Often our vintage shop descriptions will include the description of Edwardian Era, 1910s Edwardian, 1900s Edwardian… so I wanted to do a mini lesson about Edwardian era clothing.
side note to self: always strive to learn something new every day in your chosen trade.
Firstly let’s talk about actual dates. The Edwardian Era covers King Edward’s reign in England from 1901-1910 but some extend it up to 1914, just before the first World War.
Now, MOST vintage sellers (at least that I know of) tout clothing from 1901 to about 1919 as Edwardian. Myself included.
I mean technically 1914-1919 is World War I Era clothing, but hardly anyone writes that as a description and just lumps those years together with the Edwardian years.
Secondly, let’s talk a bit about styles associated with the Edwardian Era. There’s the Gibson Girl (high neck lace tops, lots of hair piled on top of your head, big hats…) in the earlier part of the Edwardian Era and then there’s the Titanic/Poiret look in the later years.
The Edwardian period is also known as The Bell Epoque (France) and the Gilded Age. (Again, most vintage sellers describe this years as Edwardian era clothing, more simple that way, no?)
The early Edwardian years are not my favorite for silhouettes. We have a lot of odd corseting going on that just make me gasp for breath looking at them. There’s the “S” shape silhouette which I associate with the Gibson Girl look. (1903-1908)
Then in the late 1900s (1906-1910) the silhouette started to change and this silhouette, in my opinion, is the one most associated with the Edwardian era (even though half of the Edwardian era has already passed!)
Think of Titanic and Rose’s outfits. That’s what we think of as Edwardian. Or think of Season 1 Downton Abbey when Lady Sybil is like “TA-DAH! Look how bomb I look in my Paul Poiret!”
So let’s recap…
Early Edwardian is associated with: The Gibson Girl, S Curve Corsetry, big ole hats, and droopy boob look (monobosum…corsetry did not separate the breasts)
Later Edwardian is associated with: Columnar silhouettes, waistlines rose, Titanic, Downton Abbey…
Now, what makes it tricky in dating vintage tops is we no longer have the corsetry available to us! So sometimes the shop will have antique Edwardian tops that appear to be quite blouson in the front. Well, that’s because these are early Edwardian era tops and if one had the correct corset to wear underneath, then the blouse would fit as it should have in the early 1900s.
Images: Gibson Girl by Harrison Fisher, Corset Timeline 1900-1910, McCalls Magazine Early Edwardian, March 1914 Gowns By McCall
Articles: History of Fashion 1900-1910, Edwardian Fashion Design of 1890s-1914,