Wowserism australia 1920s men's fashion

Trends in the 1900s

Fashion for Women

In the early 1900’s clothes were a status symbol. In the upper classes of the Australian society, both men and women wore entirely different clothes from the working class, making it visible to which group they belonged to.

Most trends wowserism seen in the cities were very similar as those in the rest of the developed world. The only clothing that could be described as typically Australian was worn by country people.

Women used to have a pinched waist, a big bust with no cleavage (as this was considered vulgar) and a big rear end. Girls of three and four years were also made to wear crinolines skirt and petticoats. This S-shaped silhouette was extremely uncomfortable. The skirt fitted tightly over the waist and down to the knees, and then in a wave like line showing the petticoat. The problem with these skirts was that when walking the bottom of the dress would pick up rubbish as it dragged along the ground. Fashion colours became much more pale and also the fabrics changed to delicate, filmy silks and cashmeres.

The most important accessory was the hat which was decorated with feathers, ribbons and sometimes even stuffed birds or small animals. The shoes were high-heeled and pointed out from beneath the skirt. Elaborate jewels provided additional glamour.

Fashion for Men

Middle class men were easily identified as they always dressed formally with top hats and morning suits.

The working man choose more practical clothes more practical. Even though Australian men did lose their image as  ‘bushranger frontier’ and evolved into an urban society, rural clothing and lifestyle still showed the bushranger image.

The Larrikins

One subculture of the Victorian era was the Larrikins. The Larrakins were easily recognised by the short jackets, short and tight bell bottom trousers worn with high-heeled pointed boots. Their activities, dress sense and life styles made them be rejected by the upper classes. The women were described as ‘gaudily dressed’ wearing boots, bright coloured dresses and feather boas.

Changes in the late Victorian era

In the late Victorian era there was a change in the social life of women as they became involved with some active sports, such as cycling and tennis. This increased the desire for outfits that could be suitable for sports and the need for adaptation wowserism australia 1920s men's fashion of clothing to allow easier movement.


Trends in the 1910s

Early 1910

Before World War I dresses took on a whole new dimension. Eastern design and colors were popular then. The corseted waist was replaced by the hobble skirt similar to the skirts of the Middle East. Some skirts were so narrow that it was nearly impossible to move. Shoes and hosiery also became more exotic and colorful.

The fashionable man in the early 1910s was seen wearing a one or three button cutaway frock coat or the double breasted sack which is a straight lined jacket. It was a ‘dandy’ type of look; the cane was standard, the collar was high (usually with a bow tie); a bowler or some type of hat was worn. A man’s hat in those days was meant to coordinate with his outfit.

Boys and younger men wore three piece suits for dress, consisting of a coat, vest and knee pants which were tight fitting and usually made with ‘double knees’. The bottom of the pant leg met the high stockings at the knee.

The repercusions of World War I

The War (1914 to 1918) changed people’s lives in dramatic ways and it affected Australian fashion for women especially. Women’s were left home running the factories while their men went to fight. This situation gave them independence, confidence and the knowledge that they could work equally as men. As women’s independence increased, so did their desire for practical shoes and clothes. Clothing became more utilitarian, taking on a mannish appearance. Lace-up boots came back into fashion, valued now for their practicality.

Fashion took a dramatic turn when the war ended as well. Sportswear was increasing in popularity and such fashions were soon incorporated into everyday dress.


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