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Women's Clothing

Women's clothing during the early 1900s was extremely lavish and cumbersome and, most notably, characterized by the S-shaped figure. The constrictive corset of the decade was designed in 1900 by Mme. Gaches-Sarraute, who studied medicine and recognized the ill-effects of the 19th century corsets. Her new "Health Corset" removed pressure from the waist and diaphragm but resulted in thrusting the bosom forward and the hips back. Women waddled around in the disfiguring contraptions with long, heavy, frilled skirts and puffy, lacy blouses. In 1908, however, a new look for women, with tailored suits, blouses, and skirts, emerged.

The women in the image below illustrate the extremities of the early 1900s. Skirts were bell-shaped, tightly hugging the hips and flaring at the bottom. Notice their S-shaped figure and the amount of lavish decoration on their skirts and bodices.

1900s S-Shaped Figure 1900s S-Shaped Figure

1900s S-Shaped Figure: Image courtesy of Elizabeth Ewing, History of 20th Century Fashion, 1992

The blouse was an important part of the early 1900s wardrobe and came in an infinite variety of heavily frilled styles. The blouse typically puffed forward over the waist.

1900s Blouses

1900s Blouses: Image courtesy of Elizabeth Ewing

In 1908, women threw off much of the frill and lace from their clothes and embraced the "New Woman" look with tailored suits and tailored blouses and skirts. The S-shaped corset was still worn, however.

1900s Tailored Suits

1900s Tailored Suits

1900s Tailored Suits: Image courtesy of Elizabeth Ewing

The tailored blouse and skirt, seen below, was particularly popular with American women.

1900s Tailored Blouse and Skirt

1900s Tailored Blouse and Skirt: Image courtesy of Elizabeth Ewing

Cycling was still a popular pastime for women during the early 1900s. Blouses and skirts, still layered over tightly corseted figures, were worn for leisurely bike trips.

1900s Cyclists in Blouses and Skirts

1900s Cyclists in Blouses and Skirts: Image courtesy of Valerie Mendes and Amy de la Haye, 20th Century Fashion, 1999

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