The first two decades of the twentieth century saw dramatic changes in the political, social, and economic life in the West. The prosperity that characterized life at the turn of the twentieth century was largely the result of industrialization, a long historic process that had introduced factory production to many major industries, including mining, manufacturing, and the production of clothing.
The period from the turn of the twentieth century to the end of World War I (1914–18) was one of great transition in the world of fashion. Not only did styles for women undergo a dramatic shift in their basic silhouette, or shape, but the very system through which new styles were introduced and popularized also changed.
Bloomers were baggy underpants for women, usually made of cotton, which gathered at the waist and below at the knees. Because they were worn under long, slightly loose A-line skirts and dresses, the leggings also could hang on the legs in an ungathered fashion, falling halfway between the knees and the ankles.
A garment made to cover, contain, and support women's breasts, the brassiere has long been identified with femininity, female sexuality, and even female oppression. Invented during the early 1900s, when women were beginning to gain some independence, the brassiere, or bra, represented freedom from much more Several different types of brassieres and lingerie.
Collars are neckbands attached to the neckline of a shirt. Removable collars were invented in 1827 by Hannah Lord Montague (1794–1878) of Troy, New York.
Driving, or motoring as it was known in the early years of the twentieth century, inspired its own fashion trend, born out of the need to protect automobile drivers and their passengers from the elements. The short-lived craze for driving clothes that emerged in the first decade of the twentieth century also reflected a trend toward the development of specialized garments for special occasions.
During the first decade of the 1900s, just as women began demanding more freedom, more rights, and more comfortable fashions, one of the most restrictive styles of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries came into style. This was the hobble skirt, a tight, ankle-length skirt that grew narrower at the hem.
Hunting in the early years of the twentieth century combined two activities for which specialized clothes were developed: riding horses and shooting. Until the second half of the nineteenth century, men had hunted in a version of their normal attire.
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.
Popular among late-nineteenth-century English country gentlemen, early-twentieth-century sportsmen, and young American boys of both centuries, knickers are short pants that are characterized by a band that fastens tightly at the knee, similar to the breeches of the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries. Usually made of a sturdy fabric like wool or corduroy, knickers have been dressed up with jackets to form knicker suits, and dressed down as the playing uniform for early baseball players.
The great fashion shift of 1908 brought important changes to both men's and women's silhouettes, the outline of the body that is the basic form of a new style. One of the most important changes was the introduction of a tapered look from the hips to the ankles.
The men's suit had been evolving ever since the seventeenth century, when men first began wearing a coat over a shirt and vest. By the end of the nineteenth century the basic suit had reached the form that we know today, with trousers, sleeveless vest, and coat made from the same material.
The shirtwaist was a tailored blouse or shirt worn mainly by working-class women in the early years of the twentieth century. The shirtwaist was often worn with a fitted or looser A-line long skirt.
The long, water-repellent coat known as a trench coat was adapted from military use and became enormously popular during and after World War I (1914–18). Stylish and functional, the trench coat, traditionally made of a rugged fabric called gabardine, remained a staple of outerwear throughout the twentieth century and was adopted by some of the most revered figures in history and popular entertainment.
At the turn of the twentieth century many men wore union suits as undergarments. Union suits were one-piece, knit undergarments that covered both the upper and lower body.
Zippers are devices for fastening clothing. A zipper consists of two tracks of teeth or coils, made of metal or synthetic plastic materials, which are connected to a pull-piece that either locks or separates the tracks.
During the first years of the twentieth century, women continued to wear their hair and hats much as they did in the previous century, but after about 1908 styles began to change and the first of the styles that would become so popular during the 1920s and 1930s appeared. In terms of hair and hats, then, this period was an age of transition.
The traditional American barbershop was an emporium where men congregated to have their hair cut, faces shaved, and fingernails manicured. Barbershops, particularly those in small towns, also served a wider purpose within the community.
In the first decades of the twentieth century there were so many different kinds of hats that a man could truly wear a hat for nearly every occasion. And, if he wanted to be considered a gentleman, he absolutely could not go without a hat.
During the late 1800s and early 1900s, several hairdressers discovered that by applying chemicals and heat to women's hair, they could create curls and waves that would last for days, weeks, or even months. These hairstyles were called permanent waves or simply permanents.
Of all the items worn during the years between 1900 and 1918, perhaps the most spectacular and varied were women's hats. Women's hats were large and heavily ornamented in the first half of this period, providing a good match for women's dresses.
In an age of extravagant dresses and immense feathered hats for women, and conservative suits and carefully chosen hats for men, body decorations and accessories faded in significance. It wasn't that such items were not important to people in the early years of the twentieth century; rather, they were simply overshadowed by the showiness of other parts of the outfit, as in the case of women, or were very understated, as in the case of men.
Women have been carrying purses or small handbags since the Middle Ages (c. 500–c.
Cosmetic products intended to color the lips have been used for thousands of years, by both women and men, in a variety of shades, depending on the fashion of the time. Modern lipstick, consisting of waxes, oils, and pigments pressed into a cylinder and packaged in a metal tube, has been sold to women since 1915.
A watch is a portable timepiece, most commonly carried in a pocket or strapped on the wrist. Pocket watches can be as large as three inches in diameter, while wristwatches are smaller, so that they do not interfere with the wearer's movement.
Men and women both enjoyed access to a wide range of footwear in the first decades of the twentieth century. In the last half of the nineteenth century several important breakthroughs had made shoes more comfortable and cheaper than ever before.
Converse paved the way for the athletic shoe explosion of the late twentieth century with its introduction of the canvas and rubber All-Star in 1917. It also created an enduring American footwear icon that still claims the allegiance of millions of wearers worldwide.
Women's skirt lengths began to rise after about 1908, opening up a whole new world for the display of women's shoes. Skirt lengths did not raise much but just enough to display women's ankles and, perhaps, the lower length of her calf.
Simply designed, low-cut shoes that lace up the front and have flat heels and thin soles, oxfords are the most common modern shoe for Western men. Many women wear them as well.