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Period Costumes

The wearing of period costumes is encouraged for the Centennial celebration of Terrell County. There will be a contest with different categories for Period Costumes including "best dressed cowboy"!

Download the Contest Entry Form & Rules
Contest Entry (pdf) (doc)
Contest Rules (pdf) (doc)

Ladies Costumes Contests Divisions

This period includes pioneer dresses with bonnets, bustle dresses, ball gowns with boned bodices, walking dresses, Gibson girl gowns, Gibson girl blouses with skirts, bicycling suits, modesty bathing costumes, 7 gore walking skirts, Mother Hubbard gowns, Edwardian jackets, blouses shirred at neck and sleeves, wedding, dinner, and tea gowns. Wide picture hats piled with flowers were often worn. Pastel silk sashes were worn around young women’s waists or tied flamboyantly in the hair. All skirts swept the floor. Silk evening gowns were either in high-necked day style or low cut with a band or ribbon for a sleeve.

This period started off with the “Grecian bend” (pigeon-breasted bosom, tiny corseted waist, full swayback hips) look, and evolved to either a more natural high-waisted Art Nouveau style or a straight, squarish silhouette with low hips. The ankle length hem was extremely narrow for the “hobble” skirt style, and wide picture hats narrowed as the 1920’s approached. Examples in this category include the “Grecian bend silhouette style, tailored day dresses cut close to the figure, calf length cut away tailored coats, “motoring costumes”, hobble skirts, lampshade skirts (wired to the shape of a lampshade hung from the waist), high-waisted silhouette with cummerbund-style wrapped waist, square neckline, and often stylized or Classical draping for evening wear. Another theme during this time was Oriental or Middle Eastern ethnic motifs and silhouettes. The Zouave also returned to popularity.

Begins with the liberated lady dancing the Charleston in her flapper dress, bobbed hair, and cloche hat. Chanel introduced the classic cardigan style suit and popularized fake jewelry as an accessory. Pajama suits also gained popularity. The chemise or camisole and brassiere replaced the corset in many cases. The fashionable silhouette in the 20’s was flat and straight without indentation at the waist. Trousers were also used for both formal and sports wear. The Egyptian look also became popular as did the American Indian motif and the Art Deco movement stylized every type of design with its sleek, modern, geometric lines.

Fashion of the 1930s was directly influenced by the great Wall Street Crash of October 24, 1929 and subsequent Depression. A softer, more feminine style replaced the boyish flapper look of the twenties. At the beginning of the decade, hemlines dropped dramatically to the ankle and remained there until the end of the thirties. Necklines were lowered while torsos were sensuously molded beneath squared shoulders. Darts were replaced by soft gathers. Dress waists returned to the natural waistline. Moderately full skirts accentuated a small waist and minimized the hips. Dress bodices were designed with inset pieces and yokes. Necklines received dramatic attention, often with wide scallop-edged or ruffled collars.

Skirts were also designed with great detail. Upper skirt yokes appeared for the first time, designed in a v-shape and extending from one hip to the center of the yoke and continuing to the opposite hip. Layered and ruffled looks debuted on skirts, sometimes in tiers. The skirt bottom was often full with pleats or gathers.

Fur of all kinds was worn extensively during this era, both during the day and at night. Fur capes, coats, stoles wraps, accessories and trimmings adorned women's dresses. Pelts in demand were sable, mink, chinchilla, Persian lamb and silver fox.

Hats were worn at an angle. The cloche hat was replaced by the beret. Pill boxes became popular along with brimmed hats. Towards the end of the decade, turbans emerged.

A variety of shoe styles was available during this era. Rounded toes were seen with wide, thick heels. Pumps and flat shoes were available, and ankle strap styles with moderate heels also appeared. Slip-on styles, lace-up shoes and buckle shoes were all worn. Spectator or two-tone shoes appeared in the early thirties.

Handbags of the early thirties looked like those of the twenties. Beaded bags were abundant, as well as enameled mesh bags.

Some other characteristics of the 30’s clothes in this period were a large shoulder effect achieved by padding, unusually cut and pieced day and evening dresses, with oddly puffed and fitted sleeves, bias-cut, high-waisted evening dresses and nightgowns. Two-piece suits with square-shaped jackets, large buttons and narrow, lean skirts in thin materials.

Example of styles in the 1921-35 period include the flapper dress, hats fitting close to the head, knee length pleated skirts, loose fitting jackets with low neck-lines, pajama suits, Chanel classic cardigan style suits, cloche hats, fake jewelry, Empire-waisted gowns with ties at the back, furs of all kinds and styles worn in the 30’s both in the day and at night (stoles, capes, coats, as trimming on dresses), berets and pillbox hat were worn in 30’s. Evening gowns were long and flowing.


Hair was waved and shoulder-length. Shoulders were emphasized by puffs or padding, especially towards World War II (1939). For most women, a long, sleek appearance was desired. By the late thirties, the separate bra and girdle had become acceptable, but one piece corsets continued to be widely available.

During the later part of the decade, leather became very popular. Three-pocket leather clutches with a generous flap over the front and the owner’s initials were especially popular in the late thirties.

