16 thoughts on “100-Year-Old Photos of Women in Paris & London”

  1. My 2 favorites: Woman # 1 on Cromwell Rd – (left picture) – she has an air of confidence and is sexy no matter what century she is in. And in the 4th row of pics – the woman in the right frame (of the 2) in black – has a sultry look about her!

    To me sex appeal is a lot more than just how much a woman wants to show

  2. What rather surprised me was how many of the ladies were wearing ankle-or just above ankle-length shirts for street wear; I hadn’t thought the fashion for them had kicked in quite so early. But then I wracked my brain, and remembered reading somewhere (Probably American Heritage, although I can’t find the article) about how the fad for bicycling late in the 19th century led to a radical simplification of women’s fashions – day-time fashions, anyway. Girls and ladies wanted to ride bicycles and play lawn tennis – and a huge hat, big bustle or hoop-skirt, confining sleeves, a gaspingly-tight corset and trailing skirts just made it impossible. So, ladies’ fashions for daywhere lost the bustles, the awkward hats, the long, full skirts. The bicycle did in a decade or so what fifty years or so of campaigning for a ‘rational costume for women’ couldn’t.

  3. I noticed several things:

    -The women look modern. Change the clothes and they would fit in on modern western streets.

    -Many of them are quite attractive.

    -They aren’t fat.

    -They don’t notice or don’t care about the camera.

    Of course one can’t know if the photographer selected particularly attractive subjects or if these ladies were typical.

    There’s a video online showing the photographer Joel Meyerowitz as he photographed people on NYC streets around 1982. The most striking thing, for me, was how thin most of the people were, and that was only thirty years ago.

  4. Sgt Mom….social influence of the bicycle.

    Here’s an excerpt from a rather breathless 1898 Atlantic Monthly article on this subject:

    “A typical American device is the bicycle. Invented in France, it long remained a toy or a vain luxury. Redevised in this country, it inspired inventors and captivated manufacturers, and native genius made it a practical machine for the multitude…Typical, too, is the bicycle in its effect on national character. It first aroused invention, next stimulated commerce, and then developed individuality, judgment, and prompt decision on the part of its users more rapidly and completely than any other device; for although association with machines of any kind (absolutely straightforward and honest as they are all) develops character, the bicycle is the easy leader of other machines in shaping the mind of its rider, and transforming itself and its rider into a single thing. Better than other results is this: that the bicycle has broken the barrier of pernicious differential between the sexes and rent the bonds of fashion, and is daily impressing Spartan strength and grace, and more than Spartan intelligence, on the mothers of coming generations.”

  5. The bicycle didn’t became practical, particularly for women, until the introduction of chain drive, which allowed the use of equal-sized wheels (the “safety bicycle”), and pneumatic tires.

  6. “And in the 4th row of pics – the woman in the right frame (of the 2) in black – has a sultry look about her!”

    Bill, I noticed her too.

  7. I noticed that among these stylish women a couple seem to have a watch pinned to their blouses. When I was in Australia I happened to be in a hospital – visiting for some reason – and the nurses all wore a watch pinned to their blouses.

    And I have since learned this is common in the UK and the Commonwealth. And I guess it started in the Edwardian era. Stylish women didn’t wear wrist watches but wore small pocket watches.

  8. I actually have a ladies’ gold pocket watch, inherited from my great-grandmother – it’s about half the size of a gentleman’s pocket watch.

    Another reason for nurses to wear a watch pinned to their blouse or apron is that – in constantly washing and re-washing your hands (and wrists, too) for reasons of sanitation, you didn’t have to bother with taking off your watch to keep it from getting damaged.

  9. Somewhat off-topic but on “Pawn Stars” (Yes, I love that show) last evening, a woman brought in her grandmother’s brooch. She wanted about $2,000 for it. Rick, the bald guy, the son, looked at it with his magnifying glass and offered her $15,000 ! It was a genuine Faberge piece with rubies and diamonds. It’s probably worth $100k.

    How many people have this stuff in their dresser or jewel box?

    “The most striking thing, for me, was how thin most of the people were, and that was only thirty years ago.”

    It was before low fat diets were universal. I am convinced that had a role in the obesity epidemic.

  10. The watch pinned to the blouse is a convenience – since you can tell the time without taking a hand away from your work – and also a hygiene precaution.

  11. Dearieme – I could never understand why today i seemed to be part of the uniform of nurses from Australia to the UK – between your’s and Sgt Mom’s explanations it makes perfect sense.

    And the tradition must have started during the Edwardian era.

    I would think that the face is upside down (when pinned) so they only have to look down.

  12. MK you are certainly more knowledgeable on the question of why there are so many obese people today – but I have a friend who is very scientific (no medical degree) but he also determined that eating more fat is actually beneficial.

    He orders his Starbucks with heavy cream.

    And with a lot of fast walking has really slimmed down.

  13. The naturalness of the poses contrasts with the usual photos from this ear. It makes the pictures and the subjects seem more modern and not so distant-in-the-past. Plus, the photographer clearly had an idea for beauty.

    Surprisingly, I know a fair amount about the fashion of this period and can tell what period it is in the early twentieth century pretty closely from year to year. Or, I used to be able to, because of the fiction I read as a girl. Historial fiction, young adult fiction, and the clothing was always carefully described.

    I can’t remember the names of any of those authors anymore and I bet a lot of the books are out of print, unless they are of the Betsy and Tacy variety, Little House on the Prairie, etc.

    I especially loved stories set in the 1910s in American cities for some reason….

    – Madhu

  14. The hats of this era are quite interesting. I live in a mountain community just outside Colorado Springs. Around the turn of the century (from 1910 until about 1915) the road here was billed as “The Scenic Wonder Trip of the World”, with hyperbole typical of the times. People paid $2.50 to be transported form the Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs to the top of Crystal Park Road and back, in 1910 Packard “jitney buses”, on “the first scenic auto road west of the Mississippi”. Along the way, each group was photographed and offered the opportunity to buy a copy of the photo. I’m on the Historical Committee here and have collected quite a few pieces of Crystal Park memorabilia, including about a dozen of these photographs. Almost every person in them has on a hat, and those that don’t are either holding them or have left them sitting on the car seat. Some of the women’s hats are quite elaborate and seem very ill-suited for a ride in an open car, let alone a bicycle as previously referred to. I have a website at http://www.historiccrystalpark.blogspot.com where you can view these photos (A post from April 2011) and lots of other interesting historical info about the area, if you have any interest.

  15. Mike – I also like to frequent Robert Avrech’s site – http://www.seraphicpress.com – in addition to being an expert on classic Hollywood, he likes fashion history – and he said that though the 1940s – evedryone wore a hat. And it seems each decade – at least wtjh women’s hats – the style changed significantly.

    But there did seem to be a particular elegance to the hats of this era – 1905.

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