The Gilded Age of Fashion: 1890-1914

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McCallum Silk Hosiery (Advertisement)
Vogue (N.Y.).
November 1, 1913.

The hosiery ad on the back cover of the November 1st, 1913, issue of Vogue shows the lean silhouette of the 1910s. Dress skirts were getting narrower and waistlines higher.

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TD Gallery, Toronto Reference Library
October 19, 2013 to January 5, 2014

The period reaching from the 1890s to the outbreak of WWI was a time of peace and prosperity. After the shattering effects of the First World War, the French looked back with longing at an age they called La Belle Époque (the Beautiful Age). The Americans referred to the early part of the new century as The Gilded Age because a new moneyed class, the nouveau riche, established new businesses and created new wealth. It was a heady time, not least for the fashion world.

At the turn of the century, Paris was the fashion hub of the western world. The House of Worth was pre-eminent, but talented tailors and dressmakers like Poiret and Paquin went out on their own and established successful new fashion houses in Paris. When fashion designers were hired to make costumes for stage celebrities like Sarah Bernhardt and clothing for the English royal couple, King Edward VII and his Queen Consort Alexandra, the success of their businesses were assured. The public were eager to follow the latest styles of the rich and famous and adapt them for their own.

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