Seriously, very few things excite, much less surprise, fashion lovers in general. Once in a blue moon there will be a discovery or a new creation that is so spectacular that it does both. Case in point, a batch of candid street photographs rediscovered in the Kensington and Chelsea Libraries archives in London. These newly unearthed, candid street shots were taken by amateur photographer Edward Linley Sambourne, who happened to be better known as the chief cartoonist for Punch magazine.
These particular shots, most taken in 1906 in London and during a trip to Paris, deliver an unusual glimpse into how people actually dressed, walked and moved in buttoned-up Edwardian/Belle Époque fashion. We are much more accustomed to seeing official portraiture depicting the latest fashions, but always staged with formal composure telling a bit of a different story.
Fashion around 1900-1910 was considered much sportier than it had been in preceding decades. Yes, with the new modernity (i.e. cars, electricity, bicycling on weekends) new routines and fashions followed, though somewhat more superficially. Women may have started assimilating men’s sartorial details into their wardrobe, but what many may not know is that the corset shape favored between 1895 to 1905 is now considered to be one of the worst fashion trends ever, especially when it comes to health concerns.
What these photographs bring to light is a glimpse at how fashion and the perennial every woman lived and moved. Paintings and official photographs are always stiff and staged, but who could imagine looking at a woman in 1906 caught reading a book while going from Point A to Point B, playing handball in a formal dress, even carrying a purse (coincidently then not an accessory used by all women)?
European street style, evident in the candids of the early 1900s, points out that while many cry out for a more formal dress code, there is certainly something to be said for today’s easy, more casual style of dressing. What do you think?
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