The Edwardian era was once elegantly described as, a “leisurely time when women wore picture hats and did not vote, when the rich were not ashamed to live conspicuously, and the sun really never set on the British flag'”
During the Edwardian era, women wore a very tight corset, or bodice, and dressed in long skirts. The Edwardian era was the last time women wore corsets in everyday life. According to Arthur Marwick, the most striking change of all the developments that occurred during the Great War was the modification in women’s dress, “for, however far politicians were to put the clocks back in other steeples in the years after the war, no one ever put the lost inches back on the hems of women’s skirts”
With the decline of the bustle, sleeves began to increase in size and the 1830s silhouette of an hourglass shape became popular again. The fashionable silhouette in the early 20th century was that of a confident woman, with full low chest and curvy hips. The “health corset” of this period removed pressure from the abdomen and created an S-curve silhouette
Shoes were narrow and often emphasized. They had a pointed toe and a medium height heel. Buttons, patent leather, and laced models of the shoe were also manufactured and readily available. Similarly, there were shoes for every occasion; oxfords for a tailored costume, slippers with straps for festive occasions or pumps with pearl buckles, and finally, boots which were often edged in fur to stave off the winter chill when riding in a carriage in the winter.
In 1897, the silhouette slimmed and elongated by a considerable amount. Blouses and dresses were full in front and puffed into a “pigeon breast” shape of the early 20th century that looked over the narrow waist, which sloped from back to front and was often accented with a sash or belt. Necklines were supported by very high boned collars.
Skirts brushed the floor, often with a train, even for day dresses, in mid-decade. The fashion houses of Paris began to show a new silhouette, with a thicker waist, flatter bust, and narrower hips. By the end of the decade the most fashionable skirts cleared the floor and approached the ankle. The overall silhouette narrowed and straightened, beginning a trend that would continue into the years leading up to the Great War.
An early 1910 survey of wealthy high school senior students at a private New York City girls’ school found that each spent an average of $556 ($14,120 today) annually for clothing excluding undergarments, and would have spent four times that amount with an unlimited budget.
Huge, broadbrimmed hats were worn in mid-decade, trimmed with masses of feathers and occasionally complete stuffed birds (male hummingbirds for those who could afford them), or decorated with ribbons and artificial flowers. Masses of wavy hair were fashionable, swept up to the top of the head (if necessary, over horsehair pads called “rats”) and gathered into a knot. Large hats were worn with evening wear.
By the end of the decade, hats had smaller drooping brims that shaded the face and deep crowns, and the overall top-heavy effect remained.