La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (2022)

Table of Contents

By Pauline Weston Thomas for

What is La Belle Époque?

Aspects of Edwardian fashion history are examined in the sections on the Society Hostess, The Edwardian Seamstress and Edwardian Corsetry. Here we give a general overview of the main popular styles in the period 1890-1914 by which time fashion moved in a yearly cycle.The French called the era from 1895 to 1914 La Belle Époque. It was an epoch of beautiful clothes and the peak of luxury living for a select few - the very rich and the very privileged through birth.In retrospect we can see it is an era very separate from the 20th century despite belonging at its start. The attitudes and lifestyles of two decades were swept away by war and because the war was so atrocious a new socialism and sense of personal identity was born. The masses started to reject the concept of privilege as the reason for a better life. Clothes worn after 1915 could probably be worn today in certain circumstances, but clothes before then are more in tune with the elaborate clothes of 1770 and would only be seen today at a costumed event or as bridal wear.

The Silhouette after 1890

La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (1)

The bustle disappeared from day dresses and the new day skirt style was flared smoothly over the hips from a handspan waist and then gradually widened at the hemline.By 1895 the leg of mutton sleeves swelled to gigantic proportions and were also used on décolleté evening dresses. The size of the sleeves was highlighted by the comparison of the tiny sashed or belted waist against the simple gored skirt that flared out all round to balance the massive sleeve heads.

La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (2)

Hostess beauties of the 1890s. Left - Mary Moore, right - Grace Palotta

(Video) La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 || Trailer

Tailor Made Ready to Wear Costumes

The tailor made was called a costume or a suit and made of wool or serge. Middle and upper class women wore them with shirtwaist blouses. Looser less fitted versions of a simple suit had been available for informal wear since 1850. But the tailored suit as we know it was first introduced in the 1880s by the Houses of Redfern and Creed. Initially only the jacket was tailored and it was worn with a draped bustle skirt.

La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (3)

By the 1890s and until 1910 the gored skirt also looked more tailored and matched the jacket style which followed the changing silhouette of the time. In the 1890s the tailored suit was thought both masculine and unladylike, a description usually used for a fairly plain garment. Describing female clothes as masculine was intended to be derogatory.

Edwardian tailored suits ideal for travel.

The pink tailor made shown left here has a short bolero effect jacket. The second green jacket is a longer line jacket that continued in popularity, but became straighter and less waisted toward the end of the Edwardian era.Tailor mades were always described as ideal for travelling. Within a decade they became much more versatile with a distinction being made between the cloths used. Lighter cloths were used in tailor made outfits suitable for weddings and heavier tweeds and rougher serge used for everyday or country wear suits.Fashion history clearly shows that by 1900 tailored suits were firmly established. Women entering a changing, more commercial workplace found it a useful all purpose outfit. Men objected to the tailor made female suit as they saw it representing a challenge to their authority. Women seemed to be making a clear statement that they deserved and wanted more independence in the future.

The Gibson Girl

This particular image was a cartoon character drawn by the American artist Charles Dana Gibson. For twenty years between 1890 and 1910 he satirised society with his image of 'The New Woman' who was competitive, sporty and emancipated as well as beautiful.

(Video) La Belle Epoque

La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (4)

Her clothes were fashionable in both America and Britain and set a fashion for skirts worn with embroidered blouses.Another Gibson look was a shirt collar worn with either a tie, floppy artist bow, tie neck cravat with stick pin bar brooch or crosscut ruffle jabot.Beautiful embellished ornate blouses took on a new importance and were worn by every class. Home dressmakers did their best to emulate the fussy couture blouses and they used fine pin tucks, fine embroidery, appliqué, insertions of lace, faggoting, pleats and lace trim to get good effects. Blouses are detailed in the section on the Edwardian Seamstress.

The Edwardian Silhouette 1900-1907

La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (5)

The fashionable hour glass silhouette belonged to the mature woman of ample curves and full bosom. The S-bend health corset described fully in the section on Edwardian Corsetry set the line for fashion conscious women until 1905. The corset was too tightly laced at the waist and so forced the hips back and the drooping monobosom was thrust forward in a pouter pigeon effect creating an S shape.

La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (6)

The S-Bend corset and pouter pigeon effect.

If you were wealthy like an Edwardian society hostess, cascades of lace and ultra feminine clothes were available as labour was plentiful and sweated.

