When I decided on the topic for this post, I didn’t intend for it to resemble a “Pinterest” board. The photos were so fascinating, though, I just couldn’t leave any of them out, and had to stop myself from adding more.
The Edwardian Era was roughly a hundred years ago, the first twenty years of the Twentieth Century. Between the Victorians and the flappers, and named for Queen Victoria’s son who succeeded her, it was a time of unique and lasting style. It overlapped with Art Nouveau. Downton Abbey fans know that the first two seasons were smack in the middle of Edwardian: the series began with the manor’s heir sinking with the Titanic.
In America it was the time of the Gibson Girl. Ladies’ silhouettes were braced by the (shudder) S-shaped corset, which threw the shoulders forward and the hips back. In summer they wore Anne-of-Green-Gables white cotton dresses — slimmer skirts would reach the floor for a little while longer. Large brimmed hats of flowers and feathers were held in place by long hat pins which disappeared into the pouf of pompadours. Did you ever wonder how often those horrible pins poked their scalps?
Lately I have been dwelling in the land of the Edwardians. Theodore and Edith Roosevelt, whom I read quite a bit about for my first book, were in the White House from 1901 to 1908, the beginning of the era. Now I’m working on another project, editing the letters of my grandparents, who would have been the same age as the Roosevelt children. I’m trying to get the feel of the time: books they read, music they listened to, clothes they wore.
http://www.oldpicture.com An early photograph of Billie Burke, who would play Glinda in The Wizard of Oz.
Wide, gathered belts wrapped tiny waistlines.
http://www.newhavenregister.com A socialite poses on an outdoor bench.
How much did the times affect their clothing? Did their clothing affect the times?
Working girls modified what they wore for their practical days. Hemlines would soon rise, as well as hopes for getting the vote. Fashion, defined as “an expression of the wearer’s wealth,” indicated how much physical labor she did. Away from the big cities of New York and Chicago, news of the latest styles came from newspapers, magazines and mail-order catalogs. Farm wives dressed differently on weekdays than they did for Sundays, special occasions, and trips to town.
http://www.oldbike.eu I just love this hat. No other reason for copying and pasting it.
I would like to go back to 1915 to talk with Margaret Edith Beck, a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse and the grandmother I never met. I don’t know how much would be about the age she lived in, though. It might just be I’d listen to her thoughts about the family. Whatever she wanted to say would be fine with me.
Reading her beautifully-penned letters has been my good fortune. They are not only a primary source about life in the past, they are a comfort — a bit like sharing a cup of Edwardian tea.