Spring Clothing Fashions for 1915
By Harriet Edwards Fayes
Discussions of spring fashions have been rife in New York during the past month. Almost as numerous have been the displays of models to the garment trade.
These have consisted of imported and domestic models, as well as a few made by foreigners right here in New York. It was a matter of the garment manufacturer paying his money and taking his choice.
If any man attempted to subscribe to all the model shows he would undoubtedly have found that he had spent a good deal more than his customary trip to Paris costs him.
Every model display had its ardent admirers, and in some instances as ardent detractors, but by and large they showed some good models and some indifferent.
That is a characteristic of model openings. No designer or combination of designers should be expected to turn out models all of uniform excellence.
There is a general harmony of style idea with regard to the new silhouette. This it is agreed will be the fuller skirt and a more gradual return to the normal waistline.
The general characteristics of this style idea are amply illustrated in the Victoria-Eugenie fashion period, though to some degree they are also to be found in the 1830 period.
That, however, is not so full of style suggestions as the later period when the French acclaimed the beautiful Eugenie not only the consort of their Emperor, but also Queen of fashion, and the English were no less loyal and enthusiastic about Victoria and her young daughter-in-law Alexandria, then the bride of the Prince of Wales.
Memorable was the visit of England’s Queen to Paris during this period, when she rode side by side with Eugenie through the brilliant streets of the French capital.
Certainly, this period of fashion seems a most happy one to inaugurate at the present time, when England and France are fighting side by side the cause of humanity, and which, so replete with fashion suggestions, will enable American designers to cull therefrom those best adapted to present day tastes.
For while Paris dressmakers are still working, theirs are mostly models for the dressmakers, since tailors have gone to the war. Hence, American tailors are more dependent upon their own style initiative than ever before.
Clever would be the man who would produce the Alexandria tailored suit. For it was the present Queen Dowager of England who introduced the tailored suit into women’s wardrobes.
Whenever the English have launched a style which has been universally accepted, it has generally been one of mannish stamp. This is because the English women were first to engage as a nation in outdoor sports. American women quickly followed their lead both as to the adoption of the tailored suit and outdoor sports.
The new generation of French women are almost as good sports in the right sense, as the American, and there are minor tailors all over Paris who make an excellent plain tailored suit for the small sum of $40.00.
Waists, Sleeves and Guimpes
With the classic tailored suit so likely to be first favorite in the spring lines, the separate waist becomes of the utmost importance. This, too, was a recognized article of apparel in the Victoria- Eugenie period. Then it was white and was made of the most delicate materials and hand embroidery.
Bodices of gowns were cut in deep points in order to show the exquisite embroidery of the guimpe or chemisette worn beneath, just as women today leave their spring jackets unbuttoned in order to show the fluffiness and daintiness of the waists worn under them.
Jackets and dress sleeves were wide below the elbow, so that the dainty undersleeves of lace and embroidery might be exposed to view. Besides this flowing sleeve, there was the sleeve of soft, transparent material, caught in with a more or less wide cuff at the wrist.
The Meaning of Full Skirts
Skirts were full, too full for modern requirements, and even too full for grace. But that was the day of extreme modesty, when women were not supposed to have legs, and when preceptors in fashionable schools, if they happened to mention the legs of a table, would quickly correct themselves, and say limbs of the table.
Other days, other habits, and we have come to think it no disgrace for women to have legs, some even go so far as to consider it no disgrace to show them. Or perhaps it might with more truth be said that the men who have presided over the launching of fashions have taken a delight in exhibiting them.
Boot Manufacturers' Angel
Women's legs have been hampered and exposed by the fashions of the past few seasons. No longer will they be hampered, but there seems to be an inclination to still expose them to some extent.
For certain authorities acclaim that skirts are to be of boot top length, and that boots are to be made extra high this spring because of the extremely short skirts. Good, good ' What a blessing to the manufacturers of boots!
But, it may be pertinently asked, how long since American women wore boots in the spring? Have they not for the last several years been wearing low shoes, pumps, and the thinnest of silk stockings even in zero weather?
Is it not only this winter that they have adopted the light top gaiter boot; and do not many of them continue to wear pumps with separate gaiters? How, then, is it possible to make them wear the high-top gaiter boots in warm weather?
Instep Length Skirts
Evidently because of this effort to help the manufacturers of boots all grace and elegance in the length of skirts is to be sacrificed.
The statement has actually been made that it is impossible to make a full skirt correctly unless it is at least six inches from the ground, and twelve is even spoken of in some quarters.
How does it come that graceful skirts of the instep length were made some ten years ago, and they were fuller then than they will be this spring.
Most of us know the man who put the instep length on the market. It is still a good length and one to which the best dressed and cleverest women adhere.
It is the length which makes the foot look smaller than it really is, and every impartial spectator must realize that the possible to make her foot look smaller than it really is.
As for the ankle, well, if the average American man had a knowledge of plastic art, the present revelation of the feminine ankle would not excite his curiosity but have quite a contrary effect.
The instep length skirt is a good length, it is a modest length; it permits of the occasional glimpse of a well-turned ankle and at the same time conceals the one which does not conform to the cannons of art.
Skirts will undoubtedly be made so that they can be shortened as the wearer desires, regardless of the wishes of the boot manufacturers.
Collars of coats, while often high in the back, will stand away from the neck. This is an admirable point, and one which was notable so long ago as last spring in the Paquin collection brought to this country by Mme. Joire.
A new note, however, is struck in the collars of this season. For the outer material of the collar will often be that of the lining. In other words, the decorative lining silk will be extended over the collar.
It is a good idea, particularly for sand, putty and blue suits. For the sand and putty colored suits because these shades are not always becoming to the average American complexion, they require lightening up, and these they receive from the figured lining.
For the blue suits, because the decorative lining lifts them out of the common place. Black and white linings in stripe designs are indicated for this purpose, but more intense colors should not be neglected.
Rodier states that “silent shades” will be fashionable this spring. By that he means what we know as neutral shades. That certainly accords with the policy of the Government of the United States.
Let us have neutral shades, let us have neutral styles. There is a lot of talk about military styles, military colors, but these are the styles and colors of the Allies, and as a neutral nation, it would be advisable for retailers not to countenance them.
Furthermore, it must be remembered that some club women have already publicly stated that they are opposed to all military styles.
If retailers and manufacturers realized the immense power of thought they would know that they could do much to insure a speedier termination of the European conflict by advocating Peace Styles, or average American woman needs every adjunct at least by ignoring military styles.
Bordered tan pussy willow silk dress in attractive design. The lingerie under blouse is excellent.
As silk is gradually regaining its position as the queen of fabrics in this country, it naturally follows that the more attractive styles of the spring will be featured in silks, and it is for this reason that designers make the difference in width between the cloth skirt and that made of silk.
Fayes, Harriet Edwards, “The Spring Fashions” in Dry Goods Guide, New York: Black Publishing Company, Vol. 35, No. 1, January 1915, p. 26, 32-33.