Female Fashion: Edwardian London, 1906

I found these photos by the keen amateur photographer Edward Linley Sambourne, who was also the chief cartoonist for Punch magazine. They are early examples of candid street photography, using a hand-held camera. He was obviously interested in the fashions of the day, and as you can see, most women were still wearing corsets and very long dresses or skirts at the time.

A ‘modern’ young lady, stepping out. She appears to be full of confidence.

Described by the photographer as a ‘Common shop-girl’, this lady is reading a book as she walks along. Much like people looking at their phones today.

A ‘progressive’ lady walking with her bicycle. She would have been making something of a ‘statement’, in 1906.

This lady is carrying a ‘modern’ handbag. The forerunner of today’s familiar female handbags.

Another ‘handbag and book’ lady.

Two elegant friends walking together. They are also carrying books and one has a letter in her hand, ready to post it.

And two more doing the same.

Some ladies at the time favoured black, or dark clothing. Sometimes this was to indicate modesty, or they may have been in mourning. Here are two of them. The first lady appears to have spotted the photographer.

A well-to-do older couple exiting their carriage in Central London.

Women and children wandering in a London Park. The children were dressed in very similar clothes to the adults.

Can you imagine wearing so much clothing in high Summer?

48 thoughts on “Female Fashion: Edwardian London, 1906

  1. “Can you imagine wearing so much clothing in high Summer?”

    This is a question put to historical costumers and re- enactors. They all say that you don’t feel as hot as you imagine you would be because all the fabrics are from natural fibres (cottons/linens) and thus allow the skin to breathe, and there is less perspiration wearing breathable natural fabrics as opposed to wearing modern synthetic clothing (polyesters/nylons/lycra). This was even said in response to wearing Tudor clothing in the summer! (of which there were more layers than what the Edwardians wore).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Make that all Pete! No middle class lady would be doing laundry, expect maybe rinsing through a fine silk scarf if she didn’t trust the washer woman to treat it gently!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Outer clothing wasn’t washed as frequently as we wash ours because it didn’t directly touch the skin due to their underwear (made of cottons/silks/linens). Underwear was washed more frequently (by the wealthy, but I expect the poor not as much as they wouldn’t have owned that much), and skirts and gowns had any mud brushed from them with stiff brushes. So most laundry on laundry day was in fact underwear and blouses, shirts and small items like detachable collars and shawls.

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      1. Not as much as you think since the fabrics were natural fabrics and breathable. Middle class and upper class ladies’ blouses would have been made of very fine cotton.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Not just this sequence of photos but I always think about the individuals and how their live’s panned out, who survived WWI and WWII who may have still been alive when I was born in the 50’s and the changes they had seen, great photos Pete thanks

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Not that I would care to wear those clothes, but I always feel they are very elegant and show off a woman’s attributes. Back then,methinks ladies were more slender of body. Or maybe it was all those corsets!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I rather like those styles and in the early seventies ( at least in Australia ) there was a brief fad for maxis and as I did dressmaking I made myself some long flowing dresses. They were nice and cool in summer – but of course I did not have on all the corsets and undergarments! Early settlers in Australia wore all the layers of clothing they were used to in Britain.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Well I thought I knew pretty much all the historical contraceptives- but had never heard of those before! Yikes, quite nasty. Some of that must’ve burned and caused inflammation, and soreness.

        Liked by 1 person

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