As a child, Lucile Sutherland (1863-1935) designed and sewed clothing for both herself and her sister Elinor. Years later, Lucile's hobby would become the foundation of an internationally successful business. After the dissolution of her first marriage in 1888, Lucile was left with no means of supporting herself and her young daughter. Lacking any other professionally viable skills, Lucile turned to dressmaking. At first, Lucile worked as a society dressmaker in London under her married name, Mrs. James Wallace. Her business expanded rapidly and by 1894, she operated under the name Maison Lucile, eventually incorporating as Lucile Ltd. in 1903. By this time, Lucile's reputation was international. In 1907, the American edition of Pearson's Magazine encouraged all American travelers to visit Lucile Ltd. when in London, as the proprietress was "pleased to open wide her doors to all Americans--even if they have no intention of purchasing."1 Within a few years, Lucile would open international branches of her store to fulfil the demand for her designs. Lucile Ltd. New York opened in 1910, followed by a Paris store in 1911 and a Chicago store in 1915.
The brassiere appeared on the fashion scene about 1904 or 1905. Of course, women wore brassiere-like garments before this date, but they went by other names depending on the time and place in which they were worn. In the 19th century, these garments were called bust supporters, breast girdles or bust corsets. During the second half of the 19th century, these garments were worn by a minority of women, primarily dress reformers, who felt that the tight fit of a corset was too restraining. The majority of women continued to wear corsets until the very late 19th and early 20th century, when the brassiere and its forerunners became popular among European and American women.
The term brassiere was first used in advertising copy by the Charles R. De Bevoise Company in 1904 and included in a 1905 patent by Gabrielle Poix. In French, brassiere referred to a child's vest or undershirt and/or a woman's bodice. Both Poix and De Bevoise probably borrowed this French word to bestow a certain cachet on their product, which was a wise marketing move. Who wouldn't prefer wearing a brassiere over a breast girdle? During the 1930s, brassiere was shortened to bra, the term still in use today.
Throughout the 19th and into the first decade of the 20th century, mainstream formal and business dress for men was a black suit and light colored (often white) shirt paired with a black bow-tie. Constructed from durable wool and lacking all decorative trim, this quasi-uniform was worn across the classes. For informal occasions, men could chose from a wider variety of garment-types, including casual lounge or ditto suits. Looser fitting than a business suit, ditto and lounge suits were matched 3-piece suits made from marginally more flamboyant fabrics, such as tweed or checked wool. At home, however, an otherwise soberly dressed gentleman could indulge himself with a richly colored dressing gown.
The S-bend silhouette emerged about 1900 and reigned supreme until the end of the decade. Created by a specific style of corset, the S-bend is characterized by a rounded, forward leaning torso with hips pushed back. This shape earned the silhouette its name; in profile, it looks similar to a tilted S. The corset itself had a flat, straight front and and started low on the bustline, unlike late 19th century corsets which supported the bust and pushed in the waist. To create the desired full, rounded and unarticulated bustline, many women wore bust improvers or padded corset covers. The resulting silhouette is sometimes referred to as the pouter pigeon, as it resembled the puffed chest of a pouter pigeon. When viewed in profile, the full bust was balanced by gathers at the back of the skirt and sometimes a slight train.
Combination undergarments, which combined chemise and drawers into one garment, first appeared in the late 1860s or early 1870s. By the 1890s, combinations had largely replaced the long chemise worn over a separate pair of drawers. The advantage of the all-in-one combination undergarment was its relative lack of bulk. Drawers had a gathered drawstring waist and when worn under a loose chemise, petticoat(s), corset and dress, they created an unnecessary layer of bulky, gathered fabric at the waist. A 1905 advertisement for the Leona combination undergarment sings the praise of combinations in general, and the Leona in particular, declaring "Leona leaves no fullness, puckers or bunches at the waist or hips."1
Despite the fact that knitting and crochet employ similar tools (hands, yarn and a long, pointed implement) crochet is often labeled the "other yarn craft." This remains true even within the context of the early 21st century, which has given rise to a tremendous revival of interest in all do-it-yourself hand-crafts. Their differing levels of popularity might be due to the inherent nature of these two yarn crafts. Crochet lends itself more towards open, lace-like finished projects, while knitting usually produces a dense, sturdy product prized for its warmth. Within the context of garment creation, crochet is more frequently used to create elegant garment accents or embellishments, such as cuffs, collar or shawl, rather than an entire garment. In contrast, knitting is used to create garments which become the focal point themselves.
