Spring Fashion

Spring has arrived and a girl’s thoughts turn to a new season’s wardrobe. This was no different in 1940, 1900, and even 1860 with retailers promoting new season’s trends from as early as July.  Ladies in Western Victoria would have required their woollens for a few more months, but a new Spring outfit was necessary for the milder days and social outings.

Mr David Jones was offering a “Grand Show” of spring wear at his shop on Main Road, Ballarat in 1858.

Advertising. (1858, September 15). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 1. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66050200

In 1862, the Old Criterion Store on Main Road Ballarat offered 1000 parasols for sale, perfect for keeping the Australian sun’s harsh rays at bay.

Advertising. (1862, October 13). The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 – 1864), p. 1. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article66327869

A sample of spring fashions from 1878.

Spring Fashions. (1878, September 7). Illustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 – 1872), p. 7. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63335118

Spring fashions for the elegant lady of 1885.

[No heading]. (1885, August 24). The Australasian Sketcher with Pen and Pencil (Melbourne, Vic. : 1873 – 1889), p. 133. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page5739497

The following article appeared in the Portland Guardian on August 1881 and offered spring fashion tips for the ladies of the Western District.  White, all shades of red and heliotrope were the colours of the season.  Grey was the new black and black was back.  Cashmere and plaid wool fabrics were popular as were ribbons and beading for embellishment.

THE LADIES’ COLUMN. (1888, August 31). Portland Guardian (Vic. : 1876 – 1953), p. 3 Edition: EVENING, Supplement: SUPPLEMENT TO THE PORTLAND GUARDIAN. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article63589936

The 20th century arrived but fashion was so last century.

THE LADIES’ COLUMN. (1905, July 25). Camperdown Chronicle (Vic. : 1877 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved August 31, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article30351894

Fashion began to evolve during World War 1.  One change was dress length, with hems going up to save material.  An interesting website Fashion Era offers further examples of fashion during this period.

SPRING FASHIONS. (1915, August 4). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 12. Retrieved August 31, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1544786


These dresses from 1918 show traditional styles were still popular.

Spring Fashions. (1916, September 2). The Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1889, 1914 – 1918), p. 7. Retrieved August 28, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article74835347

But things were changing and this dress, also from 1918, is an example of that.

COMING FASHIONS. (1918, July 10). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 12. Retrieved August 28, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article1404142

I love this stylish advertisement for Allans The Drapers of Fibrace street Horsham from 1927.

Advertising. (1927, September 2). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 5. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72996175

Fancy the Phryne Fisher look?

FASHION FORECASTS. (1928, August 3). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 8. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72676520

I can’t resist sharing more of the wonderful 1920s fashions, again from the Horsham Times.

Advertising. (1929, October 4). The Horsham Times (Vic. : 1882 – 1954), p. 9. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article72672337

Another stylish look, this time from 1930.

Woman’s Interests. (1930, July 3). Border Watch (Mount Gambier, SA : 1861 – 1954), p. 6. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article78010734

The Great Depression saw a rise in the number of sewing columns in the newspapers.  This article gave advice on how to recycle a frock.  The full article is here

“THE ARGUS” SHOOPING PAGE. (1930, August 8). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 12. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article4104490

Patterns were back for Spring 1935.

Gay Patterns for Spring Frocks. (1935, August 14). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 15. Retrieved August 29, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article11757450

World War 2 saw a dramatic drop in the number of “spring fashion” articles in the papers, more so than the Great War.  The years 1942, 1943 and 1944 had very few and those I found were mostly for sewing patterns.   Families relied on coupons to buy goods, there was rationing of goods including fabrics and the fashion houses of Paris closed.  If a woman wanted to keep up appearances, there was little alternative but to make a frock or remodel one from last season.  The latter half of the 1940s saw a rapid increase in fashion articles as women turned again to the fashion stages of Europe for inspiration and cast aside their drab wartime clothing.

BE CHIC… but coupon canny. (1942, October 17). The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), p. 7. Retrieved August 31, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article46446873

A few bright notions to cope with a war budget. (1942, January 10). The Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), p. 24 Section: Fashion Portfolio. Retrieved August 31, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article54876753

Shock, horror “Hems to go higher” in 1952.  Just wait until the 60s!

Hems to go higher. (1952, May 21). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1956), p. 5. Retrieved August 26, 2012, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article23197518

I could have continued to the 1960s but that would have gone on for some time as I do like the fashion particularly from the latter half of the decade. I could have gone on to the 70s too.  While fashion from that decade was much maligned during the 1980s, anyone who saw Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo was reminded of the great fashions of the 1970s.  I think the 1980s would have pulled it up though. Agreed?

Looking at fashions of different eras is beneficial to the family historian especially if you are trying to date photos.  It also gives us some idea of what our female ancestors might have endured for either the sake of fashion or managing with what was available.  The long, impractical dresses of the 19th and early 20th century make me think of my ggg grandmothers on farms, getting in and out of buggies and tending fires for washing and cooking.  Consider how your grandmothers or great grandmothers managed during the Depression when money was tight or  World War 2 with coupons and rationing.  No wonder my Nana was good at sewing, darning and knitting. It was a necessity.

***If you are interested in learning how your female ancestors washed their big dresses during the 1850s, the Sovereign Hill Education blog has great posts on washing, drying, and ironing.

7 thoughts on “Spring Fashion

  1. Lovely journey through the ages, Merron. I too was thinking of my gggm’s battling along in the 1850s in those dresses with trains! How did they keep clean?
    I can see why there was a whole service industry needed to keep households running before electric appliances were accessible to all.
    Love how the hemline rose so dramatically in the 1920’s too!


  2. lovely photos of Sykes and fashions…always useful to compare win photos. love looking at them but I’m missing the fashion gene. I’d love to see 1960s and 1970s follow up.


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