With World War 2 fashion took a back seat as conservation and utility became important. Women’s suits had short and straight skirts topped by jackets of 25 inches or less in length. The jackets featured broad shoulders achieved by shoulder padding. Cardigans matched skirts and sheath evening dresses replaced the long, flowing gowns of the 30’s. “Rosie the Riveter” styles ruled during the war years as materials were diverted to the war effort. After the war Dior introduced “the New Look”. After the New Look debuted in 1947, shoulders sloped, waists cinched, and hips spread as far as they liked.

Clothing styles featured fuller skirts with longer lengths. The use of many yards of fabric as seen in the late 30’s came back. Women’s fashions became more soft and feminine. Butterfly, bustle, and gathered peplums were popular. Ruffles found their way to skirt hems, necklines and waists. Gored, gathered and A-line skirts were topped with soft, feminine blouses. Blouses donned bows at the center-front neckline and might sport full or puffy sleeves. Collars were cut generously full, in peter pan and traditional pointed shirt-collar designs. Lace also accentuated blouses around the neckline.

Leather platform shoes were the rage. Their soles were often studded with "nailheads", another sign of opulence and luxury after the severe metal rationing of previous years. The “nailhead” studding carried over to ladies leather handbags. Undergarments became more confining as the “New Look” emphasized high, well-separated and pointed breasts. The “merry widow” was worn with a garter belt, eliminating the need for a girdle. Starched cotton or nylon net crinoline half slips or lingerie petticoats with full ruffles and camisole tops were worn under the full skirts. The contrasting sheath silhouette required a long-line bra or waist cincher along with a very narrow petticoat or slip with minimal trim.

Clothing for the post-war 40’s included

  • The fitted jacket-and-skirt suit, with a peplum to the hip
  • One- and two-fabric day dresses with 3- or 4-sided squarish curved necklines, the bust shaped by soft gathers above or below, and sometimes swags or drapery on the skirt
  • Lace and taffeta eveningwear with assymetric, bouffant styling
  • Cap-sleeved cotton or rayon blouses and matching tap-style shorts or wide-leg pants for recreation

Trims and Detailing

Little trimming appeared on clothing during this era, excepting some evening wear. Instead, fancy covered buttons, extra tailoring details, or fabric contrasts provided variety. One standard was two large hip pockets at either side of the waist, a regular fashion into the 50s.

Hemlines Day and Night

For day, just below the knee was standard, but some dresses fell to mid-calf. At night, at least ankle-length was necessary except for the cocktail hour.

Flamboyant and Feminine - Women's Fashions of the 1950s


Soft but wide shoulders, corseted waist, and full hips were hallmarks of 50s wear, but silhouettes were more varied. On these outlines, women wore a trim bodice and very full knee-length skirt, or a fitted short, boxy jacket or blouse with a pencil-straight skirt. One style that hid all the rest, literally, was the cocoon-like sacque dress and coat, which fitted the shoulders and bloomed at the waist and hips.

Common Designs

  • One- and two-piece dresses with small-collared, fitted blouses and full, pleated knee-length skirts
  • More casual dresses with tied shoulder straps or halter straps, boned bodices and the quintessential circle skirt
  • Similarly fitted eveningwear that had a heart-shaped opaque strapless bodice with a sheer silk or nylon over-bodice, usually sleeveless or long-sleeved
  • Prom night evening gowns of pastel nylon tulle, usually bedecked with yards of tulle trims, ruffles, and velvet bows
  • Long-sleeved button-up sweaters with a plain, ribbed neck, often beaded or appliquéd

For evening, both solids and classic floral brocades were common; the effect of overlaying contrasting sheer chiffon or net on a flesh-colored underdress was daringly popular. Colors in the evening were now both subtle and bold, as peacock blues and hot pinks became acceptable.

Trims and Detailing

The most obvious trim of daywear is the beading of sweaters and occasional extravagance on detailing circle skirts. Circle skirts and novelty garments were sometimes incredibly ornate, with applique, rickrack, screen-printing, sequins, or glitter. A very common feature on 50s dolman-sleeved dresses is the small, nonfunctional, diamond-shaped underarm panel. Flutter hems, which were curved evenly up and down, and scalloped edges appeared occasionally in full-skirted day and evening dress. Most evening detail appeared in sculpted pleats and necklines, or toned-down rhinestones and corde`, which added style without being cumbersome or uncomfortable.

Hemlines Day and Night

Daywear hems fell to the knee or a little below it. Evening gowns could be floor-length, but the cocktail dress also flourished at knee and upper-calf length.

The Latest Fads

  • Bobby soxers (Peter Pan collared blouse, poodle skirt, scarf-tied ponytail, and saddle shoes)
  • Cat-eye glasses
  • Beatniks

If you have questions about which period your costume belongs to or if you would like a costume custom made for you please contact Connie Townsend. Connie is making costumes to order. If you are interested in any of the designs below or even have your own pattern that you wish her to make, please contact Connie either via phone - 1-432-345-2708 or email her at superstitcher2004.

Vintage vests Organdy & Lace
Homestead dress Street costume
Sun Bonnets Edwardian dress jacket



Page updated: June 2, 2005