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1901 womens fashion – The Gibson Girl

January 8, 2016

The Gibson Girl was an idealised woman, the ideal model for 1901 womens fashion. She was a satirical cartoon illustration by the American Charles Dana Gibson, originally based on his wife, Irene Gibson. The Gibson Girl was depicted as beautiful and slender, with an ample bosom and hips and a distinctive bouffant hairstyle.


She was carefree and modern, riding a bicycle for example, and in the cartoons she could be witty and even sarcastic, but she stayed feminine and modest. Many real life women tried their hardest to look like a Gibson Girl.

The Gibson Girl – the ideal woman


1901 womens fashion – the Gibson Girl

Charles Dana Gibson was an illustrator for several American magazines, notably Life magazine. He created pen and ink images in several different styles to accompany articles on many different subjects, including humour, science, politics etc. But he always had a talent for drawing handsome and fashionable young women, and around 1890 this came to the fore when he created his “Gibson Girl” – a distinctive creation who didn’t have a name and was not always supposed to be exactly the same girl, but rather a type of girl who always had an immaculate, voluminous hairstyle, hourglass figure, large eyes, tip tilted nose and a haughty expression.

In fact, she was kind of the Barbie doll of her day – an unrealistically exaggerated woman in 1901 womens fashion. But unlike the Barbie doll, whose personality is unknown, these girls certainly had character. Most of their jokes were at the expense of their bedazzled suitors. They gathered together to minutely examine a man under a magnifying glass, or ordered a pair of beaus to plant a tree upside down, just because they could.

1901 womens fashion – Evelyn Nesbitt

Several models were used as the inspiration for Dana Gibson’s illustration – often combined in 1901 womens fashion. One might have the figure he was looking for, one the little nose, one exactly the right look in her eyes.

This is Evelyn Nesbit, who amongst many incarnations as a Gibson Girl was the model for one famous work entitled “Women – the Eternal Question”. Her hair forms a question mark. As you can see, Dana Gibson relied a great deal of photographs for his work, as did many other illustrators of the time in 1901 womens fashion. Here she is again, from the front. She certainly has the expression right.

Evelyn was a supermodel and pin up, having been drawn by many other artists as well as Gibson, and appearing in lots of newspaper adverts, posters, and even calendars of her in her own right.

In 1906 she was involved in what was known at the time as “The Trial of the Century” when she claimed that when she was 14 she had been raped whilst unconscious by a 47 year old socialite called Stanford White. When she told the story, her husband shot and killed White. There were two murder trials, as one came ended with a hung jury. At the second Evelyn’s husband, Harry Kendall Thaw, was convicted of temporary insanity. Evelyn appeared at both and her clothes, which were eagerly reported on by the press who had seized on every detail of the sensational trial, were greatly admired. Many women were said to have ordered copies of them.