Dating pictures through fashion part 2 . 1910 - 1940s

by Veronica

We finished up in 1918 so it’s useful to revise this decade briefly in order to see the changes that were taking place and moving on to later 20th Century.

I want to continue to the 1940s, partly because to me it would be difficult to equal the glamour of 1930s and 1940s wartime elegance when women did a truly remarkable job of looking super elegant in difficult circumstances.

I do not think any clothes after 1960 compare with past fashions. Where did the style and fashion sense go after 1960?



M Youens Artist of Brooke Bond Tea Card Collection

V and A museum

Pictures are from my own collection of fashion cards 

Revision from early 20th Century


White blouses continued to be popular and skirts named hobble skirts were introduced. They were very straight and narrow at the hem and the name was coined because of how women had to walk when wearing them. A large tunic was worn over the hobble skirt. This fashion was very popular.

Because of war work, styles became more practical during The Great War of 1914 – 1918 and at times women were wearing trousers, especially when cycling. By the end of the decade, they were starting to cut their long hair and wear it in a “bob”.

Men wore a three-piece suit or military uniform. They had moustaches or were clean-shaven.

Women's hemlines were rising from approx 1913.

late 19th early 20th C
late 19th early 20th C


Suffragettes had a major effect on women's fashion. The movement started in the early 20th Century. Separates became popular with women wearing a white blouse and a skirt. Suffragettes frequently travelled around on bicycles and so fashion had to change! 





The drawings above are of 1920 and 1927 clothes.

From about 1920, it was fashionable for women to have a dropped waistline and an androgynous- rather male – straight look to cover up and hide the female shape. Skirt lengths were often pleated, (see above) and raised to knee level for young ladies whilst older ladies wore dresses to calf level.  Fur trimmed clothes were becoming fashionable. This was also the decade when cloche (bell shaped) hats and long beads were hugely popular.  

Later in the decade, men’s shirts had a pointed collar as opposed to round. Rounded collars have never really regained their popularity. See the difference in collars (above) at the start and end of the decade.  Flat caps were popular amongst the working class. Trilbies worn by the middle classes.


My fav time for fashion
My fav time for fashion



The dropped-waist lines and straight “male” looks of the 1920s were replaced with ultra-femininity and attention to a sexy, female shape and form. Knee-length skirt suits, shoulder pads, fur and ornate hats were worn at an angle were all the rage.  Clingy, long, evening gowns, were popular. 1932 saw the pantsuit for women, which was considered by many to be outrageous.  

For men, the waistcoat fell out of fashion and they wore three-piece suits for formal occasions. Slipovers, cardigans, jumpers, and soft collared, open-neck shirts were popular for casual wear. The future uncrowned King Edward 8th, Prince of Wales, made jumpers and cardigans fashionable.  Wide trousers with turn-ups were popular.        




Just as in the Napoleonic wars, WW2 brought about a cloth shortage. Fashions were sparse using a minimum of fabric. Skirt suits were fashionable with a straight skirt and jacket. Shoulder pads made their appearance again. Hemlines rose to the knee because of the shortage of cloth. Also because of the scarcity of cloth, accessories – hats, bags and shoes - were extra important. After the War in 1947, Christian Dior introduced his 'New Look” Skirts were wide, full and longer.  Wide, saucer hats were fashionable. Knitted cardigans were a popular item.

During the war, men wore military uniform. Hair was a short back and sides, and men were usually clean-shaven. Civilian clothing for men was a lounge suit with broad shoulders, with wide trousers. After WW2 ended, men leaving the armed forces were given a 'de-mob' suit, - jacket and trousers, shirt and tie. Turn ups remained popular.


I hope you find these hints useful in your researching old pictures and photos. 

Updated: 05/19/2022, Veronica
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Veronica on 05/29/2022

Hemlines rose as women were needed to do men's jobs just before and during World War 1 . Long skirts were unmanageable. Plus Suffragettes were riding bikes !

DerdriuMarriner on 05/23/2022

It appears that materials are lighter-weight as the 20th century progresses. If so, does that make it more likely that hemlines will rise or, without hem weights, less likely because of what may be exposed under billowing skirts in blustery weather?

Veronica on 05/23/2022

That is a fab idea. I feel a bit of research coming on. THANK YOU !

blackspanielgallery on 05/23/2022

The 1900s would be easier than the older periods, since more people have photo albums of the century.s ancestors. And more movies depicting the garb f the day have been made. Perhaps an interesting extension is to look at futuristic movies and see how well the guessed garb was to what really came about, like Back to the Future.

Veronica on 05/20/2022

The tunic was like an over big , long T shirt

DerdriuMarriner on 05/19/2022

Veronica, Thank you for practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.

It's interesting that somewhat counterproductive styles were so popular during the 1910a. The hobble skirt meant having to walk in a slow, uncomfortable way. The tunic meant weighting down by extra weight. The white shirt meant knowing how to keep it clean while wearing it and wash, dry and iron it properly so it always would look pristine white!

Was the tunic a wrap that its wearer constantly had to guard against losing? Or was it fastened in some way?

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