Tales from the Morgue: Ladies' fashions in 1914

2014-01-12T09:00:00Z 2014-01-22T15:00:35Z Tales from the Morgue: Ladies' fashions in 1914Johanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 12, 2014 9:00 am  • 

Yay! The fashion news is in from New York. Women are wearing combinations of two materials in one gown. Can we handle the challenge?

From the Arizona Daily Star, Sunday, Jan. 11, 1914:

 

Greater Individuality in Woman's Dress

Combinations of Two Materials In one Gown Is Still in Favor; Powder and Patches Again

NEW YORK, Jan. 10.—Never has there been a greater variety of materials to choose from than at the present season, and the variety is not all confined to the high-priced materials. The woman of small means has as great a chance as her wealthier neighbor to obtain these for her suit or gown. Moire, velours, velvet, serpentine crepe, and duvetyne are among the most popular of the season's fabrics. Moreover, it has been many a long day since women were allowed to carry out their own individual taste in fashioning their garments, as they are today. It used to be, if a woman showed decided originality in her gowns, she was considered "queer," but nowadays she is given credit for her individuality. However, there are very few women who wish to make themselves conspicuous enough to wear semi-Greek or Roman costumes; most of us confine ourselves to adjusting the prevailing fashion to our individual needs.

Striking color contrasts are seen everywhere, and slowly the women of New York are taking up the light-colored suits which Paris has been holding forth for some time. It is hardly apt to be more than a passing whim, for though they are most charming, they are hardly practicable for the dust and dirt of our American cities. Still they will have their day, like many another of Dame Fashion's fads. Cafe au lait is one of these attractive colors; this is a light sort of tan about the shade of a delicious cup of coffee, with just the right amount of cream in it. Could anything be more beautiful than a coat of this color trimmed with martin or fitch fur? Other shades, such as biscuit, oyster, cypress green and even light pink, are to be seen on Fifth Avenue occasionally and in the fashionable restaurants.

Many new style effects are tried out upon professional models by the manufacturers, who try to launch some of their original ideas by creating a demand in this way. A hip epaulette skirt was one of these, a modified repetition of the general's Epaulette made to fit the hips instead of shoulders. This has been adopted very conservatively by a few restless women for whom style does not change quite fast enough.

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The apron effect has been seen on some of the newest of the Parisian importations. It is not necessarily confined to the portion of the dress where conventional usage places it, but may appear with equanimity upon the hips or the back of the skirt. It is really a most effective mode of development. I saw a dress the other day of taupe duvetyne, with an apron in the back of the same material, lined with brilliant cardinal satin, which rippled back and forth at every step of the wearer, giving fluttering glimpses of the color. It reminded me of a brown bird with bright coloring under the wings, which only show, at intervals when he is flying.

Fig. 1 shows a charming combination of moire and velvet. The bodice and tunic were of light tan moire, while the skirt was of black velvet. The tunic was short on one side and long on the other, giving the irregular line so much in vogue. Formosan embroidery was used effectively down the front and for the cuffs. A surplice closing vest of fine net was used under the waist. This had a graduated frill around the neck, which was wired to stand up in the back. The skirt was plain, tapering in well toward the ankles. Around the waist was a crushed girdle finishing at the side, with a large gilt rose, artificial, of course.

No matter how elaborate the dress, a light waist is often preferred to the one that matches the skirt. Many blouses are not made to be seen below the bust, for the wide girdles reach to about there and leave scarcely room for anything but yoke and sleeves. Quite a few waists are seen in the shops made especially for these dresses. Some are worn over light-colored chiffon waists, giving an air of alluring daintiness.

The surplice effect is very smart, and is used a great deal where the body and sleeves are cut in one. It is a very becoming style to most women, as a V-shaped neck is not so harsh as either a square or round neck.

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Short jackets in bolero and Eton effects are to be seen in silk as well as in other materials. Fig. 2 is a dress I admired very much at a tango tea, which reminds me that tango teas are one of the latest modes of amusement for the dancing-mad public, for a tango tea means "a tea with dancing."

To get back to fashions, the little dress I speak of was developed in printed silk having a gray background, with roses scattered over it. The little bolero jacket has a smart Japanese collar, and was charming in its unadorned beauty. The tilt of the jacket gave the popular pulled-up effect which is so stylish. The skirt was very plain, having the closing directly in the front. With this was worn a surplice crepe de Chine blouse. A net yoke, following the line of the surplice V at the neck, just peeped out above the silk. A girdle of velvet encircled the waist, ending with a flat bow across the front. Worn with the dress was a string of jade beads. Such accessories are beautiful and give a finishing touch to the toilette, but it is not every one who grasps the psychology of knowing when and where such a touch is required.

The fashion of wearing artificial flowers is still very popular. The single flower seems to hold preference over the bunches there were worn a year ago. Even children are hardly thought completely dressed without their artificial flower placed preferably on the muff. I saw a most attractive water-fly, with a long looped-up stem, having brilliants scattered carelessly over it wherever they could find a convenient resting-place, looking llike dew-drops. One little shop makes a specialty of these flowers, that are so perfect and the odor so tantalizingly natural that they are termed "preserved flowers."

While we have become more natural in our figures than heretofore, we have added a few lesser artificialities to our list. One is powdered hair, which is quite the smartest thing for dress occasions, and with that goes the patches of Colonial days. But while the strait-laced among us may deprecate these vanities, are they not far less barbarous than the tight corsets of former years?

The Morgue Lady must admit that she has difficulty with the gushing commentary of such fashion columns. She may say this because her background was not originally in journalism, but in fashion, and she has never been this enthusiastic over a bolero jacket or artificial rose. However, she must also point out that she was not around in 1914. Perhaps she would have been more excited about these articles if she had been.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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