When Society Becomes Unionized, 1902

I have a deep fascination in costume history-mainly in outfits worn by women in the 1880s through to the 1920s.  But I tend to dwell on the 1880s and 1890s more, simply because of the notion of women conforming to the ideal of one man’s vision of what women of the period should look like.  I’m referring to Charles Dana Gibson‘s Gibson Girl.



When I purchased the newspaper illustration above at an auction several years ago, that is all I saw: the woman’s fancy dress with a ridiculous train, her tiny waist (not to mention her perfect hourglass figure,) the low cut neckline, her perfectly coiffed hair, and her dainty facial features-all things women of the time wanted to emulate. And who wouldn’t?  Especially if you could look like Camille Clifford, Gibson’s original muse for the Gibson Girl:

Camille Clifford

Camille Clifford


The title of the piece, if you can’t see in the image of the print, is “Called Out: When Society Becomes Unionized.” As far as what this title means: I’m not entirely sure.  Gibson often chronicled the upper echelons of New York and Boston society, where old aristocratic families mingled, excluding newcomers, or those they deemed as new money or those unworthy of their attention.   I’m assuming this caricature is referring to something of that nature.  Anybody else have any thoughts?



Filed under 1880s, 1890s, 1900s, Art

3 responses to “When Society Becomes Unionized, 1902

  1. I like your post. And I love costumes and looking at vintage clothes. So don’t get me wrong.
    Doesn’t it look dramatically different from today! But is it really? Sure women got rid of the corset, and we obtained “equal rights.” However, I often wonder just how different we really are about our appearance today — the pressure to be a “size 00” and bullying whether in the schoolyard, the office, or the Internet – in a way it might as well be a corset.
    Oh… that was horridly philosophical for a morning! :)

    Keep going with the blog — you do a great job and I enjoy them!

    • Thanks, Teagan! I completely agree with you on the whole appearance thing. While I was writing this post, I couldn’t help but think about the scantily clothed Barbie and video game women who illustrate the same qualities that women from the late 1800s/early 1900s tried to emulate (but without the restricting undergarments). Even then, the idea of men portraying what women should look like is crazily evident-with Charles Dana Gibson illustrating the ideal American woman in his Gibson Girl, and others like Harrison Fisher creating their own very similar illustrations. And I guess like with the impossibly proportioned characters and dolls today, the Gibson girl was also impossibly proportioned (except for with Camille Clifford-she’s the only woman in photographs that I’ve seen that even comes close to looking like the illustrations! And the odd thing is that it is only in that one portrait, in others, she doesn’t look quite the same, which is interesting to me…) With early 20th century women, physical modification through corsets and form flattering dresses is more acceptable in my mind since wearing a corset was an ingrained part of everyday dress. Today, trying to capture that unhealthy skinniness of what some think as ‘beautiful’ is self-destruction caused by the media, which fuels eating disorders, incorrect dieting, and a whole lot of pointless bullying, like you mentioned. Crazy world we live in, huh!

      Thank you, again, for the positive encouragement! As of now, I have no plans of stopping! Slowing down, maybe, but not yet! 😀 Good luck with your first few days into NaNoWriMo!!

  2. Thanks Ashley — I need all the luck I can get this year! 50K is a lot of words for one month. And I’m not the “fastest thing on ten fingers” either. LOL. However, I’m giving it a try with a new urban fantasy.


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