Friday, April 20, 2018

When was the Edwardian era?

This is a question I am often asked. Wikipedia tells us 'The Edwardian era covers the brief reign of King Edward VII, 1901 to 1910, and is sometimes extended in both directions to capture long-term trends from the 1890s to the First World War. The death of Queen Victoria in January 1901 marked the end of the Victorian era.'

However, it is difficult to be precise about the term 'era'. Sometimes there is an invisible 'feel' to certain years which may categorise them as Victorian or Edwardian. Victorian society was very conservative while the years that Edward VII was on the throne were more relaxed from the point of view of morals and behaviour. The Edwardian years saw the rise of such things as electricity, motor cars, telephones etc, which would become standard in the modern world. 

In South Africa, the British were fighting a war against the Boers when Queen Victoria died in 1901. Before the end of this war was in sight, some 500 000 men of the British Empire were in the field. In another dozen years vast numbers of men would die in World War I. Not an entirely happy start to the twentieth century, yet life went on and we know from surviving photographs that fashion was still important, especially to the female population who were well-heeled enough to follow trends. 

Changes of fashion had been reported in women's magazines during most of the 19th century but in South Africa women had had to rely on fashion plates which may have been out of date. This changed as by the turn of the century overseas magazines were readily available to South African ladies who were then able to keep up with developments.

Edwardian lady's costume 1905 displays the era's typical features:
 large hat perched precariously on top of the head, the  
pouter pigeon effect to the front of the bodice, 
and the hair swept up and bouffant. Long flowing skirt and tiny waist (good corseting),
large puffy sleeves. A frothy, feminine style. This lovely lady would be welcome
in anyone's drawing room for tea and cucumber sandwiches.

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