… Access and information. How women knew about things, and what they knew depended on the method of communication of the time – Pony Express, telegraph, telephone. It also depended on if they could get to a point of information. In times of war, which seems was always somewhere during this time period, there were embargoes and trade restrictions. This meant not only were goods limited, but ideas were stopped too.
The Edwardian fashion “explosion” after 1900 can much be attributed to the spread of IDEAS – with the Asias opening up and world conflict tabled for a little bit before World War I.
Early on, it was word of mouth and letters and stories. Royalty modeled fashion, and Napoleon sent dolls. When flat pattern design was invented, periodicals like the “Godey’s Lady’s Book” became THE source worldwide for women to know about fashion because they included hand colored sketches (later printed in color) and actual patterns.
Women who didn’t have a Godey’s book still relied on hearing or seeing what others were wearing. The portable camera changed all of this.
(Prints: You could get house plans, paper dolls, and dress patterns from Godey’s Lady’s Book in the 1860’s)