Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.

Australia in the 1910s

Women's fashions

The First World War marked the end of the fashion trend known as the Gibson Girl look. The Gibson Girl was the personification of a feminine ideal during a 20-year period spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Gibson Girl was tall and slender, with an S-curve torso shape that accentuated the bust and hips. This shape was achieved by wearing a swan-bill corset. The 'ideal' woman was statuesque, with a thin neck and her hair piled high on her head in bouffant, pompadour, or chignon ('waterfall of curls') fashions.

During the war, women were working outside the home and needed a new fashion that was ready-to-wear. As women worked in factories, it was dangerous to have long hair and long dresses. For daytime wear, women favoured a practical, more masculine suit, compatible with war work, over the elegant dresses, bustle gowns, shirtwaists, and terraced, shorter skirts.

Magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar were popular and enticed women to spend their newly earned wages on what they wore. Rayon was the first synthetic fabric produced at a low cost and was called 'artificial silk'. Women wore clothes made from it and white linen with embroidery. The straw boater hat was worn with long hair that was pinned up underneath the hat. Undergarments, including corsets, cinched the waist to confine the figure.

Large hats and long, flowing dresses were the fashion for women in the 1900s

A snapshot of 1918

  • January
    • The Australia Corps formed out of five separate Australian divisions fighting in France during the First World War.

  • April
    • A factory opened in Caulfield, Victoria, to manufacture artificial limbs for returned soldiers.

  • September
    • The first direct wireless message was transmitted from Britain to Australia.

  • November
    • On the '11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour', the Armistice between the Allies and Germany flagged the cessation of fighting on the Western Front.
    • Preferential voting was introduced for the first time in elections for the House of Representatives.
    • Two significant children's books were published: The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay and Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Their Wonderful Adventures by May Gibbs.


{tpl region name=footerbottom}