Time Out Living gallery heading 1901: Living at the Time of the Census Living in 1901
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What to Wear

Clothes and class
'In the Edwardian age clothes denoted status as plainly as any military uniform', notes Robert Roberts in The Classic Slum. Hats, for example, were very important -'for men with any claim at all to standing the bowler hat, or "billy pot", was compulsory wear. Only the lower types wore caps' - and to go out without a hat meant being seen as 'either "low", wretchedly poor, just plain eccentric or even faintly obscene'. Working-class women would not go out without putting on a shawl.

Buying clothes was a struggle for working-class families: Seebohm Rowntree's 1901 study of York, Poverty: A Study of Town Life, estimated that at least 26s a year would be needed to clothe an adult, with 22s a year being needed for a child. However, a review of the cost of clothing for the working classes, published as a parliamentary paper in 1905, concluded that over the past 25 years the cost of articles of clothing 'most largely purchased by the working classes' had fallen by 15%, but that, despite this, working-class expenditure on clothing overall had 'undoubtedly increased with the increase in their general prosperity'. It quoted one tailor who claimed that 'people prefer an article which will not last as long as formerly, preferring variety'.
Sunday best in 1901 - link to an enlarged version

Fashion and feminism
Clothes, and changes of clothes, occupied a significant part of the day of the Edwardian lady of leisure - walking dresses, carriage clothes, tea gowns, evening gowns, to name but a few. Writing in the 1930s, Lady Duff Gordon observed that 'very few women now bother to change their dresses five or six times a day, yet every Edwardian with any claims to being well dressed did so as a matter of course'.

'The New Woman' - link to an enlarged version

Huge hats, trimmed with feathers, fruit, flowers, buckles, even whole birds, became increasingly elaborate after 1901 - flagships of conspicuous consumption. Queen Alexandra helped to limit the threat to rare birds by announcing, in 1906, that she would no longer wear wild birds' feathers. Male fashion, on the other hand, was much less ostentatious and changed only slightly before the First World War.

Corsets, made of silk, satin, brocade or coutil (a sort of twill) and often highly decorated, were generally worn despite the discomfort and possible danger they entailed. The Lady Cyclist campaigned against the corset, claiming that 'Fainting, hysteria, indigestion, anorexia, lassitude, diminished vitality and a host of other sufferings arise from interference with the circulation of the blood and the prevention of the full play of the breathing organs'.