V17: What Real Women Wore in 1912

I get so starry-eyed when I look at evening gowns and haute couture of the 19teens.  It’s easy to forget that most women didn’t wear anything even remotely like this.

There is a great series of books called “Everyday Fashions” of the {insert date range here}.  They are compilations of a decade’s worth of selected Sear’s Catalog pages, and are an invaluable resource when researching clothing.  They show fashions for men, women, and children, including hats, shoes, accessories, underwear, etc.  I have Everyday Fashions, 1909-1920, Everyday Fashions of the Twenties, and Everyday Fashions of the Thirties , and highly recommend all of them.

So what were real women wearing in 1912?

Their underclothes:

 Their daily dresses:

On their heads:

Some of these hats are of 18th century proportions!  The top center could be right out of that century.

Click on each image for a closer look, and here is the book to buy on Amazon:


  • Salvia

    January 17, 2012 at 5:22 PM

    I have Everyday Fashions of the Forties and I really like to look through it. It´s a great source for inspiration.
    Thank you for the nice pictures. I really want only one of the hats.

  • Solanah

    January 17, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Love the old sears books. I'm only familiar with the earlier versions, but the newer ones have even better versions like "Early 40s" "Mid 40s" etc. Must invest in those soon!


  • Laurence

    January 17, 2012 at 6:33 PM

    I already own this book as well as the 30s, 40s, 50s. I also have the Schiffer books from the early 30s to the early 60s: 10 books I look at every month to get inspiration…. A MUST HAVE!!!

  • Anonymous

    January 24, 2012 at 3:47 PM

    When I look at photos from museums I think about my own closet. What do I have in my closet? Clothes that I wear daily. What will happen to them when they wear out, go out of style, "shrink"? I will get rid of them. This means 100 years from now my clothing will not be in my greatgrand children's possessions or in a museum. What else do I have in my closet? My wedding dress and graduation gown. On a DAILY basis I do not dress like those outfits nor did I when I was wearing them during the years of those special occasions. They could potentially be in great grandchildren's closets or museums. In the future someone, could look at those dresses and forget that I didn't dress like that always. If I ever ended up with some real big named high end designers dress I might keep that to. Doesn't mean I dress in high end designers clothes all of the time. We save what has sentimental value or possible dollar value. We do not save our clothes for possible historical value. I think past eras did the same. Drawings and paintings are artists representations and may or may not be accurate. Photographs may be retouched. (I don't think it was as common in the old days as it is now but you don't have the color to study). You have to look at all sources and draw conclusions from those sources. Those conclusions may be right or wrong.

  • Laura

    March 10, 2012 at 6:54 AM

    A friend had a 1905 catalog with a five dollar petticoat in it. The opening price point for a plain, unadorned petticoat, mind you, was 25 cents. You can imagine how fancy was that five dollar petticoat!

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