Jumper gowns were popular during the first few years of the twentieth century. They were long skirts with two-to three-inch-wide attached suspenders, or straps extending over the shoulders from the front waist to the back waist, also known as bretelles. Jumper gowns were worn over blouses or guimpes, yokes or collars of fabric that look like the upper part of blouses and that cover the neck and shoulders. They also were worn over lingerie shirtwaists, undergarments resembling tailored blouses that were meant to be worn under guimpes.
In 1908 jumper gowns were highly fashionable among American women. They were designed to emphasize a slim waist and full hips. They featured heavy flared, pleated skirts made up of four or more panels. The suspenders were cut in one piece of fabric extended from the skirt and joined at the shoulders by straps of velvet ribbon. Some skirts had as many as nine panels of fabric and were so long the hemlines dropped below the ankles and touched the floor. Hemlines might measure as much as five-and-one-half yards of fabric at the bottom. Jumper gowns of this sort were worn by wealthy women who had dressmakers sew them in silk, taffeta, satin, or linen fabrics. Depending upon the fabrics and the trims, jumper gowns could serve as dress-up outfits or casual wear for leisure activities.
Affordably priced McCall's sewing patterns made it possible for women of lower economic circumstances to sew their own jumper gowns. Unlike the affluent women, working women and less well-to-do housewives created jumpers from fabrics made from wool and cotton. The less expensive jumper gowns were rarely made up of more than four panels of fabric, and most of the hemlines hung an inch above the floor in order to avoid fraying the fabric. In place of ribbon trims, less costly jumpers occasionally were fastened at the shoulders by buttons. While guimpes for the wealthy were made of lace, silk, or lavish embroidery, and their blouses were made of silk or satin, less expensive guimpes and blouses primarily were sewn in cotton.
During the 1910s women's styles became less burdensome and more relaxed. As women spent more time walking and taking part in work and leisure activities, they chose hemlines that no longer touched the floor. Also, as loose, flexible undergarments replaced rigid, boned corsets, jumpers evolved into one-piece, loose-fitted sleeveless ankle-length dresses under which shirtwaists or blouses were worn.
Ewing, Elizabeth. History of Twentieth Century Fashion. Revised by Alice Mackrell. Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble Books, 1992.
Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Women's Clothes, 1600–1930. New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1994.