Discussion: Women’s Fashion in the Edwardian Era (A Project Downton post)

Lady Mary pre war fashion (Downton Abbey)

This weekend I finally caught up on Downton Abbey….my mom and I watched the entire second season in one sitting. While we were having our tea in between episodes we were discussing the women’s fashions of the era which in turn prompted me to write a post for Project Downton!

I’ll be honest, I long for the time when ‘dressing’ for ‘dinner’ meant putting on something fancier than clean PJ’s and sitting in front of the telly eating a microwave dinner. I feel like I was born in the wrong decade by a few hundred years….I long for elegant updos, beaded dresses, extravagant hats, and yes even the corset.

The Crawley ladies pre war fashionThe Edwardian era fashion is often remembered as  the la Belle Epoque period (1890 to circa 1914) and is  considered the last age of elegance–after WWI and the stock market crash, society went into a tailspin of decline. Comparatively, the Victorian era was all about the exaggerated female silhouette…a high narrow waist, bushels, tightly synched corsets….the uni-boob.  Victorian dress had lots of lace and frills, heavy rich fabrics…and of course, intricate hair styles more so than hats.

Lady Cora pre war fashion (Downton Abbey)

As the world ushered in a new millennium, so did women’s fashion. The waist line dropped to a more natural one, allowing the true female shape to shine through. Tailored jackets and hats  suddenly became all the rage!

The Crawley ladies post war style (Downton Abbey)With the new natural figure coming into play….lighter weight and more luxurious fabrics came into fashion as did beads and feathers. But as the world moved into a world war….women’s fashion aimed to be more functional.

The war had a major effect on fashion in fabric restrictions, style changes due to women taking over men’s jobs while they were away at war. Dresses became shorter (6 inches shorter, exposing the ankle) and many women adopted military-ish sweaters and trench coats. Hats, gloves, and parasols were exchanged for simply buns and functional gloves with modest hats.

Lady Mary post War fashion (Downton Abbey)

A ladies maid that would have once been a necessity prior to WWI was a position all but gone during war time. Women needed fashions they could easily get in and out of themselves and hair styles that could keep hair out of the face or done by them.

Let’s be honest….when the war was over who would want to back to squeezing into a corset, or pinning up their hair? Wearing heavy and hot velvet fabric? Buttoning up boots with a crochet hook? Sticking pins through your massive hat so it wouldn’t blow away? Just watching Lady Mary and the other Crawley ladies dress for dinner just looked exhausting….I would much prefer the simpler war time Edwardian fashion than the heavy beaded gowns and corsets.

Though I love the fashion and long for a more elegant time, I think it would be rather difficult and daunting to have to ‘dress’ every single day in such a manor….even for the men! I have a hard enough time rationalizing getting ready for work everyday let alone getting dressed for dinner or to sit in my parlor waiting for guests to call on me….but like many DownTon Abbey fans…I long for a more beautiful, elegant era.

There are a number of excellent blog posts and articles about Edwardian fashion that I have listed here and recommend checking out if you are interested in the fashion!

And don’t forget to link up any additional posts or books you find on the subject to the Project Downton page!

Links to articles about Edwardian women’s fashion:

1900-1909   The Last Age of Elegance

La Belle Epoque 1895-1914 Edwardian Fashion History

Edwardian Fashion: Bandeaux 

Edwardian Era Clothing

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2 Comments

  1. I watched downton abbey last night and I too I’m obsessed with fashion in that era. I love elegance and grace…if only they could bring it back.

    Reply
  1. Review: The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott « The Lit Bitch

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