Many forces converged in the early years of the century to produce a dramatic change in style in a short period of time. Elaborate costumes served the needs of an affluent matron who changed clothes several times daily.
But many women now worked at jobs outside of the home, were educated, participated in sports, and lobbied for the right to vote. Another style of dress was required.
Paris, the center for fashion, was also the gathering place for the avant-garde. In the 1905 Salon d' Automne, critics dubbed a new group of artists Les Fauves or "wild beasts" because of their slashing brushwork and vivid colors. In 1906 Serge Diaghilev brought an exhibition of Russian art to the Salon d' Automne; in 1909 he brought the Ballet Russes to Paris to perform Sheherezade with costumes by Leon Bakst.
Paris society quickly embraced the bold colors of the Fauves and the perceived "Oriental" exoticism of the ballet. Home interiors integrated pillows and brightly patterned hangings. Paul Poiret altered his color palette from pastels to vivid colors. In 1913 he created harem trousers so his clients could lounge in their exotic new home environments.
Other designers, such as Lucile and Callot Soeurs, embraced the new style. From 1908 on, hemlines cleared the floor, and fashions changed annually as designers experimented with the possibilities of the columnar silhouette: the hobble skirt, the long tunic with a raised waistline over a narrowed skirt or trousers, and hips swathed in fabric over a narrow skirt.
During World War I, many women found jobs usually held by men away at the front. Clothing required easy movement. This demand was reflected in a looser dress with a fuller skirt, a loosened, lower waist-line, and a hemline that rose to between calf and knee length. At the end of the war, so many men had been lost that women could not plan on marrying, and many became independent.
Clothes reflected newfound freedoms: Dresses became easy to wear, with slightly bloused bodices and hemlines that grazed the knee. As the second decade closed, the elements were in place for twentieth-century fashion.