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1903 womens fashion – Paris fashions to tea gowns and hats

January 13, 2016

 Lady’s Realm September ’03 – How Mrs Eric Pritchard interpreted late summer 1903 womens fashion.


“The chief clothes to be considered at the moment are those worn by smart folk at foreign watering-places and the neatest of sartorial garb as chosen by the travelling American. I will frankly tell you at the commencement of this article that I am not going to talk much about autumn clothes. The first of October is time enough for us seriously to consider the question of furs and winter frocks.”


So Mrs Pritchard briskly begins her fashion report, a mixture of observed details, personal favourites, and sage advice. An attempt is made to appeal to all, from those such as her who will be soon staying in country houses and requiring advice on a tea gown, to those “humble folks” who will be grateful to know of practical serge that can be washed. It’s like a good gossip with a friend who’s just got back from Paris and who’s dying to tell you the latest.

1903 womens fashion – Paris fashions

For the moment, in Paris, brown is the colour – although Mrs P is dubious about the shade as it is not universally becoming – still, the clever women will make it suit her somehow. At least it means that you can wear your brown-based heather tweeds with smart brown leather boots, and a brown suede tam o’shanter and waistband. And thank goodness it isn’t red, which is now finally becoming démodé.


“Taffeta will be no means go out of fashion, although leading mondaines have been wearing it all the summer, while for evening wear it has been in vogue for at least three seasons.” she disdainfully remarks.

1903 womens fashion – street style

Mrs Prichard then goes into a run down of frocks she’s seen out and about of which she approves – it was normal in 1903 womens fashion magazines to give the details of anonymous stylish ladies which caught the writer’s eye, rather than the proposed fashions of some designer or other. At this point, street style led the way. One in particular I like the sound of is a coarse white linen dress embroidered with little red dots down the front: this was accessorised with a scarlet parasol, shoes, stockings and hat.


Quite amazingly she then smoothly inserts an advert. “Talking of linens reminds me that those which hold their own everywhere are the Harris linens (Jon. Harris & Co., Ltd, 25 Old Bond Street, W.) Their wear is endless, and the colours never seem to fade […] I can confidently recommend (their fabrics).”

Fast fashions

She then goes on to comment that feather and caribou stoles have been mostly discarded as they are now too common. “The worst of anything cheap is that it must in short time become terribly vulgarised. Not that 1903 womens fashion, even of the cheapest description, has not vastly improved in London, and nowadays the least expensive garments are generally inoffensive. And wonderful are the things made at the factories, in style as well as price. In fact, we hardly like to consider the wages paid for the making of them. I think it is a pity that things should get so really cheap.”


A warning to girls with a small budget then follows, that it is much better to have one good frock rather than three cheap ones. And not to buy black, as it quickly loses its colour and becomes rusty, but to consider navy blue, as it is both practical and chic.

1903 womens fashion – Tea gowns and hats

There are details in 1903 womens fashion of tea gowns in pearl grey and rose brocade, of hats for travelling “trimmed with birds or quills”. As for more decorative hats, “Simplicity is always the highest perfection of the milliner’s art, and I can safely say the picture hat of the coming season will be surprisingly beautiful and artistic. Berries and autumn flowers will be seen a good deal at first. Chrysanthemums and shaded camellias made of mixed panne and wonderful silk will be favourites.” sighs the author. They don’t sound simple at all to me!


More that once she mentions “early Victorian style” or “the style of our grandmothers”, some elements of which are coming back in. Which just goes to show, the concerns of an Edwardian fashionista in 1903 womens fashion are startlingly close to our own – cheap clothes made in dubious conditions, trends coming back round, and blatant advertising inserted into fashion articles!



London Paris fashions 1903

Lady’s Realm Cover 1903

For the moors

A Mourning Toilette

A charming toilette-de-visite

Some dainty and useful fal-lals

A charming evening dress