Fashion in the 20th Century

A column by the Maple Ridge Historical Society

Adella and Kate Baker of Albion in a portrait taken in a Seattle studio

Adella and Kate Baker of Albion in a portrait taken in a Seattle studio

What should I put on today?

If you were a young woman in the early 1900s, the answer would begin with a corset laced in to narrow your waist to approximate the ideal 18 inches, a camisole, stockings, boots, several layers of petticoats, all topped up with a high necked ankle length dress.

Sandra Borger has prepared a Power Point presentation titled, “What are you Wearing?  Fashion and Grooming in the 20th Century.”

Her program for the Maple Ridge Historical Society will take place at St. Andrew’s Heritage Hall (the 1888 brick church at 22279 – 116th Avenue, just west of the Haney Bypass), 7:30 p.m.

This well-researched program will take us decade by decade through the 20th Century, tracing cultural trends and historic events that have shaped our styles of clothing.

Women’s fashion will be the main topic, but men’s clothing and accessories will also be part of the show.

Borger, the presenter, earned a Bachelor’s degree with a major in history and a minor in women’s studies. In 2010, she completed a master of arts in history.

Last year she gave a talk to the Maple Ridge Historical Society using her research into the lives of Mennonite women who immigrated to B.C. from Europe after the Second World War.  This was based on interviews that were part of her MA research.

She is presently working part-time as a researcher for the Maple Ridge Museum.

Today’s photo (page 19) from the Maple Ridge Museum collection features Adella and Kate Baker of Albion.  It is a studio portrait taken in Seattle in 1918, when Adella was auditioning to join a circus.  The clothing is a natural fit with no restricting corset.  The necklines are no longer high, with a V-necked collar.

By this time, after the First World War, times had changed, with women were participating in the work force. Clothing was a more comfortable fit and skirts were a little shorter, showing off their boots with ankles clearly visible.  How shocking.

Hats, scarves and gloves completed these fashionable outfits.

Borger’s program will take us through all the changes in fashion through the 20th Century.

As women turned from family ornaments to independent individuals and participants in the work force, their clothing evolved too.

Men have always seemed to dress mainly for comfort, freedom of movement and practicality, and women’s wear changed, too. They also wanted to ride a bicycle or climb on a street car with ease, and to look attractive doing active things.

This Maple Ridge Historical Society program is free for members.  Drop-in visitors are welcome to attend for a $2 fee.

• For further information about any of these events, please call the Maple Ridge Museum at 604-463-5311.

Sheila Nickols is past president of the Maple Ridge Historical Society.