Shirtwaists for All, ca. 1901

Anaheim Public Library, via Calisphere. Click to enlarge

Perhaps it was the illustrator Charles Dana Gibson who made the shirtwaist (a man-tailored blouse) and skirt so closely identified with young American women at the turn of the twentieth century.  His “Gibson Girl” was young, tall, sleek, and athletic.  Although sometimes in evening clothes, she was most often seen outside in a shirtwaist outfit.  She was perhaps the first distinctively American fashion prototype.

However, shirtwaists and skirts were worn by American women of all ages in the early twentieth century.  Examine this 1901 photograph of Anaheim teachers, which comes from the wonderful on-line archive of images, Calisphere.  Here it looks like the shirtwaist and skirt assumed the place of a man’s suit for women in the workforce.

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