La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (7)

During this time it was still usual to make dresses in two pieces. The bodice was heavily boned and was almost like a mini corset itself worn over the S-bend corset.A top bodice was usually mounted onto a lightly boned under bodice lining which fastened up with hooks and eyes very snugly. It acted as a stay garment giving extra stability, contour and directional shape beneath the delicate top fabric.By 1905 press fasteners were used in Britain to hold the bodice or blouse to a skirt, but America had dress fasteners as early as 1901.AboveLeft - Bodice pouched Edwardian day dressesAt the front of the bodice, pouches of cascading lace or gathered fabric gave emphasis to the low bust line. The straight sleeves of the late 1890s developed into bloused effects gathered into wrist bands.Very deep high lace fabric collars that reached right under the chin elongated the neck. They were often kept in place with wire covered in silk that was twisted into a series of hooks and eyes from one piece of wire. Little wire or boning supports covered with buttonhole silk were sometimes dispersed every few inches of the collar to maintain the rigid effect.

(Video) LA BELLE EPOQUE - Main Trailer UK - Daniel Auteil, Guillaime Canet [HD]

La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (8)

High neck blouse 1906.High necks were usual by day, but by night exceptionally low sweetheart, square and round décolleté necklines allowed women to wear quantities of fine jewellery. No cleavage was visible as the bust was suppressed into a monobosom.The skirts were often gored and created an elongated trumpet bell shape like the gently opening head of a longiflorum lily. Modified versions were less extreme over the hips, simply flowing to more width at the hemline.

La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (9)

The S-Bend Silhouette.The high collar, S bend corset, trained skirt and lavish hat all had an effect on the posture of an Edwardian lady and it gave her a certain swaying grandeur. Between 1906 an 1909 the silhouette began to show gradual changes and skirts lost fullness and the silhouette straightened. Feet showed again.

The Edwardian Silhouette 1908-1913

La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (10)

The waistline was raised until it was a column like empire line or Directoire after the styles designed by fashion designer Paul Poiret. So after 1907 fashion history looked toward a new fresh direction when a longer line corset became fashionable. The corset almost reaching the knees was intended to make the figure look slimmer.Poiret's ideas were controversial and were directed at younger women. To read more about the era of Orientalism and Paul Poiret's artist friends who put a stamp on the era go to Orientalism In Dress. One of THE social events of 1908 was the London Olympic Games.The new late Edwardian silhouette. See more silhouettes of the Edwardian era and use them for colouring in sheets of fashion history.

  • Costume Drawings 1914-1915
  • Costume Drawings 1916-1917
  • 1910-20 Black Costume Silhouettes
  • 1910-20 Outline Costume Silhouettes

Paletots, Casaques and Mantelets

Women wore the shawl for many years, but gradually it was replaced by other outdoor items such as capes, wraps and jackets.The Casaque was a deep close fitting basque jacket that buttoned to the neck. A Paletot was a short jacket with set in sleeves and the Mantelet was a kind of half shawl. All the items had allowed for the cut of the bustles and pads of the era and the garments ranged from high hip to three quarter length.

(Video) Most Beautiful 1910's Actresses - Edwardian Fashion Icons Hairstyles Headbands 1914 Cigarette Cards

Edwardian Small Accessories

Incredible Edwardian Hats

La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (11)

After the slimmer silhouette arrived, hats developed much wider brims. Lavish trims such as feathers often stuck out well beyond the brim. The hats were named Merry Widow hats after the popular operetta of the era.Read more about Edwardian hats here.


La Belle Epoque 1890-1914 Fashion History. Edwardian Fashion (12)

Feathers were used excessively as decoration on hats and as boas. The fur skin of whole animals such as foxes and even two foxes were used as wraps about the shoulders. Aesthetes objected to the use of animal products.Right - Martial and Armand Creation depicting the perfectly groomed directoire styled woman of 1912.Note the incredible feather hat and lavish gold metal embroidery, velvet and fur trim on the oversized muff.


Washable kid gloves were always worn with outdoor garments both winter and summer. Fancy gloves were also made in suede and silk and covered with fine embroidery.


Parasols were still used as decorative accessories and in summer they dripped with lace and added to the overall fussy prettiness.

(Video) Belle Époque (Beautiful Age) Europe


Handbags were not fashionable in the era, but small decorative delicate bags with a dainty strap that hung from the wrist were sometimes used. Ladies carried little money as goods were charged to accounts and only minimal make up was usual so none was carried.

