Today I was wondering a bit about how women felt about fashion in 1914. I found a column from Illustrated London News. The columnist Filomena (no last name given) writes about wedding ceremonies and fashion. In a March 1914 column, she begins by explaining that the Bishop of London was personally in favor of removing the world “obey” from the English wedding ceremony. Only the bride made a vow of obedience and the reason “obey” was inserted into the ceremony doesn’t pass mustard. The bishop didn’t bring this to a church vote because he thought it would lose. Ah, why can’t we have braver men, in women’s corners?
How did “obey get into the ceremony? When the Church of England broke from the Roman Catholic church, they needed English versions for all the ceremonies. For reasons Filomena doesn’t explain, no English clerics seemed up to the job, so two Germans were brought in. They added “obey” from the Middle Ages English brides had to vow to be “bonnaire and buxom.” Anglo Saxon word geeks of 1914 assert that this meant women had to be 1) amiable, kind and true and 2) yielding and pliable. Well, if you switch pliable and yielding for obedient, have you gained all that much?
Filomena goes on to share her thoughts on fashion. I rather like her writing style. My comments are in parentheses.
As the Spring fashions come more and more into the public view, the dislike and they cause amongst women themselves increase. Evening gowns are desirable and beautiful enough but the day frocks are so ugly and ungraceful to eyes habituated to the long elegant lines of the past few years. There are some model gowns (I suppose model gowns because few women wore dresses off the rack) made with material heavily bunched up behind, as if to reintroduce the bustle (Horrors!)Others are trimmed with three short, full frills round the waist and hips. Some again, are pulled up from behind to the front of the figure and caught together more or less clumpishly, held as often as not by a beed or other showy and tawdry ornament, from which long strands fall to below the knee (not the best sentence, Filomena, but I can imagine Mr. Thackery saying this). All kinds of inchoate drapings appear devoid of reason or grace. Anything whatsoever worn by graceful and beautiful women passes muster, and as soon as the eye is accustomed to it seems part of the living grace and magnetic charm that is clothes. But the vast majority that is humankind are neither beautiful nor charmingly graceful (true, despite our wishes, I suppose)and to the average women such [indecipherable ] arbitrarily draped and puffed clothing with frills here breaking the frills here breaking the line and turned-under puffings there disturbing flow of drapery must be more of a disfigurement than an aid.
She goes on and it showed me that while I appreciate some old gowns, there’s a lot I don’t even notice.
Filomena. “Ladies’ Page.” Illustrated London News [London, England] 14 Mar. 1914: 426. Illustrated London News. Web. 4 May 2014.