors are from the USA as well as from many very different parts of the
globe. It's important to point out that after 1914
fashions between continents began to show occasional differences. Now today we are almost full circle with
global communication speeding up fashion vibes worldwide, so what is worn in
Chicago is equally likely to be seen in London.
Until 1914 the USA sought much of its fashion
inspiration from Europe. However when the First World War began
American fashion had to change as transatlantic communications were poor.
Fashion communication and export eventually dried up in the
Necessity meant that America sought out its
own talent and a flurry of young designers emerged with new fresh and
innovative designs that had style and chic that Manhattan women embraced.
This was the real start of original American fashion produced on home ground
and covered everything from clothes to hats. American ideas of styling
soon became a major player in the fashion stakes as Hollywood and film
fashions exploded into the lives of ordinary people in the twenties and
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