Monday, June 24, 2013

A Little Edwardian Fashion

Lately I've had this fascination with vintage fashion and have been researching some of the trends from the early to mid 1900s when my grandparents were posing for pictures. All four of my grandparents were born within an eight year window, 1901-1909. Many pictures in my collection have no dates, names, or places recorded on them, but, those that do have been helpful in figuring out time periods for the ones that do not, sometimes based on clues taken from the style of dress, a hat the subject is wearing, or a location.  I know that this is definitely not an exact science since I, and I am sure you too, have favorite outfits that are so yesterday but I have to say that generally I don't wear them when I know that I am going to have my picture taken, so I am going to surmise here that I can date (approximately) some pictures based on fashion when weighted against the other clues in a photograph. I've got a grandmother (pictured as a child below) that was always the picture of fashion, you will see more of her and her awesome outfits to come this summer!

I've got a date on the picture of the brothers below, you've seen this one before in The Story of the Peach. The next picture had to have been taken around the same time or just a little earlier based on the birthdate of the subject. So, here are a couple of kids in Edwardian style of dress that was popular in the early 1900s. 

Youngest standing in the front of the picture (my maternal grandfather):
Daniel Claude Thomas
Born October 10, 1905
A note on the back of the picture says Daniel was two years old.
Lena May Stockton (Abbott)
(my paternal grandmother)
Born June 2, 1901

A couple of questions beg answers here:

1. Seriously? My grandfather, in a dress?

First of all, the little boys in dresses question. It was not at all unusual to see the little dudes running around wearing "gowns" until they were potty trained. Yep, it is as easy as that. Families were big, mothers were busy and it was just easier than dealing with all of the clasps and buttons in the pre-snap age of clothing. The bow? Sailor inspired outfits were popular for children during this time period as well. Maybe the bow is a southern Georgia mom's nod to the sailor style? The little guy behind my grandfather is definitely sporting the sailor look as well! A boy's first pair of trousers indicated that he had come of an age where he was considered a man and ready for work, and, that was MUCH younger than today!

2. Black stockings and black shoes with a white/light colored dress?

Yep, as much as we would cringe these days at that combination, it was quite popular to clothe little girls in dresses like these that mimicked adult fashion and to pair them with black woolen stocking and black shoes. Dresses with long sleeves, high necks and lace were the most popular for little girls. This style is definitely not the most comfortable for playing and cavorting about but just perfect for tea parties and the quiet, passive, entertainment expected for young ladies in the early 1900s. The dress, the shoes, and the stockings are all "give aways" for giving this picture a date around 1905 give or take a couple of years.

3. So what exactly is "Edwardian" style and why is it called that?

For those fans of Downton Abbey think back to early episodes, pre-WWI and you've got it, Edwardian style. Named for England's King Edward VII, Edwardian reflects the opulence and optimism of the early 20th century (1901-1910).  The formality of the Victorian era gave way to a more relaxed and carefree time during the reign of King Edward. Styles were just a little more relaxed, especially for women and children. America had turned the corner from the difficult years of reconstruction after the Civil War and there was unbounded hope and a more carefree lifestyle. European country homes were popular for the upper class and in Amercia we see the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and others building huge empires. Europe was the leader in fashion trends. Even though independence for America from England was one hundred and twenty five years before, the fashion world was still (then and now!) largely influenced by our former homeland from the east.

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