The Edwardian Sartorialist: Capturing Style in 20th Century London

Long before the days of Bill Cunningham and Scott Schuman, and over a century before the curated bloggers of today became icons of fashion in pop culture, there was a street style all its own.

Throwing a bit of caution to the wind, and the corset in the bin, women of the early 1900’s embraced a world of new trends in fashion, social standing, and in politics. From broad, bold hats, and full “Gibson Girl” hairstyles, to tuxedo jackets and expertly tailored gowns from Parisian couturiers, style was celebrated on the streets of London. The hourglass shape was in and it had never been so comfortable, or empowering to dress like a woman. There is a masculine edge, almost a swagger of sorts that did not exist in the previously prim and proper Victorian age.

As an early Sartorialist of the time, photographer Edward Linley Sambourne (1844-1910) snapped countless images of smartly dressed women as they roamed the streets near his home at 18 Stafford Terrace in Kensington. An illustrator and chief cartoonist for English magazine Punch, Sambourne passionately embraced his role of amateur photographer, ultimately becoming his obsession (according to wife Marion’s diary). Sambourne’s figures are as chic as they are intelligent and assertive, ushering in a new era of change for women around the world.

June 27, 1906_Kensington May 10, 1907_St. Albans Road July 20, 1906_Notting Hill Gate July 4, 1906_Kensington July 12, 1905_Cromwell Road 1906_ Cromwell Road Sept. 8, 1906_Cornwall Gardens Sept. 8, 1906_2 Sept. 8, 1906

Images via Leighton House Museum / The Library Time Machine, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea 

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