1910s: Fashion

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1910s: Fashion


Fashion in the 1910s bore little resemblance to fashion in the twenty-first century. There were few if any famous designers or popular brands of clothes and few fashion magazines to publicize the latest clothing styles. The very idea of style would have seemed laughable to most people, whose highest hopes for their clothes were that they were durable. Many Americans still wore clothes that were made at home; those who did not make their own clothes bought them at general stores or department stores based on price and durability, and not on whether the clothes were in style.

Only the wealthiest Americans had the luxury of thinking about the cut and style of the clothes they wore. Wealthy men might have their suits handmade in London, England, while rich women traveled to Paris, France, to view the latest in female fashions. Beginning in 1914, Americans could consult the magazine Vanity Fair for advice on stylish attire. This magazine was one of the first to promote stylish clothes for men in its articles and advertisements. The Arrow Collar Man, a stylishly handsome illustrated figure used to sell shirt collars, became the most famous fashion symbol of the decade thanks to his appearance in countless magazine advertisements.

In general, the trends in clothing during the decade were to greater simplicity and ease of use. Both men and women were beginning to enjoy more active lives—bicycling, golfing, and dancing were all becoming very popular—and their clothing changed to suit those lifestyles. Women gave up wearing the cumbersome corset (a heavy, tight undergarment) and began wearing the more comfortable brassiere, or bra, that was invented in 1913. Similarly, men gave up their thick woolen union suits in favor of the light cotton T-shirt that became popular among soldiers fighting in World War I (1914–18). Active people of both sexes also looked for lightweight footwear. Beginning in 1917, they could purchase Converse All Star tennis shoes, with their light uppers and no-skid rubber bottom.

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1910s: Fashion