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Women’s Clothing in Photographs: The 1900s 

What were women wearing in the decades of the 1900s? That answer is important as we look at family photographs. Here’s a few trends seen in the 20th century.  

Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects

1900s – The styles of the late 1890s continued into this decade. The skirt developed a train, was full below the knee, and became more ornate with pleats and smocking at the hipline. Evening dresses revealed more body, sometimes with sleeveless or off-shoulder cap sleeves.   

1910s – Many daywear dresses took the form of very feminine suits. The main change in dresses was that the hem came up to the ankle during this time, and it never went down again. Hats were often veiled.  

1920s – Women’s clothing became unfitted, with simple bodices at first, gradually being accented with seaming and paneling. Necklines were scoop or V-shape and usually collarless. Sleeves varied from long and straight to bell-shaped. Dresses were very ornamented with pin tucking, braids, embroidery, and beading – which was very popular – particularly for evening wear.  

1930s – It was in this decade that Hollywood glamour began to have its lasting impact on fashion. By the end of this decade, shoulder pads were becoming fashionable, a trend that would continue into the 1940s.  

1940s – Hollywood ruled fashion in America beginning in the 1940s and after the end of World War II, its influence spread again outside of America.  In 1947, Dior’s “new look” arrived featuring full skirts at a longer length (mid-calf), and round shoulders, a full bust, with narrow waist and full hips. 

1950s - The full skirt was in high swing but required crinolines to maintain their circle shape. Skinny “pencil” skirts were also popular. Evening wear featured ball gowns in short lengths called “cocktail dresses.” Hats were a necessity during the day, as were gloves.  

Have you ever wondered what time period a photograph of your great-grandmother or grandmother was taken? With our “Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects” course you will learn about hidden clues found in your family photos.  

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