In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Historic Clothing Collection

1910-1920

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Two lace dresses, one black and one white, provide further examples of this high waist reform style, which also reflects aspects of the influential French designer Paul Poiret’s work. Esther Johnston McDonald's tube skirted, black lace dinner gown features a short bodice, standing collar and yoke of delicate figured net lace. It also features pleated heavily fringed satin panels, spread over the shoulders, and bands of heavy lace trimming. The center back shoulder panels form a V above four buttons, which attach the skirt to the bodice above the concealed closure.

On the white lace summer dress, a shoulder-wide lace panel covers and hangs over the entire bodice front. The tubular lace skirt is covered with a three- quarter length heavier lace overskirt, with a decorative, deeply tabbed hemline. The sleeves are similarly layered.

Simplification and the tubular silhouette remained fashionable up to the war years (WWI). Versions of garments such as those advertised in the New York store Gimbles' 1915 catalogue, straight tailored skirts, and similarly skirted dresses, some short waisted, could probably be found ready made in Maine stores, but at present, no examples survive in the MHS collection.

White batiste cotton dress, ca. 1905
White batiste cotton dress, ca. 1905Maine Historical Society

Very popular during the 1910-1920 period, there is a selection of variously styled white muslin 'lingerie' dresses in the collection, featuring white embroidery, bands of insertion lace, and other different types of net and lace. Such examples include a whitework embroidered cotton dress, and a two piece muslin dress associated with Gertrude Hodgson. Most outstanding is a ca. 1905 long, body-fitting dress with white crescent embroidery, a three-quarter double skirt from the hips, and long insertion lace sleeves with flounced cuffs.

Ruth True's afternoon suit, ca. 1920
Ruth True's afternoon suit, ca. 1920Maine Historical Society

During the World War I period (1914-1918) the wider, shorter skirts and peplum jackets worn by women in uniform or engaged in war work exerted influence on civilian fashion. While at present there are no examples of such uniforms in the collection, Ruth True's afternoon suit demonstrates the influence. The navy gaberdine suit, albeit with a skirt showing signs of later alterations or updating, reflects the popular peplum jacket style.