A Century of Women's Fashion

A Century of Women's Fashion

Date: 17/04/2020 14:42

Dress imagery can show a person a lot about a moment in time and in the Digital Film Archive there are plenty of examples to showcase the changing attitudes in society as well as in fashion. This video is a century of fashion caught on camera during the most innovative period, the 20th Century. Here, traditions were challenged, and class barriers broken down. 

Beginning at the tail-end of the Edwardian era with the imminent abandonment of the corset, this clip from the Gordon Bennet Cup in Kildare shows women in ruffled back dresses and stiff collars. Fast forward to 1925, and a photograph of young women swimming in Bangor shows a reduction in layers which would not have been possible only a decade before. This change in modesty is seen yet again in a snippet from the 1937 film, Devil’s Rock, with one of the leading ladies seen lounging with both her back and legs exposed!

1944 and Ulster At Arms shows the role women played during the war, taking over the jobs of men in factories and adding a certain glamour to proceedings in the process! Post WWII, and the Dior ‘new look’- which is really a return to the traditional silhouette seen throughout the centuries on women - has gripped the Western world with rounded shoulders, a cinched waist and a very full skirt. 

Moving into the second half of the 20th century, when experimentation and the post-modern ruled. This is clearly seen in a clip from the 1960s of a woman modelling a tinfoil jumpsuit and headband along University Avenue. In a more everyday style, footage from the 1970s shows a presenter in a short, bell-sleeve dress. Into the 1980s, an era in which fashion - and haircuts - became increasingly big, bold and colourful! This is seen in spades in this footage from the John Anderson Big Show Band. Lastly, Lycra is back, and it’s being used in all manner of clothing, a narrow style is the new big thing leaving the shoulder pads of the Eighties left behind.