Women's Fashion in America and Europe: Collections
The history of fashion and clothing in America and Europe is long and diverse, with dress styles changing rapidly as the world and its expectations of women adapted and developed. Using the primary sources available in Gale's Women's Studies Archive, researchers can explore this history through materials created by and for women themselves.
For the nineteenth-century American woman, fashion was one of the primary ways to display wealth and status, with expensive fabrics and more complicated styles indicating a higher place in society. Clothing also had the power to reflect the values and traits expected of women: the pure and pious leader of the family or the submissive and domestic wife. Fashion was intended to present women as both modern and stylish. Dresses were often heavily influenced by the fashions of Europe, especially England and France, which were advertised via fashion plates and journals like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. The styles of these dresses, however, changed significantly throughout the 1900s. In the early part of the period, high-waisted empire cut bodices were common, echoing the neoclassical aesthetic that was fashionable in England. As the century continued, the high waistlines of women's dresses lowered, skirts got bigger, and corsets came back into vogue, with dramatic dress designs influenced by Romanticism. Later in the century, the Victorian influence was seen with the large bell-shaped skirts of earlier dresses becoming narrower and more fitted.