Art Nouveau (secessional) fashion (half of nineties of 19th century – 1918)

Modern woman

Also trying for change in clothing has been part of fighting for woman´s emancipation which acquired concrete forms already from the eighties of 19th century in Europe. Women who became by their work independent from father, brother or husband contributed in greatest degree not only to emancipation of women but also to the change of clothes. Requirement of educated and independent women for fashion created pressure on its practicality, and namely not only at wearing it but also at maintenance. These women did not have developed a need to represent with their clothes their family line or husband. They represented their abilities. Although the time, when they become the equivalent female citizens will only yet come. Women with pleasure used masculine elements on their clothing: cravats, bow ties, men´s types of hats, distinctive buttons and pockets.  Or they adopted men´s types of cuts for jackets and coats (fig. 1, 2).

Especially combinable clothing consisting of blouse and skirt or lady´s costume in composition: skirt, jacket and blouse became the most favourite type of clothing for working and studying women. They became gradually symbol of modernness and they were fond also by women of aristocratic or high bourgeoisie environment (fig. 3, 4, 5).

Influence of sports has been one of the pulses for change of woman´s clothing. Measuring of physical forces between women and men in sport arenas played important role in breaking of gender stereotypes. The sport offered utilization of leisure time and being supported yet by health science it became phenomenon of life style. International competitions, men´s and women´s disciplines watched by press remind already today´s times. Along ancient aristocratic likings in horse riding and in animal hunts also skating, skiing, cycling, swimming, rowing or tennis found pleasure among ladies. Even in higher social classes they became part of upbringing and good customs. And ladies who wanted to sport had to be adequately dressed (fig. 6, 7, 8).

Lady´s Art Nouveau (secesional) silhouettes. Lines X and S harnessed by corset

From the beginning of the nineties of the 19th century the silhouette of dresses was in form of sandglass. High-profile form of bustle was sneaked out. Close-fitting closed bodice with sleeves expanded in part of shoulders and long bell skirt had distinctly pointed-out on inspiration by Biedermeier. Attention was transferred from the skirt onto the bodice and sleeves voluminous in part of shoulders (fig. 9). The corset still constantly remained a basic element which formed woman´s body into required fashion line. It was firmly reinforced on the outer side sewn-on by laces; on the back it was contracted by long lacings. Long white undershirt of fine fabrics was dressed under corset. Featherlight fine bodice was dressed onto the corset. Yet long white panties, more underskirts and knee socks still especially in this shape belonged to underwear and they were fixed onto legs by suspender ribbon.

By the end of the nineties relatively plain and massively acting line of clothing became softer and wavy (fig. 10). Legendary s-shaped line was reached by drastic way. The corset, which formed it, has been very long and firm. It created unnaturally protuberant bosom it fitted closely hips which should be slim and it formed arched background. It has been such long that elastic rubber suspenders began to be fixed to it and they have been terminated by buckle by which the stockings were clipped.

S-shaped line was created also by the cut of bodice and skirt as well also by hidden aids: by corset and small pillow over the back. The bodice of dress and blouse had a lot of falling draping fabric put into folds in front part, pleats with falling applications of laces, ribbons and beads (fig. 11). The cut of skirt was bell-shaped with folds in back part of waist which has been emphasized also by underlaid small cushion on underskirt. Waist line was not flat but in the front it sunk into a spike and in the back moderately over the waist. At view from the side it created a diagonal what visually caused perception of protuberant back. Sleeves of this line were diminished they ceased to be massive in shoulder part but still have been ruffed in armhole thereby they create buftan in upper part. On all types of daily, also during the solemn activities given in the day, constantly a close-fitting reinforced high stand-up collar was worn (fig.12).

In this period also very big hats started to be worn of which brim often overhung the breadth of shoulders. Excepting classical modiste´s decorations not only decorative bird´s feathers, were placed in them (as also in past periods) but whole birds and  arrangements of fruit and flowers (fig. 13, 14, 15).

New Empire line of tube. Exemption from corset

The then prominent French designer and successful dictator of fashion Paul Poiret defeated corset who at principle changed the fashion line in 1906-1907. Undulating S-shaped curve has been replaced by narrow tube-shaped line with moderately raised even waist. Poiret utilized creatively great interest in Japan culture and he introduced cut of Japan kimono into the fashion which was ideal for dress without corset. Also by his merit clothes without high collars started to be preferred, after a long time with liberated necks (after almost thirty years) (fig. 16). With changes of lady´s clothing line also material, cut, colourfulness and quantity of underwear were varied. In wardrobes of ladies and misses appeared first attempts for bras.

Not only dresses coming from our museums but also from foreign ones document the fact that the dress were still worn up to beginning of the second decade which had combined the S-shaped line and tube-shaped one. For example they had already even waist and kimono cut of sleeves on upper bodice of dress under which the women got dressed yet lower bodice or blouse with high standing collar (fig. 17, 18).

Lines of expanded skirts

Long narrow even skirt started to be sewn with highlighted side regions in femoral part in Paris salons around 1912. The skirts acquired egg-like shape (fig. 19). Under influence of new fine art influences in fashion coming from exotic Orient also colourfulness of clothes was varied; discreet fine colours as for example coral, pale violet one or colour shade of tea roses were replaced by distinctive and multicolour colour shades. Inspirations from Orient have influence also on shape of head coverage in way of turbans, flows and headbands with bird´s small feathers (fig. 20).

Outbreak of the Great War did not mean extinction of interest in fashion. In changes, which have been brought by subsequent years, new views on status of women were reflected. Also requirement of observation of hygiene and simpler care for clothing became the topical one. The Great War was a land war causing lack of textile raw materials. New substitute materials, as for example viscose silk, started to be therefore used. The fashion silhouette was changed also despite the Great War and namely in shape and length of skirt. After a longer time the bell-shaped and barrel-shaped skirts were favourite again but already in length only over ankles (fig. 21, 22, 23).

Fashion unavailable to all

Despite fact that by means of fashion it came to democratization of society in 19th century the fashion acted also as a factor of social discrimination hereafter. Fashion clothing has been available except for aristocracy only to bourgeoisie and intelligentsia. Townish physically working classes i.e. proletariat have been detached from this visual assimilation (this will be brought only by the second half of the 20th century). Observation of varying clothing silhouettes, wearing of fashion accessories and observing the system of clothing etiquette had created the similarity between aristocracy and townspeople. But differences demonstrating economical possibilities were manifested in quality of material, cuts, variety of clothing components, in quantity of clothes and accessories but also in total style. Difference between centre and periphery, distance from resources and shops took constantly part in their creating.