Edwardian Motoring Outfits

Open cars still created dusty dirty atmospheres and country roads were often unmade.Loose topcoats in leather, or special motoring coats from Burberry or Aquascutum acted as protection from weather and cold. Oil smuts could be a problem so women wore thick face veils with their hats and even goggles.Costume History Section On Cloaks, Mantelets, Pelisses, Redingotes, PaletotsSellers of re-enactment pieces who sell Edwardian GibsonGirls, Victorian styled Crinoline, bustle dresses andLeg o' Mutton 1890's items include the reputable websiteatFor more about the Edwardian Era 1890-1901 click on the title you need:-What's in a Name?Orientalism in Dress Edwardian Fashion PlatesThe Mood of Edwardian SocietyThe Edwardian Hostess's RôleThe Society Hostess's WardrobeThe Seamstresses of 1900 LondonShopping in the PastEdwardian Pictures of BlousesFashion Eras 1800-2000C1890 - 1918 Photographs


What is La Belle Epoque fashion? ›

La Belle Époque, meaning “beautiful era”, describes the European fashion period between 1890 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914. During thisJahnketime, the rich and privileged by birth experienced a time of extreme well-being and comfort that allowed new fashions to flourish.

Is Belle Epoque Edwardian? ›

The movement called Edwardian in Great Britain was called Belle Époque (beautiful era) in France. Belle Époque jewelry is characterized by garlands and swags of foliate motifs, lace, and bows. Designs reflect the neoclassical and rococo motifs of 18th-century French courts.

What did people wear in the Edwardian era? ›

Fashion of Edwardian Era

Women still wore corsets and long skirts. Men still wore suits. A complete wardrobe included hats and gloves and, for women, often an umbrella. Edwardian fashion was opulent and formal, with expensive fabrics and trimmings.

What did they wear in the 1890s? ›

Boys wore pants with Norfolk or lounge jackets. Girls typically wore dresses with leg-o-mutton sleeves, cinched waists, and flowing skirts. The skirts on girls' dresses were shorter than their mothers' dresses and gradually lengthened as they grew older.

Why was it called the Belle Époque? ›

Belle Époque literally means "Beautiful Age" and is a name given in France to the period from roughly the end of the Franco-Prussian War (1871) to the start of World War I (1914).

What did people wear in the Victorian era? ›

The fashion of the 19th century is renowned for its corsets, bonnets, top hats, bustles and petticoats. Women's fashion during the Victorian period was largely dominated by full skirts, which gradually moved to the back of the silhouette.

What fabric are Edwardian dresses? ›

Rather than being manufactured from heavy, opulent fabrics, Edwardian gowns were made from breezy textiles like cotton, linen, and lace. They were also adorned with feminine details, like ruffles, bows, and other ladylike trim.

When was the Belle Époque period? ›

How do you pronounce La Belle Époque? ›

How to Pronounce Belle Époque? (CORRECTLY) - YouTube

How did men dress in 1914? ›

Men and boys would always wear jackets and ties, and keep their coats on even if it was hot outside.

How do you style Edwardian hair? ›

~ Casual ~ Edwardian Hairstyles Historybounding Hair - YouTube

What time period is Edwardian fashion? ›

Edwardian fashion refers to the clothing that was in style between the late 1890s and 1914 or the beginning of the Great War (World War I).

What colors were popular in the 1890s? ›

Variations during the 1890s included fabrics such as linen, duck, pongee or seersucker in lighter fawns, beige or white for summer wear, and white flannels and brightly coloured wool blazers for sport, but for town or formal wear dark grey or black in woollen cloth remained correct.

What was it like in the 1890s? ›

In the United States, the 1890s were marked by a severe economic depression sparked by the Panic of 1893. This economic crisis would help bring about the end of the so-called "Gilded Age", and coincided with numerous industrial strikes in the industrial workforce.

What time period was the 1890s? ›

What are the major characteristics of the era known as La Belle Époque? ›

What defines the Belle Époque? Spanning the years between the end of France's Second Empire (1852-1870) and the beginning of the First World War, the Belle Époque was an era characterised by optimism, economic prosperity, and technological and scientific progress in both Europe and the United States.

How did the Belle Époque end? ›

The First Balkan War (1912–1913) and the Second Balkan War (1913) are considered the prolegomena of the First World War (1914–1918), whose level of material and human destruction at the industrial level marks the end of the Belle Époque.

What is the difference between Belle Époque and Art Nouveau? ›

La Belle Époque is French for Beautiful Era and was a period in European social history that began around 1880 and lasted until World War I. Art Nouveau is French and means New Art. It is an international style of art, architecture and applied decorative arts.