Though no scholar has been able to pinpoint the exact origins of crochet, within the European context it probably developed from tambour needlework, a type of needlework originating in modern-day India, Pakistan and/or Turkey but practiced by European women. In tambour, a hooked needle is pushed through fabric stretched on a frame, pulling a thread through the fabric to create a chainstitch. At some point, the fabric was discarded and the thread or yarn worked on its own with the hooked needle. This evolution probably occurred sometime around 1800, as pre-1800 examples of European crochet have not been located by scholars.
Crochet took on particular importance in Ireland, where it was introduced by Irish nuns in the early 19th century. Irish nuns used crochet to approximate motifs found in Venetian lace and taught this skill to girls and women throughout Ireland. The resulting lace-like product was marketed as an affordable alternative to expensive but highly desirable bobbin or needle lace and was sold throughout Europe and North America. Used often as garment trim, Irish lace was also incorporated into decorative items for the home and personal accessories.
This small purse of Irish crochet dates from about 1905-10 and was probably created from a pattern featured in a fashion periodical. Patterns for small crocheted purses, often decorated with beads, were common in the first decade of the 20th century. Due to the relative speed with which they could be produced, purses were often suggested as the ideal hand-crafted gift.
A traveling duster is a loose fitting outer garment worn to shield clothing from the dirt, dust and grime of travel. Though protective outer garments have been used for centuries to shield workers from the hazards of their trade, traveling dusters are unique in their association with the luxury of rapid travel. Within the United States, references to traveling dusters seem to have increased in the mid 19th century, just as train tracks were spreading throughout the United States.1 Nineteenth-century passenger and freight trains were powered by steam engines, which were fueled by burning coal or wood. The resulting smoke and ash entered the passenger cars through open windows, along with dust generated by the movement of the train along the tracks. All in all, nineteenth-century train travel was a fairly dirty business. It's no wonder that dust and dirt repellent traveling dusters were worn by many train passengers.
Between 1911 and 1917, Irene and Vernon Castle were at the forefront of a "craze" for social dancing. Usually called "modern dance" at the time, social dance was promoted as form of healthy and enjoyable recreation. Accompanied by lively music, social dances were usually given memorable names, such as Turkey Trot, Grizzly Bear and Bunny Hug. Though some conservative thinkers considered the relatively close contact and hectic movements of social dance vulgar, the Castles insisted that "real dancing is not a series of gymnastic contortions...real dancing means graceful measures tripped out to the lilting rhythms of fine music."1 Irene and Vernon Castle promoted their refined version of social dance through appearances on stage and screen and by opening a nightclub and dancing school in New York.
In 1914, the Castles authored an instruction manual titled Modern Dance. In additional to the detailed descriptions and images depicting dance steps, Irene Castle authored several chapters focusing on appropriate dancing dress for women. Included are suggestions on corset types (the Castle Corset, designed specifically for dancers), shoe types, stocking color and an injunction against over-sized "picture" hats, which are "unpleasant" for dancing.2 Though Modern Dance features several images of Irene Castle in large hats, she is also pictured wearing a small, close-fitting cap similar to the crocheted and embroidered cap pictured below.
In 1912, fashionable dress was a combination of classical and orientalist elements. The silhouette was slim and high-waisted with an emphasis on the vertical line. A draped surplice bodice, waist sash or overtunic provided the requisite touch of drapery. These elements were drawn from ideas of ancient Greek and Roman dress as filtered through the Directoire style (itself a revival of Greek and Roman dress) of late eighteenth century France. Conceptions of Middle and Far Eastern dress were expressed through the popularity of jewel-toned textiles. Popular accessories, including jeweled and feathered turbans, also borrowed heavily from the Far and Middle East.