Women's Fashion in early Johannesburg (1800's - 1900's)      1 2 3 4 5           Home

When peace returned there came a wave of newcomers, mostly from England but also from the Continent,
who brought with them the new Edwardian styles of fashion.

Fashion moved fast in a fast-developing Transvaal.  Britian's King Edward VII set a style by always wearing
a Homburg hat, which women of the new century often wore in place of the straw boater.  Queen Alexandra
was said to have worn a pearl choker in the evenings to conceal the scar of a throat operation.  This style
won great favour with her subjects at home and abroad.  The heavily starched collar which the queen was
never without during the day became a conventional article of women's clothing, worn with every blouse.

Woman's body was encased in a corset which pushed the bust forward and the hips behind.  The invention of
the flared skirt gave woman a concave look.  Frilled silk petticoats gave a woman's rear additional width,
thus creating the illusion of the wearer carrying a miniature bustle.

Hair was now combed towards the crown and gathered in a large curl on the forehead.  Tilted-forward hats which
sat on the hair helped create the S-shape which characterized the decade.  Blouses were trimmed with a pro-
fusion of layers of lace which helped conceal the unnaturraly shaped curve of the body.

                   
Left: An elegantly dressed woman displaying a cartwheel hat of 1911 adorned with ostrich plumes.
Right: Short dresses or, rather, dresses with a hem only 5 to 10 cm from the floor.

Women who sported men's hats, such as the Homburg or boater, soon discarded these for more feminine styles
of head-dress which were often adorned with plumes of various birds, including our own ostrich.

The S-shape remained in vogue without appreciable change until 1908, when less elaborately ornate blouses
actually showed the shape of the wearer's body.  The trailing skirt lost its train and tightened enough to show
the sape of the wearer's torso.  Hair, instead of being piled up high on the forehead, began to be worn bunched
up against the temples.  Hats deepened and widened to accommodate the new masses of hair.  By the year
of Unions hats trimmed with stuffed birds, ostrich feathers, or other enormous plumes reached cartwheel
proportions.

South Africa's future opposition leader, James Barry Munnik Hertzog, condemned cartwheel hats as being 'improper',
but improper or not they created a boom in the export of ostrich feathers.