FASHION IN THE 1900s

In first decade of the 1900s, fashionable women needed morning dresses, afternoon dresses, evening gowns, and simpler dresses that were less occasion-specific. Social rituals, especially the custom of formal visiting, dictated the use of each of these dresses, or gowns, as the fancier garments were called. Women also wore suits, with shirtwaists (blouses), and had sporting clothes for their more active pursuits like skating, cycling, and tennis. The suits were coordinated jackets and long skirts, and were made by ladies’ tailors rather than by dressmakers. Shops like A. & L. Tirocchi often made the blouses or waists, as they were known in slang.

No matter what type of garment, women’s clothing in the early 1900s was designed to show off a woman’s tightly corseted torso. Such close-fitting clothes required "the perfect fit," so the most stylish women went to dressmakers who could do this for them. Until the early 1920s, the lining of the garment was the foundation on which the dress was built.

Custom dressmakers like the Tirocchi sisters carefully fit the linings to their customer’s measurements using dress forms built out to the client’s size. Then the client would try on the lining to make sure the fit was proper. When this was achieved, the dressmaker built the more costly fabrics around the lining, draping satin or velvet to form the skirt, and creating bodices using net, lace, and beaded trim. Most often a girdle, or belt, held in the waist.

When the French designer Paul Poiret made his first designs for loose, elegant dresses with high waistlines and no corsets beneath in 1907, he was looking back to the French Empire for inspiration. He claimed in these dresses to have instigated the demise of the corset, but many before him had already taken the step and the corset was already a passing fashion. Dress reformers had been urging the abolition of the corset since the mid-nineteenth century. The trend toward looser gowns jumped the Atlantic and American women adopted the newer styles, too. However, conservative matrons still clung to their corsets for a while, so the Tirocchi sisters in the first years of their business continued to design and drape for corseted clients.

Nevertheless, the earliest dress in the Tirocchi collection is strongly reminiscent of the dresses Paul Poiret was designing around 1910, with its high waistline, free-falling form, and its gaily colored peasant embroidery. Since the curators found this dress in the family quarters, and its condition suggests that it could have been worn over and over, the curators have speculated that the dress belonged to Laura Tirocchi herself, who would have been just the kind of slim young girl Poiret used as his models. If so, it was lovingly saved by her and preserved by her daughter Beatrice. If this hypothesis is true, it also indicates just how close to fashion trends the Tirocchis remained after coming to America, even if their clients had not yet caught up to this new taste.

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      Couture   |   Art
      Magazines   |   1900s
      1910s   |   1920s
      1930s   |   1940s
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  The Workers




Think about current fashion trends. Where do they come from and what part of the population is affected by them?

In the early part of the twentieth century, a few European designers set most trends, and only a small group of wealthy people paid attention and altered their daily style.