Then and Now: Women’s Fashion Trends

By: Mackenzie M. Padula, 8/4/2020
Photo from: Vintage Dancer

Throughout history the times and fashions have changed to reflect societal standards. Olive in particular would’ve seen many changes in clothing and shoe fashions while she was living at Lucknow between 1914 and 1941. When the Plants moved to Lucknow, women’s fashion included straight lines, hobbled skirts[1], along with Balmoral shoes[2] like the ones that Tom made in his factories[3]. Quickly the fashions would’ve changed to include skirts cut above the ankle and V-neck tops[4] paired with Mary Janes which were to make the gap between the top of the shoe and the hem of the skirt more seemly[5].  The style continued to rapidly evolve going into the 1920s, changing to looser fits, boyish shape and straighter skirts[6]. As hemlines continued to rise, and shoes were better displayed they began to evolve away from the neutral colors seen before: white, brown, black and tan. Shoes came out in different colors, and specialized use. We see the word “sneaker” used for the first time in 1917 to describe shoes like Keds and Converse where canvas is glued to rubber to make for a soundless and more flexible than leather boots. Even from there, sneakers had delineation in use, “croquet shoes” and “spectator shoes” for instance. By the 1930s the variety of shoes had expanded yet again to include: pumps, Oxfords, brogues and cork-wedged sandals.

While we don’t know that Olive partook in all of these high fashion changes, we believe she would’ve adopted a smart style of a button down shirt tucked into a wool skirt with a man’s shirtwaist over it when she moved to Lucknow. This was a style that was very popular amongst college educated women[7]. She also would’ve likely had diverted skirts or breeches for riding throughout the property, and eventually, we understand, that she did update her wardrobe to the looser fitting, boyish styles of the early 1920s and the straight skirts that continued into the 1930s. We do believe she would’ve worn Balmoral shoes like Queens Quality brand (the shoes that Tom manufactured and sold), and eventually Mary Janes. She may have also had a pair of sneakers as well for croquet, golf, and enjoying the various sports that Lucknow offered.

Today our fashions are far more varied and versatile. From the 2020 Spring Runway report, key trends include: disco collars, crochet, hot pants/short shorts, highlighter colors, Bermuda shorts, bra tops, tiered layering, 60s wallpaper prints, feathers, vests, colorful/patterned leather, and polka dots[8].

Given societal hostilities towards showing skin, and economic limitations to fabric use due to World War I and II, it’s incredibly likely Olive would be appalled by some of today’s fashion trends. She’d faint to see bra tops and hot pants and the amount of skin they show off. Maybe she’d be supportive of the tiered layering, vests and polka dots, though!

Which of the early 20th century women’s fashions do you think you would’ve subscribed to, and are you going to sport any of the 2020 fashion trends?










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