Fashion Drawing & Illustration: 1910s
The 1910s were a period of dramatic change in fashion. Though many trends had their roots in fashions of the previous decade, the First World War cemented the move towards more practical, less restrictive clothing. As women were called into factories and offices, fashionable dress simplified and shortened.
Florrie Westwood was a London designer active in the early part of the 20th century. Nothing much is known about her apart from her drawings, from which we can see that she produced elegant high-end, if conservative, fashions. Many hundreds of now-anonymous dressmakers and designers like her existed in towns and cities across the country until the middle of the 20th-century mass-market ready-to-wear clothing came to dominate fashion.
1) These three 'Original Designs' in the image to the right are very typical of the late 1910s. They feature high waists and feminine materials and colours. They also anticipate the androgynous look of the 1920s with their linear, straight silhouettes. The designer's own descriptions of the dresses, written next to them are:
Left: Dress of mauve taffeta and ninon, with insertion of ivory lace. The sash is of mauve ribbon to match the dress.
Centre: A simple evening frock of powder blue satin & shell pink tulle. The broad sash is pansy black ribbon with bright appliqué orange flowers.
Right: Frock of ivory crepe georgette, with two deep bands of peach coloured self material. The insertion is very fine lace.
2) This fashion illustration portrays three afternoon dress designs drawn in pencil and colour wash. It is signed and dated by the artist. Such a collection of designs seen together demonstrate the increasing trend for women to abandon the restrictive corset. During the early years of the 1910s, designers started to promote the use of lighter and softer fabrics in order to make their creations increasingly free flowing. This new approach focussed on fluidity provided a contrast with the stiff and S-Bend silhouettes of the previous decades.
3) These four different designs for winter coats by Florrie Westwood are dated 15 January 1919. They emphasise the new fashion for the linear silhouette and ankle length designs. They also show the new shape (higher neck covering and greater shoulder coverage) of fur collars and cuffs.
The designs by Melanie Vermont (1897–1972) in the V&A collection were given to the museum by Mrs M. Goldflame, the niece of the artist. At that time, Mariano Fortuny (1871–1949), a Spanish designer based in Venice, invented a new special pleating process and new dyeing techniques for his dress designs. His innovative designs were inspirational to other designers, but also hugely successful as they gave women the freedom of movement they had been craving.
4) These two evening dress designs in pencil by Melanie Vermont in the image to the right are good examples of how, at that period of time, designers increasingly used flowing material which enabled them to create dresses with elaborate drapes, thereby moving away from the restrictive corsets fashionable in the previous decade. During the early years of the 1910s, designers started to promote the use of lighter and softer fabrics in order to make their creations increasingly free flowing. This new approach focussed on fluidity provided a contrast with the stiff and S-Bend silhouettes of the previous decades. The tunic in the right hand design is made out of pleated material.
5) This illustration shows five designs for girls costume in pencil and colour wash. In this decade, the emphasis for children's dress changed from the waist to the hip, and dresses and skirts also became shorter (above the knee) as shown in these designs. The central figure is wearing a green coloured day dress with a pleated skirt and an elaborate belt which matches her small collar and the sleeve cuff. Also shown are two coat designs. The second figure to the left is wearing a white and red chequer short coat with Alamo buttons whereas the further figure on the right is wearing a white and navy striped coat with sailor navy collar and matching cuffs.