What did a poor Victorian girl wear? ›

Poor Victorian women wore thin dirty dresses which were dark colours and made from cotton or wool because silk and linen would be far too expensive and wouldn't last as long as they needed them to last for ages.

What shoes did Victorians wear? ›

Shoes. The women's shoes of the early Victorian period were narrow and heelless, in black or white satin. By 1850s and 1860s, they were slightly broader with a low heel and made of leather or cloth. Ankle-length laced or buttoned boots were also popular.

Did Victorians wear makeup? ›

Obvious makeup was taboo in Victorian times

It was believed that cheeks painted with blush had to look flushed, and lips had to look bitten rather than painted. Eyebrows were lightly plucked and darkened with natural ingredients, and eyeliner all but disappeared in the Victorian era.

What colors were popular in the Edwardian era? ›

Although many typical Edwardian paint colours included creams and ochres like Vanilla and Little Rascal, strong blues were also used to create bold stencilled patterns, with lead white joinery. Blue shades like Dorothy are ideally paired with White Clay for a characterful, fresh feeling in bedrooms and kitchens.

What were Edwardian skirts made of? ›

They were constructed using silks and other fine fabrics. Sometimes the silk would have a thin, sheer overlay on it that could be adorned with beading. Velvet was also a popular choice for Edwardian evening gowns. Fabrics were draped and layered, but not in a way that was bulky.

How many times a day did edwardians change clothes? ›

Ladies had to change into different Edwardian dresses based on their daily activities, including every meal, riding, calling, and receiving guests. That means a woman could be changing clothes up to six times a day! And, not only had the Edwardian dress changed.

What is an Epoque? ›

Noun. époque f (plural époques) epoch. time (time period)

What came after La Belle Époque? ›

Finally, la belle époque came to an end with the outbreak of World War I, when the technological advances of the age had been applied to the construction of destructive weaponry that would take the lives of more than ten million people and reshape the map of Europe.

How do you pronounce the name Belle? ›

How to Pronounce Belle - YouTube

Is Epoch pronounced like Epic? ›

Epic and epoch are two words that are often misused because of their similar pronunciation and spellings. However, epic and epoch are not interchangeable; they have completely unrelated meanings.

What is the pronunciation of AME? ›

Like "aim".

How did girls dress in 1914? ›

1914 began with a strong Edwardian silhouette. Women wore lacy shirtwaists and long, narrow skirts that fell to the top of the foot. The tunic, introduced by Paul Poiret, based on a Russian peasant look, came to blend with the military-style tunic worn during the Great War.

What did 1910 people wear? ›

In contrast to the hoop skirts of previous decades, the 1910s brought a new trend, where skirts tightened around the ankle. These skirts looked almost like a longer, more flowing version of the pencil skirts of today. They were often worn with a tunic, jacket, or even a fur-lined coat.

What did 1910 kids wear? ›

Children's Fashion from 1910- many girls wore light colored dresses and the waistline would be at the hip. Boys would wear short pants. This is a more practical time of dress for children. Teenagers started dressing like adults.

At what age did girls wear their hair up? ›

We can find plenty of photos of women wearing their long, wavy hair down. However, loose hair wasn't something that “respectable” women would wear in public and was mostly a style used for the sake of art. Girls often wore their hair down, but were expected to begin wearing it up around the age of 15 or 16.

What is a hair rat? ›

Well, friends I am happy to reassure you that this is not the case, a hair rat is just the term for extra hair that is saved and used to 'puff' up hairstyles. These were once quite popular and can be made the traditional or a modern way, both work well.

How did Victorian ladies wear their hair? ›

Most respectable women wore their hair in an intricately braided or twisted up do. Women would even add additional pieces of human hair, similar to modern day extensions, to give their hairstyle more volume and height. The most important aspect of Victorian hair was neatness.

Is 1890 Victorian or Edwardian? ›

After the 67-year Victorian period, the Edwardian period was very short, lasting only 9 years between 1901-1910.

How do I know if my clothes are Edwardian? ›

While Victorian fashions had been dominated by the tightly corseted hourglass figure, the new Edwardian silhouette was that of the S curve – a shape that pushed the hips back and the bust forward, exaggerated by floppy blouses that hung over the waist at the front.

What happened in the Edwardian era? ›

The Edwardian era (1901–10) was one of intense concern over the decline of Britain's naval and commercial dominance. German firms shouldered aside the British in numerous markets (even though they remained each other's best trading partners). The new German navy menaced Britain in her home waters.…

What did 1890 men wear? ›

Men's fashion in the 1890s, The overall silhouette of the 1890s was long, lean, and athletic. Hair was generally worn short, often with a pointed beard and generous moustache. Men's clothing still consists of shirt, jacket, trousers and vest. On official occasions, a tuxedo or (skirt) costume is worn.

