Even though it’s not an era in which I have any academic expertise, I admire the Gilded/Edwardian era from afar: nearly every contemporary commercial image seems to convey a society that is simultaneously dynamic and elegant. Of course we never see who did all that ironing! The other day I was looking through some examples of a new ephemeral category for me, menus, when I spotted a rather dashing young lady outfitted for the Fourth of July. This particular Gibson Girl graces the cover of a menu for a holiday dinner held in 1900 at the Hotel Magnolia up in Gloucester, a New England coastal “clapboard castle” now sadly gone. I wanted to see some more examples of July Fourth fashions from the era, so I rounded up the usual sources and found a fashionable couple and a girl from a century ago who would look perfectly fine today–especially in her gladiator sandals, very on trend this summer.
1900 Menu, New York Public Library Digital Gallery; Edward Penfield cover for Collier’s Magazine, July 1913, and “Follow the Flag” cover for Puck Magazine, July 1914, both Library of Congress.
I think I’ll extend my era, backwards and forwards, to encompass more nationalistic looks. The two dresses below, separated by more than a century and featured together in the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s 2009 “Fashion & Politics” exhibition, are certainly patriotic, and perhaps a bit over the top. If you don’t want to wrap yourself in the flag, an accessory in red, white, and blue will do– a trend that was all the rage during World War Two.
1889 costume and 2009 dress by Catherine Malandrino, Collection of the Museum at FIT, New York; LaValle Shoes, 1940, Collection of the Museum at FIT; 48-star Clutch, c. 1940-58, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.