Women’s Business Wear, 1912

I had to double-check the date of this newspaper because 1912 seemed very early to be giving advice to women on what to wear in the workplace.

But then again, the invention of the typewriter had opened up a new field of jobs for women, and I found out that in 1901, 25% of office workers were women. And that meant there was a new market for appropriate women’s work-wear. It’s interesting reading this, as the proscribed new “uniform” for women in business is still relevant today – white shirts, black skirts, simple hairstyles…not much has changed in office-wear in 100 years.

Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 17th September 1912

Sheffield Evening Telegraph, 17th September 1912

A Dress Revolution

The Business Girl to Wear a Uniform

There are indications that a revolution in dress is imminent in the world of business women. The “gaudy typist” whose large hat, coloured stockings, suede shoes, jewellery and scent, have been the subject of adverse comment, will shortly be seen no more. Her place will be taken by the girl robed in black, dark blue, grey, or some other quiet colour, with skirt of decorous length, says the “Standard”. In short, the idea of office uniform for women is becoming increasingly popular amongst the heads of business houses where women typists and secretaries are extensively employed. Quite recently a large City firm drew up a code of dress regulations, to which every employee is expected to conform, and from which every dress accessory generally supposed to be dear to the heart of a typist is rigorously excluded.

Blouses of the “Peek-a-boo” type, against which American business men lately waged ruthless war to the disgust of the wearers, are strictly forbidden. These garments are to be of the shirt order and make of white silk.

A profusion of stray locks and curls not being considered conducive to concentrated thought, any attempt to dress the hair outside the plainest and simplest fashion is sternly repressed.

At first it seemed as if the new order of things would lead to open rebellion amongst those concerned, but the tact of the superintendent and the good sense of the girls themselves prevailed and the scheme is working quite well.

“Every office that employs women typists to any extent should insist on a uniform style of dress,” said the head of a large business establishment yesterday; “it looks more businesslike, and in my opinion, tend towards the increase of efficiency amongst the workers themselves. The girl who knows that her neighbour’s dress is precisely similar to her own is spared the temptation of studying its possible points of superiority, and my experience is that office dress helps to inculcate a businesslike frame of mind.”

An aside – these aren’t examples of work-wear as these ladies are at the races, but I do think these are absolutely beautiful examples of fashion from 1910. I would definitely wear the black and white fringed one (and her fabulous boots) right now.

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