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, womens clothing in the early
1900s was designed to show off a womans 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 customers measurements using dress forms
built out to the clients 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
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.
>> read on about Fashion
in the 1910s