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Vintage Dress

The ragtime and early jazz heydays often are cited as spanning the later 1800's-1930's, Vintage dress refers to the clothes worn during those years to balls, parties, dances and everyday wear. It was all part of the scene.

First, it was the Gay Nineties (1890's). Vaudville and Tin Pan Alley were at their prime, minstrelsy was waning, the Titanic sank (1912), then the 1st World War (1914-1918), women's suffrage (1920), the Roaring Twenties, the gangster era of Prohibition (1920-1933), and the Great Depression (1929-1942)). They all influenced the songwriters and the music of those periods in our nation's history as well as fashion.

This Ragtime Festival is an opportunity to enter into a period of American History when ragtime, early jazz, and blues were the primary forms of American popular music. Coming in period dress, or even adding some accessory that suggests this broad era, adds to the gaiety and helps set the mood for this weekend.

There are many ways to get clothing items for period dress. Each year more people find a way to liven the activities Friday and Saturday by appearing in period dress. Some may already have treasured items found in closets, attics and storage bins of relatives, friends or neighbors. Some get lucky in thrift stores. Some may buy, rent or have costumes made. Just adding a straw hat (or any other type!), cane, parasol, fan, beads/jewelry or gloves adds to the fun and ambience

Have fun in your quest for period dress/accessories, but don't let their lack keep you from attending and thoroughly enjoying a dazzling weekend of ragtime-era concerts and events - all for our enjoyment and to support Feed My People. Period dress will enhance the atmosphere and help recreate a bygone era in American history. Remember - the music will be red hot - and what better way to spend a January Wisconsin weekend!

Read on for some descriptions and illustrations of period dress for the Ragtime Era. At the end of this article is a partial listing of places in the wider area that have period clothing/accessories; also listed are thrift stores that carry 'vintage' clothing. Be sure to check out the "other" racks at thrift stores, too! Authentic items have gone undetected and sold for around $5!!!

PERIOD DRESS: 1890-1900

1890's group picture

This began the practical period. Bustles were out, skirts were long and bell-shaped, often with trains, even for street wear. Colors were bright; yellow was a favorite. There was lots of lace, especially in blouses. Sleeves were very large at the shoulders. Hats, parasols and fans were accessories. Hats were rather small and perched squarely on top of the head. Jewelry was worn extensively. Common footwear included buttoned or laced leather boots with high heels. For evening wear, low-cut slippers of leather or black satin with jeweled toe caps and high heels were the fashion. Long gloves also were added for evening wear, often suede with as many as 20 buttons. At some evening events, ostrich feathers were carried. Mantles, cloaks and capes were donned in winter. The closures often were large, ornate jeweled buttons called 'Gay Nineties' after this period.

1890 men's fashion pictureFor men, trousers were of the peg-top variety, cut full around the hips and narrowing at the ankles. Formal wear was still in vogue.








PERIOD DRESS: 1900-1910

1903 Gibson Girl picture

The Gibson Girl look was 'in.' It featured an accentuated bodice and a swirling skirt. The ballooned sleeves were abandoned. Sleeves were long and tight at the wrists, often extending half over the hand. Tailor-made dresses were becoming more common as young women were now earning a living as governesses, typists and shop assistants. By 1908, ladies hats were wider (making hips look narrower!)

For men, a lounge suit was making inroads on the frock coat for everyday wear and formal occasions. Homburgs, bowlers and straw hats were extremely popular. Bow-ties were often worn.





1910 fashion picture

PERIOD DRESS: 1910-1920

For women, skirts became fairly tight-fitting and flared at the hips. Tunic overskirts would be pointed in front and back, or replaced with flounces. Skirts also became shorter midway through the period. Blouses were white, or the 1910-1920 fashion picturesame color as the skirt. During the First World War, extravagant dress was considered unpatriotic. Jumpers of knitted silk, wool or jersey became popular about 1916. Motoring outfits reflected the invention of the automobile.

In footwear, pointed shoes appeared about 1910. By 1914 high-fronted shoes were popular. Dancing shoes were made in colors to match dresses and often tied around the ankles with satin ribbons. V-neckline also made an appearance and were denounced from the pulpit. No protestors yet for the fur muffs and scarves that were fashionable for winter warmth.

For men, the lounge suit was still popular, and canes were very 'in.'


PERIOD DRESS: 1920-1930

1920-1930 fashion picture

In the early 1920's, the look became very tubular, but skirt length was still quite long. By 1925, came the real revolution of short skirts, again denounced from pulpits. Some states enacted laws banning such dress. The cloche hat became universal, as did short hairstyles. We're all familiar with the 'flapper' styles, including beads and boas.

By the '30s, skirt lengths were again lowered and waistlines made a comeback. Greta Garbo influenced the wide-shoulder, narrow-hip look. Fashion innovations of the '30s were zippers and nylon.

For men, trousers became wider. By the mid-'20s, they reached their widest - about 60 cm. - and were known as 'Oxford bags.' Oxford undergraduates set this style with only the tips of their shoes visible. Pant legs remained wide until the end of the '30s. In contrast, knickers also were worn. They, too, were baggy and referred to as 'plus-fours,' buckling four-inches below the knee. This was a popular outfit for golf and country wear. The lounge suit still was popular. In the '30s, both single- and double-breasted waistcoats were popular additional evening wear.

To assist you in your quest for period/vintage dress, this partial listing of resources has been gathered and is presented in no specific order.

Chippewa Valley Theater Guild
102 W. Grand Ave.
Eau Claire WI 54703
Ann Sessions, Executive Director 715.832.7529

Eclectica on Grand
106 W Grand Ave
Eau Claire WI 54703

The Gazebo in the Antique Emporium
306 Main St.
Eau Claire WI 54701
Marcella Edmund 715.832.4051
10-5:30 Mon-Sat

Engelwood Antiques
2020 Township Rd.
Fall Creek WI 54742 715.877.3468

Rustic Elegance (Hats and Vintage Clothing)
P.O. Box 485 - 110 Main St.
Cornell WI 54732
Contact Jessica Waite (Rent or buy) 715.239.6458

Bethesda Thrift Shop
Kings Plaza - London Road
Eau Claire WI 54701 715.834.7875

Goodwill Industries
3605 Gateway Dr.
Eau Claire WI 54701 715.835.0532

Salvation Army Thrift Store
3310 Miller
Eau Claire WI 54701 715.839.7976

552 Mall Dr.
Eau Claire WI 54701 715.835.8500

Pat Heins
friendly advice and a few period items 715.874.6645

Illustrations taken from:

Historic Costume (Seventh Edition) Ó 1967by Katherine Morris Lester and Rose Netzorg Kerr, rev. by Dyann Gray

Costume of the Western World Ó 1980 by Doreen Yarwood