What did little boys wear in 1890? ›

By the 1890s, boys were breeched (given their first pair of pants) as young as three (Tortora 404). Thereafter, a young boy typically wore a suit consisting of narrow knickerbockers buckled below the knee, a shirt frequently featuring an Eton collar, and jacket.

What fabric was used in the 1800s? ›

1800s. Wool, cotton and linen for the common people and silk, cotton and linen for the noble/rich.

What was expected of a woman in the 19th century? ›

In the 19th century, women were expected to uphold a housewife standard. Women were expected to do the cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the children. Their role was way different from men in the 19th century. Women were not allowed to be outspoken, and they were not given the same opportunities as men.

What was everyday life like in the 1800s? ›

Many lived a hand-to-mouth existence, working long hours in often harsh conditions. There was no electricity, running water or central heating. With no electric lighting (or gas) the rhythm of life revolved around the hours of daylight, and therefore would have varied with the seasons.

How was life in 1880s? ›

By the 1880s, the Gilded Age is in full swing, ringing in an era of rapid economic growth, especially in the North and West. Thanks to the mass production of railroads, creating traveling and shipping conveniences, most western states experienced an economic boon.

What was life like in late 1800s? ›

Industrial expansion and population growth radically changed the face of the nation's cities. Noise, traffic jams, slums, air pollution, and sanitation and health problems became commonplace. Mass transit, in the form of trolleys, cable cars, and subways, was built, and skyscrapers began to dominate city skylines.

What is Art Deco fashion? ›

Art Deco fashion introduced geometric shapes and long lines, bias cut dresses, and exaggerated accessories. Black, gold, and silver with pops of blue, orange, and yellow made up the Art Deco fashion color palette. Due to their decadence and glamor, Art Deco dresses are back in style today.

How did Art Nouveau influence fashion? ›

Art Nouveau fashion designers developed female clothing with less restrictive, lighter and easier to wear designs. Soft gauzy fabrics and sinuous lines in modern shades were worn and, after 1900, a new corset style created an S-shape silhouette. Sportswear, beachwear and cycle clothing for women appeared on the market.

How did Art Deco influence society? ›

Art Deco influenced the design of buildings, furniture, jewelry, fashion, cars, movie theatres, trains, ocean liners, and everyday objects such as radios and vacuum cleaners.

How did Art Deco start? ›

Characteristics of the Art Deco style originated in France in the mid-to-late 1910s, came to maturation during the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes held in Paris in 1925, and developed into a major style in western Europe and the United States during the 1930s.

Who started the Art Nouveau movement? ›

The term Art Nouveau first appeared in the Belgian journal L'Art Moderne in 1884, referring to a group of reform-minded sculptors, designers and painters called Les XX (or Les Vingts), whose founder members included James Ensor (1860-1949) and Théo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926).

Why did the Art Nouveau movement start? ›

Art Nouveau was aimed at modernizing design, seeking to escape the eclectic historical styles that had previously been popular. Artists drew inspiration from both organic and geometric forms, evolving elegant designs that united flowing, natural forms resembling the stems and blossoms of plants.


1. What Was La Belle Epoque? (Part 1): AP Euro Bit by Bit #34
(AP Euro Bit by Bit with Paul Sargent)
2. Behind The Scenes: "Belle Époque" Fashion Shoot (Sept 2104)
(Marie Claire Australia)
3. La Belle Époque, 1983 — Featuring Diana Vreeland and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. | From the Vaults
(The Met)
4. Backstage de Perfecto Make Up y Ray Infocus - La Belle Epoque
(Perfecto Make Up)
5. fashion in the early 1900's
6. GIOVANNI BOLDINI et les Dames de la Belle Époque

Top Articles

Latest Posts

Article information

Author: Dong Thiel

Last Updated: 12/04/2022

Views: 5303

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (79 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dong Thiel

Birthday: 2001-07-14

Address: 2865 Kasha Unions, West Corrinne, AK 05708-1071

Phone: +3512198379449

Job: Design Planner

Hobby: Graffiti, Foreign language learning, Gambling, Metalworking, Rowing, Sculling, Sewing

Introduction: My name is Dong Thiel, I am a brainy, happy, tasty, lively, splendid, talented, cooperative person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.