‘Edwardiana’. Fairly sure it’s not a word, but apparently it’s a thing. The Vogue website bears images of models sweeping down the runway in black or grey floppy collared coats. The Louis Vuitton collection even came replete with a considerably smaller man in uniform to carry the models’ leather totes. In other pictures impossibly lean women, all in black, wear scoop necked dresses and highly buttoned shirts with chokers. Vogue attributes this to an obsession with Downton Abbey, but in my opinion this is a trend long overdue. People tend to ignore the Edwardian era, dwarfed as it is in size (though not in literature, fashion and politics) by its imperious matriarch, the Victorian period. Even in the fashion world, ‘Victoriana’ holds a multitude of connotations, predominantly frilly, low-cut, corsety garments, with impossibly small waists and wide hems.
When Edward ascended the throne, everything simplified; architectural lines got cleaner and squarer, and fashion got its sobriety back. Women everywhere breathed a sigh of relief as waistbands were made of cloth again, on their way to the loose flapper girl cut of the 20s. The looks traversing the S/S 2013 catwalk were high-waisted, slimline, with a clear cut. Skirts either had a slight bell curve or none at all. Tailoring, on waistcoats and morning coats was slim and fitted, and colours were sombre and usually dark. Materials and patterns were sometimes luxurious but never fussy. A loose, pretty bun with some kind of oversized cloth flower was the hairstyle of choice, although occasionally a floppy brimmed hat made an amusing cameo. Hat veils were also back in force. Brown leather doctors’ bags were clutched. Rosettes revived an interesting way of tying back a dress. It was far more Mrs Marple than Downton in its understated style.
For men, the cut of the suit was the all important factor, and a whole variety of browns that I did not know were colours came into force. Tweeds, capes and louche plus fours were paraded for the adventurous. Karl Lagerfeld is said to be a big fan of the trend, modelling his suits for Armani Prive on the nine years between Queen Victoria’s death and King George ascending to the throne.
Edwardian chic is great, not least because it breathes new life into a pair of two year old brogues or a pixie collar. Longer and mid-calf hems and high socks are comfy and flattering without trying too hard. It can be gothic inspired, without being over the top, simple without being Spartan. After the loudness of hyper-feminine 19th century fashion, the Edwardians understood that clothes were primarily functional. They also understood that useful can be beautiful.
Image from: V&A London, images collection