Between 1912 and 1914 the center of fashion was Paris. Gowns and hats were embellished with flowers of different colors. Elegant collars were made of tulle and nylon, and shoes were pointed and narrow. Laces were much in vogue during the summer, combined with white or colored linen. Mittens were still the mode, and the trend was towards using gloves even when wearing long-sleeved blouses. Seams had almost ceased to exist and gowns and dresses were hardly sewed. Instead, pieces of cloth were wrapped around the body and knotted around the ankle. Hair was tied with golden or gem strings, silver chains or expensive brooches. Wigs of colors such as green, red or blue were no longer in fashion. On the contrary, people wore their natural hair- though tied.
The trend was towards using all sorts of cloaks: warm with lined collars, creased, irregular or uneven. Nightgowns and coats were embellished with bands, and women wore dresses made of white taffeta combined with jackets of chestnut velvet and fur. Gloves were worn both to protect hands and to beautify the wearer, and were embellished with glittering rings and emerald brooches. Small hats that had previously been decorated with ordinary and discrete feathers were then adorned with big flowers. Shoes changed in shape and size, although black velvet shoes that had previously been in fashion were still much in vogue.
Men suits had not undergone any major changes during the first years of the 19th century. However, from 1912 onwards it began to change until reaching its actual shape. Tailors started to make a fold at the level of the waist in order to make trousers more comfortable to the wearer. At that time the center of fashion for men clothing was London. Felt hats or trilbies were in boom and made men look more sportive. Flat and baseball caps were also in fashion, and wealthy teenagers used scarves wrapped around their neck. Jackets and trousers were short and close-fitting. In Great Britain it was commonplace to see people of all ages wearing golf trousers, while in Spain, France and Italy they were popular only among teenagers. Grey gloves were worn when going to the theatre or attending a party, while white gloves were preferable when the occasion was a ball.
Despite the lack of variety in masculine clothing, men were boastful and concerned about the way they dressed. They wanted to look attractive and were very interested in wearing clothing that added to this end. Ordinary men paid a lot of attention even to informal clothing worn at home. They used very loose tack suits with creases and big Robespierre collars. Pearly colors were very frequent, as well as yellow, grey and mauve. A new kind of pajamas that could be used during the day was devised, and most men frequently wore them at home. Trousers were loose and pleated around men’s waist. Shirts were also big and men usually wore an ascot wrapped around their neck for decoration.
Radical changes were introduced to the fashion world after war broke out in Europe in 1914. World War I was a crucial factor in changing fashion trends during the first half of the 20th century. Due to the war, many women had to take the place of men. Until 1914 women had wore long dresses that were notably distinct from men′s garments. During the war, however, they started to cut their hair very short and wear long close-fitting skirts that looked like trousers. Apart from leading to changes in trend, the war was also an impediment to the development of the dress industry and as a consequence the production of female wear such as frocks and gowns was interrupted.
When Germany declared war on Belgium and the Great War broke out, the center of fashion was still the city of Paris. Those countries that were not involved in the fight were obviously prevented from receiving the latest fashions. As we said before, war was an impediment to the normal development of the dress industry, and as time went by fashion was neglected in those countries that were either at war or affected by its consequences. Due to the economic situation that arose in wartime, countries were forced to cut back on production spending. Consequently, people had to stop paying attention to the elegance of clothes and turn away from changes in fashion trends.
Once the war was over, the situation gradually started to normalise. After wartime women were more independent, since they had been working by themselves in hospitals and offices, and had been taking part in activities they had not performed before the war. Skirts were shortened and women hats were more masculine. Changes introduced in industry led to changes in fashion design. Before the war dressmakers were mostly men- tailors -but after the war women started to play a part in this respect, and the job of seamstress became very common. Designer Poul Poiret was one of the most important innovators between 1900 and 1925. Under his influence, fashion took control of the perfume industry, which was later enriched by creations of fashion designers such as Worth, Chanel, Lanvin, Dior, Balmain and Patou. Poiret led a revolution that opened a chasm in masculine society, since women underwent some kind of metamorphosis: new haircuts became trendy, and women started to use make-up and be more fashion-conscious.
Women started to take up activities such as tennis, horse-riding and golf. As a consequence, special attires were designed for these sports and designers launched new collections based on sportive clothing and on making garments that were comfortable for athletes. Dressmakers made simple and comfortable garments that were not adorned or embellished. Suits were very much in vogue during this period. Women wanted to resemble men, and therefore imitated their way of dressing by wearing suits that were very similar to those of men: long tubular skirts that looked like trousers and equally fit jackets.
The period between 1918 and 1920 was of prior importance in contemporary fashion. In that period Poiret introduced the short-length skirt, which was a roaring success all over the world. Women were tired of prejudices and taboos and started shortening their skirts and embellishing their ankles. Stockings and boots became fashionable, and women tried to show their feet and ankles as much as possible. A popular firm called Heim created new shorter fur coats that followed the trend introduced by Poiret. Some of the most common furs were bear, otter, blue or silver fox fur. Designers also started to use monkey fur to make adornments such as collars and bonnets.
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