Thursday, May 5, 2011

Fashion Through the Ages

While folding laundry today I put on one of my favorite movies. Well, in truth it's probably only one of my favorite movies because of how much I LOVE the story. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I cannot even begin to count the number of times I have read and reread the wonderful words Ms. Alcott put down on paper so long ago. Not only does the story take place during one of my favorite time periods in American history.

It is said that we often like stories with characters that remind us of ourselves. For me, I have to say it is very true. I wish I were calm and gentle like Beth, understanding like Marmee, and respectable and as put together as Meg. I even envy Amy for her own talents in art and her own personal beauty. She was described in the books as such, and Samantha Mathis brings this to life on the screen as "older" Amy. Even young Kirsten Dunst shows a very pretty young Amy. Yet, even these desires in myself just show how much Jo and I are alike. Always impatient. Cannot wait for anything. ALways feeling restless and out of place. Not to mention falling in love with someone much older than herself (although I will say that in my case my darling husband is nowhere near my father's age as Friedrich Bhaer is to Jo's).

So while watching this movie, I started thinking not of the war or of the horrible things that happened to families that were torn apart etc. No. I thought of the fashions in the movie, and the ways in which fashions have changed over the last century in comparison to previous centuries. Within the 20th century, there was a huge change in the silhouette of women. A very drastic change that I personally believe has not been very well matched in more recent centuries.

Now, I could be wrong, and I'm basing this entirely off the pictures in history books, and movies historians have claimed to be extremely accurate according to fashion choices, but most of the dressed that could be used to represent the late 19the late 19th century were not all that different from the ones in the late 18th century. Sure, there were many changes, that I probably would have rejoiced over were I a woman living in those time. For instance, the bonnet seems to have gone out of fashion, and dresses perhaps got a bit longer, which seems slightly more elegant in my opinion. But the basic idea of what a dress was and what women wore did not change much. tighter fitting bodice, long, full skirt. The ornamentation changed. But we did not see the drastic changes that occured within twenty years of the Titanic sinking

In 1912 the fashion world was enthralled in the victorian world of lace and buttons. Pinafores, and lots of bobby pins to tie back hair into buns and other forms of twists adn chignons. But by 1932, just 20 years later, we see a huge jump. Skirts became much shorter. Even hair was worn very differently. Especially considering that it was acceptable and highly fashionable for a woman to wear her hair short by this time. Twenty years before and it ould have caused a scandal.

I brought this to my husband's attention and he said it is because of industrialization and the mass production of "ready made" pieces. I guess that could be it. People could design an outfit, have aq bunch made and sold to buyers who would then show it off to many others who would, in turn, buy more of this new fashion. Before, it could have taken years before someone in the same town would have even copied someone else's idea for how to change up a basic design. At least that's my husband's thanking. I don't think I will ever really know, but it will continue to fascinate me as I watch my movies.


Neola said...

While to some degree I'm sure having ready made pieces did increase it's popularity but also during the time frame you're referencing (1912-1920) we were involved or getting involved in WWI and many women were taking jobs previously held by men so many of the curvy dress deigns went more straight and in addition to that many materials weren't available so a certain relaxed look came into play.

This was a good blog entry about this topic as well and it has a wealth of links about how she came to her own conclusion.

Rebecca said...

yes and no. women were not as actively employed in WWI as they were in WWII so that doesnt really hold as much weight. it was actually industrialization and the start of women working outside the home, which started more in the twenties. not so much with WWI. YES, women worked during WWI but not to the degree they did for WWII :-) women were also working very commonly in factories since the late 1800s, so why didn't it happen before?

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