20th Century Fashion History: 1910 – 1920

By the end of the first 20 years of the new century, fashion had seen a major shift in style (mainly women’s). The full development of going from the Edwardian silhouette to the boyish silhouette of the 1920s was a progress with several defining turning points. French designer Paul Poiret being one of them, but also the first world war and kind of also the gain of women’s rights. Here’s the fashion history: 1910 -1920! (and oh, here’s part one in case you missed). And oh again, do keep in mind that this is what people looked like exactly 100 years ago. This is our present decade (10 to 20), but 100 years later. Preeeetttyyy cool if you stop and think about it!

20th century fashion history 1910 - 1920 The Fashion Folks

The Society during 1910 – 1920

The early 1900s began to redefine society in many ways and this continued into the second decade of the century as well. New inventions, the car, eased the lives for people. Activities such as sports, dance and tea parties were growing bigger from the last decade. So did also warehouses which made it easier, and perhaps funnier, to go shopping.
20th century fashion history 1910 - 1920 The Fashion Folks Women still continued the fight for their right to vote and during the years of the 1910s, many countries changed their laws and gave better rights to women (even though they weren’t fully what they are today).

WWI would change society drastically and changed the daily life. Many women began to work and took over the job of  the men that went out in war. When the war ended, many women continued working. This somewhat eased the idea of working women. Even though they got paid less for their work (due to, ehrm, their gender), an important shift in society had still occurred.

By the end of the decade, and with the war over, people faced an uncertain reality. This with questions of the new structure of society, world peace and what the gained freedom and rights would mean. The optimism of life would grew bigger and result in the happy 1920s where the party of life seemed constant. It would take a decade of a world war, demonstrations and inventions to get there though.

Style of the 1910 – 1920

It’s a common trait within fashion history, or fashion trends in general, that where one decade ends, the next one begins with more or less the same look. After all, time is a conception of human and not a force of magical impact 20th century fashion history 1910 - 1920 | The Fashion Folksthat changes lives. By that said, the early 1910s were still very similar to the 1900s. With a puffy chest, a small waist and long dresses/skirts. The fashion was overall still very petite and romantic, with bright and dove colors as purple, pink and peach. A lot of lace, details and white to capture the pure and innocent fashion (see the pic above).

By the end of the decade women’s fashion had gone from pretty at foremost to also being a matter of function. The last years before the 1920s embraced a simpler fashion meaning: calf-length dresses, the liberation of the corset (more or less) and a straight silhouette. Women still wore dresses, skirts and hats but they were made “simple” and focus was equally on the practical aspects as details of lace and bright colors. One can presume that the actions of the war shifted focus from the superficial side of life to the practical one. Even though it is to be noted that dressing accordingly was still important, if not crucial.

The clothes between 1910 – 1920

The clothes of the decade mainly consisted of blouse, skirt, dress and coat. Still embracing the high collar/neckline of the previous decade, as well as going for longer sleeves and floor-hitting lengths. Hats were an important accessory and often oversized with decors of feathers and flowers. A v-shaped neckline, with an high collar blouse under, was a common combination in the 20th century fashion history 1910 - 1920 | The Fashion Folks early years of the 1910s. The v-shaped style stayed for the latter part too, but without the high collar underneath (see left).

Towards the later years, the neckline went lower and the length went shorter. The same old corsets weren’t needed any longer for the straight silhouette and the slight enhancement of the waist was done by a simple belt or tucked in. The color scale went darker and more rustic in terms of copper, grey and navy. Details of lace and flowers were often exchanged in favor of a simple bow. Collars and necklines were also important, often a poet collar or a shawl neckline. The popular buttons of the 1900s were still a common feature to add to dresses, jackets and skirts. Hats were still a major fashion item, but they were neater and simple in their execution. In the upper class though and for fancier events, the dresses still had similarities to earlier fashion of the 1900s. 

Beauty between 1910 – 1920

As the century went on, more and more makeup was considered to be socially acceptable (people would still though be enraged with the amount of makeup today). The idea of a great makeup look was to use as much tha was needed to look as naturally gorgeous as possible. The eyebrows were rather thin, the eyes were doe and rosy cheeks and “natural” red lips were ideal. To be underlined though, is that the makeup still shouldn’t be heavily notable or strong. But look as close to the ideals without being too visible (a very hard line to define that is).

The hair went more curly and done in a lower bun with a defined side. The hair was placed in a way that it looked like a bob, the haircut that would later redefine the beauty morals of women during the 1920s. This hairdo was also favorable of doing with a nice hairband or the (almost) mandatory hat.

20th century fashion history 1910 - 1920 | The Fashion Folks

Spotlight of 1910 – 1920

Even though a lot of designers began their solo careers in this decade, there was still a lack of dominant designer figures (as we know them today). Chanel might have started her career during these years but wouldn’t receive her breakthrough until the 1920s. Poiret was still almost the one dominating figure within fashion, even though his clothes were 20th century fashion history 1910 - 1920 | The Fashion Folks considered too extreme for the everyday person. He mostly dressed celebrities, dancers and performers in his, then, exotic creations. To the right though is a fashion card from Paris with the bowling skirt, that’s pretty similar to the silhouettes Poiret launched! Everyone didn’t perhaps embrace his clothes as they were, but got heavily inspired at least. (You can see in the copper outfit above that there are details with a touch of orientalism by the belt. Hands down to Poiret!)

So the real spotlight of the 1910s is the change of the corsets. Some dismissed the clothing piece completely while others embraced the new corsets that were more flexible and adapted to the daily life. Overall though, they were no longer needed to achieve the ideal look, as the silhouette went from defined waist to a rectangular/straight shape. This was of course a huge step for fashion and also a symbolic progress for women. Women were no longer held back by the limited movement pattern the corsets gave. They could breathe, they could get dressed easily by themselves and their fashion became more of practical measurements than cute. They could also do sports (more or less)!

Transition to 1920s

As stated before, the last years of the 1910s were close to the style of the 1920s. The silhouette had been set for the coming decade, so had the length of the dresses and also the minimalistic style for the everyday life. The only thing left for the 1920s was to add the glamour, fringe, feathers and sequins. Fashion of the 1910s began with traits of the old society in the context of corsets, appearance before function and conservatism. It ended however with more skin, an easy silhouette and a fashion of functionalism (even though they kept the sense of style). Way to go 1910s!

Next week I’ll talk about the fashion and beauty life we all adore: the glam of the 1920-1930. How about Gatsby, sequins, Chanel, the LBD and the decade of glam? Xx

20th century fashion history 1910 - 1920 | The Fashion Folks

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30 thoughts on “20th Century Fashion History: 1910 – 1920

  1. Growing up, my mom had a huge book about this era of fashion. I was obsessed with flipping though the pages of it… should’ve seen my career in fashion coming 😉

  2. Fashion really has changed SO MUCH in the last 100 years, hasn’t it? It seems like it was such a pivotal time to be alive. You had a front row seat to watch society move from traditions of the past into the modern technological era.

  3. I love your historic fashion posts, they’re fascinating and fill my head with so many interested facts! I think this is partly why so many of us now enjoy period dramas, as they showcase and remind us of beautiful designs from the past in the best way possible 🙂


  4. Love these kind of posts and I already cant wait for the next one as I am a huge golden Twenties/Gatsby Lover 🙂
    All the background information that you put together – must be a lot of work and I totally appreciate it <3

    Have a great day Babe and see you in the next decade ;9


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