Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Wedding Dress History Circa 1920

It's June—the month traditionally associated with weddings. That is especially true for me this year as my son is getting married on the 23rd.  Because a wedding is a special day in the life of a woman, she often saves her dress.  The Benton County Historical Museum has many wedding dresses in its collection. I found at least nine from the 1914-1925 period. 

Wedding dress styles changed just like women's fashions in general, noted in the last post. Before the start of the 20th century, most brides did not have a special dress.  They wore the best dress they had or purchased one that could be wore for other occasions.  The light-colored suit with braid trim worn by Lizzie on her 1888 marriage to George Humphrey is an example.
George and Lizzie (Perin) Humphrey Wedding Portrait
When England's Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in 1840 she wore a white silk satin dress trimmed in lace.  Most fashionable brides before then wore wedding dresses in the year's most popular color; red was a favorite. Her unusual choice was quickly copied by the wealthy nobility but only became the first choice for brides with the growing middle class- consumer society some years later.

Although these dresses where characterized as white, they were not pure bright white as silk could not be bleached to that level.  Most were what we would call ivory or cream colored.

Bridal dresses in the 1915-1919 period covered the bride- they were long with high necklines.  If sleeves were not full length, the bride wore long gloves. Lightweight fabrics, frequent use of embroidered lace, and high-waisted, empire styles were common. Lillian Goddard's dress for her 1915 wedding was originally ivory silk with soft pleats and short, lace sleeves. As the accompanying photo shows, she wore it with long gloves and an under slip so the lace insert was not revealing.

By the time of Helen Harbke's wedding in 1921, shorter, dropped waist dresses were popular for both weddings and everyday wear. 
Two other wedding photographs show what grooms and attendants wore for weddings in the early 1920s:
 By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Women's Fashion Circa 1920

One of my favorite displays in the Circa 1920: Roaring into the Modern Age exhibition at the Benton County Historical Museum is that showing two female mannequins on either side of a period piano. The museum has only a few museum-quality mannequins so our ability to document the changes in fashion are limited.  Also, to preserve garments, they should not be exposed to too much light; consequently the museum prefers to leave them on display for no more than six months. But thanks to the museum's extensive photograph collection, we can see changes in women's fashion during this trans-formative period.

By 1915, the exaggerated S-shaped silhouette of the Gibson girl was out of fashion and the very narrow hobble skirts did not fit into the lives of women who were taking a more active role with the advent of World War I in Europe. Fashion outfits from 1915 to 1920 have a tailored look-- often consisting of an ankle-length A-line skirt and a belted jacket, often with military-style decorations.  The skirts were long and worn with boots. As the picture of nine women posed on a train circa 1916 shows, a large hat completed the outfit. 

By the mid-1920s, the fashionable silhouette was very slim.  Dresses had dropped waists and skirts were worn with loose, blouson tops reaching to the hips or long, loose sweater vests. Hem lines had risen  to id-calf or (by 1925) to the knee. Women wore dark hose and T-strap shoes. Hairdos were shorter and fitting with the cloche style hats then popular. 
The four women in this 1925 photograph were also on an outing to a lighthouse but dresses quite differently from the women in the first picture.

The number of women working outside the home increased in this period, especially during the war years.  Their attire reflects the changing styles from those worn by women working in what is probably a post office circa 1915 to what young telephone operators wore in 1923.

#Corvallis, #Oregon, telephone operators Mary Combs,
Abbie James, Mabel Magers, and Elisie Nygren.

Active women changed from wearing long skirts to play tennis (1916) to wearing jodphers and knickers for riding, hiking and other outdoor activities.

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon