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Jeruba's avatar

[Fiction question] What would a well-dressed woman have worn to the ballet in San Francisco in 1910?

Asked by Jeruba (51345points) December 19th, 2010

It’s not just a matter of finding out what dressy fashions were like for the year. I want to know what a woman would have worn to attend a performance such as an opera or ballet, and specifically if she’d have worn something on her head; if so, what kind of hat or headdress? I would think that people would have avoided wearing something that would obstruct the view of those behind them, but I don’t know if that courtesy is just a matter of present-day custom or not.

I want my character, a well-to-do woman, to wear a hat or some kind of headdress, but only if someone of her class and station would have done that.

What’s a good resource for information about period fashions, including the types of occasions for which the styles would have been worn?

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11 Answers

Dog's avatar

This web site has a lot of excellent vintage photograps of the era you are interested in.

There are images with hats, headdresses and full gowns.

I have purchased many of the collections so if you want to see any in particular pm me.


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Dog's avatar

I am looking at my reference books too. I will post when I have something. :D

Dog's avatar

Here is a magnificent example. It was sold by a vintage expert on Ebay.

Here is the description:
“This dress was designed with the 1909 fashion aesthetics: very tall willowy figure with a marked waist sash. This style is the transition from the over-endowed Gibson Girl to the waistless silhouette shapes of the next 4 years. The silk is very sturdy and fortunately is unweighted (weighted silks tend to disintegrate prematurely and lasts the years only with extreme care). I do not see any shattering at all with this thin and elegant material.

The Edwardian stiffened high neck is visible in the ecru colored lace at the top of the bodice. Contrasting fern green dyed lace is interwoven in the ecru as a frame drawing the onlooker’s eyes naturally to the face of the wearer. The pattern in the silk and the wavy lines of the green lace are hallmarks of the art nouveau period in fashion. The art nouveau movement (which was led by artists such as Alphonse Mucha and T. Steinlen, and Beardsley), was a counter reaction to the heavy industrialization that defined the end of the last century. Art Nouveau dealt with flowing lines and curves and tended to be very effete (contrasting with the machine age designs which were very masculine). The flowing intersection of the two laces was a construction design meant to add flattering femininity to the underdefined shapes of the wearer’s bust while also providing a multi colored arrow continually drawing the eyes to the woman’s face

This dress has an interesting dichotomy in the form of the bold contrasting black silk trim, fabric, and fabric-covered buttons. While the green lace of the sleeves and neckline are complementary to the ivory of the silk, the very art deco black lines make an interesting and surprising contrast to the flowing art nouveau influences. Large buttons used solely as trim and with no functional purpose would be one of the most common decoration devices in dresses and suits during the 1908–1918 period and this dress is interesting in that it is reflecting both the art nouveau softness and curves as well as the art deco harsh dark lines and circles. The black trim does, however, accomplish the effect of further drawing the eye up towards the face with its perfect frame and symmetry. ”

More Images:

(I am still looking but thought this one was rather lovely.)

YARNLADY's avatar

@Dog very nice

Here are some samples and descriptions of the fashions of the time.

augustlan's avatar

This image appears to be of the right time frame, and shows no hats.

cazzie's avatar

Looking at some pictures quickly… there seemed to be a bit of a Greecian motif going when it came to clothes and hair. Lots of hair, curled and held up or back with hair bands that go right around the whole head…. or small combs used to keep it in place.

Happy writing.

diavolobella's avatar

Typically hats were not worn in the evening. They were considered day wear. In the evening jewels, tiaras, feathers, flowers, etc. might be worn in the hair. You might consider looking at the styles used in the movie “Titanic” to give you an idea. James Cameron and the wardrobe department for the film did a very good job of making sure that the clothing and hairstyles worn in the 1st Class dining room scenes were true to the period.

Dog's avatar

@lucillelucillelucille In 1910 the Gibson Girl was going out of fashion. :)

@diavolobella Brilliant! Yes!

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