In the first decade of the twentieth century, women's dress changed radically. The encumbering clothing of the late Victorian era lingered on into the opening years of the century. Yet before the decade was over,
the petticoats, quantities of fabric and trims, and heavily boned corsets were gone. The fashionable silhouette changed from a curved S-shape with trailing skirts to an upright, narrow column.
This radical change happened so quickly, in part, because an alternative style of dress had developed in the second half of the nineteenth century. Various cultural movements and groups - the Aesthetic movement, the Arts and Crafts movement, the Pre-Raphaelites, Rational Dress, Liberty Style, and the Healthy and Artistic Dress Union, for example - advocated a return to the natural form of the body, simple clothing based on classical dress, and the abolition of the corset.
Between 1906 and 1911, Paul Poiret, a young Parisian designer, boldly discarded full skirts, petticoats, trim, and corsets (which he replaced with a lighter, flexible girdle). He dressed his young, avant-garde clients in garments that drew inspiration from the clothing of ancient Greece and Rome and from late eighteenth-century French Directoire. Narrow columns of cloth fell straight from the shoulders or from under the bust. By 1908 the narrow, high-waisted, upright silhouette of the alternative style of dressing had been adopted by other designers.