International fashion until 1914 was heavily influenced by the avant-garde French couturier Paul Poiret. He helped initiate the Art Deco style and inspired other designers such as Erte and Mariano Fortuny, whose delphos gowns of the finest pleated silk were also world famous. In 1910 Poiret publicized the hobble skirt, which was, despite its uncomfortable cut, quite fashionable for a short time. It fell loosely, straight to the top of the calf, but was narrowed, from below the knee to its ankle-length hem, with such a narrow yoke that a lady could only hobble. Poiret also proposed a long pants-dress, but few women dared to be seen on the streets in the new jupes culottes. For eveningwear, Poiret even suggested broad harem pants worn under a long tunic with a wire-stiffened, upturned hem.
From 1912 until the outbreak of World War I, evening clothes were marked by the new social dance craze, the Argentine tango. Poiret's creations seemed custom-made for the new popular dance: closely wrapped skirts with high slits in the front, gold-embroidered tunics, and turbans with upright feathers. Men wore the cutaway and the fashionable frock coat, sometimes in strong colors like dark red, or featuring checkered trim. Accompanying hats were oversized.
During World War I (1914-1918), clothing tended to be as simple as possible: moderately wide skirts, not quite reaching the foot, and hip-length jackets. In 1915-1916, war crinolines—ankle length and fluffed with two or three skirt layers—were en vogue; a year later, however, these fell victim to the more economical use of fabric provided by the sack cut. The fashion in 1918 was livened up by large side pockets and skirts that narrowed towards the hem, creating the barrel look of 1919. Most of the fashion salons in Paris had closed. But some wealthy women bought comfortable jersey suits with hip-length jumpers and simple skirts from Gabrielle Chanel in Deauville, thereby establishing her fame. In the United States, especially in New York, clothing manufacturers were active.
The most important novelty of twentieth century women's clothing occurred outside of the fashion world. Long trousers for women were inaugurated, neither by haute couture nor by every-day fashion, but by women's work clothing, which was still mostly borrowed from men. Directly following the war, people worked with what was available, altering uniforms and army tarps or other leftovers, to create civilian clothes.
During the war, the uniform replaced all other suit types, and most tailors—if they stayed in business at all— specialized in its manufacture. After the war, tailors resorted to alterations of uniforms and the reworking of recycled—sometimes fragile—materials into suits which had to be reinforced with buckram, thus creating the so-called starched suit. Men's trousers had very narrow legs all the way to the hem. The trench coat appeared, courtesy of the transition from military into civilian clothes.
Was this article helpful?