World War One Changed Women’s Fashions

Edwardian woman wearing large green hat

World War One Changed Women’s Fashions

World War I brought about many changes for women, including suffrage and greater workplace freedom. Another area of change during this period was women’s fashion.

When the 1910s began, styles were very similar to those of the previous decade. Clothing, however, was beginning to show the shape of the female body, with the S-shape curve falling out of fashion.

A Victorian woman in a very tight corset
The S-curve was possible only with the aid of corsets

Corsets became easier to move in and were used to support the body, not reshape it.

Hats were large and decorative and made a definite statement.

Edwardian woman wearing large green hat
For Edwardian women, hats were a fashion statement and a means of expression

The hobble skirt, a cousin of today’s maxi skirt, was a popular fashion choice as was the lampshade shirt.

The hobble skirt got its name because it was very narrow at the ankle, forcing women to hobble to get from place to place.

Woman wearing a hobble skirt
Modern maxi shirts are inspired by the Edwardian hobble skirt

The lampshade skirt had asymmetrical draping.

Ad for lampshade skirts
Lampshade skirts got their name from their hem

For the first time, women began to bob their hair, although the trend was very shocking to some and took years to catch on.

A 1910s woman with bobbed hair
Bobbed hair was attractive and practical

The War Makes Fashion Practical

Thanks to the war, women no longer had time to devote to fashion, and trends like large hats and hobble skirts became impractical.

Women required clothing that reflected the reality of their new roles.

Among the changes:

  • Women doing war work, such as manufacturing and mining, began wearing trousers.
  • Skirt waistlines sat at the natural waist.
  • Skirts became fuller to allow free movement.
  • Hemlines shorted to about six inches above the ankle.
  • Darker times meant dark colors were preferred.
  • Costume jewelry was introduced as a substitute for real jewels.
  • Hats became smaller, and women’s hairstyles grew shorter.
  • The V neck replaced high necklines.

Changing Women’s Fashion

Notice in the photos below the difference between the styles worn in 1914 and 1919. By the end of the decade, fashions were beginning to resemble those of the 1920s.

A woman posing in front of a garden backdrop in 1914
A woman posing in front of a garden backdrop in 1914
Woman with bobbed hair and bloomers
A woman struts her stuff in 1919

If you enjoyed a peek at women’s fashion, I invite you to visit my Pinterest board Women’s Fashion: 1890-1920.

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Updated: 16 October 2020
Melina Druga
Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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