Gilded Age to the Edwardian


Randy Bryan Bigham


You are very kind. I love the period in all its facets and am happy to share my enthusiasm for it. How fun to have had an Edwardian grandmother! My great-grandmothers were Edwardian. One in particular, Lillie Whitfield Tanner, was born in 1890 and married on April 23, 1912. Sadly she died young from cancer, age 36. I inherited my love of fashion from her. She was an expert dressmaker and followed all the latest trends. I am proud to own her sewing machine with which she made all her clothes from 1915 until the year of her death in 1928.

As to Victoria's influence into the first decades of the century, I think there was some but for the most part it was a time of high-energy and excessive luxury - not her style. And the new fashions didn't reflect her conservative ideals. High necklines did last a few years and, you're right, they may well have been a final sartorial vestige of her influence.


Specifically: Victoria died in 1901, succeeded by her son Prince Albert Edward who became King Edward VII (coronated 1902). He died in 1910.

Broadly: After Victoria's Golden Jubilee in 1897, Royal public duties were mostly taken up by Edward, around whom the Court then naturally centered. Many historians point to this date as the true inception of his reign. Although Edward died in '10, historians also generally consider the last few years before the outbreak of the First World War as "Edwardian."

All my best,


Randy Bryan Bigham

Some "starter" books for those interested in learning more about Edwardian life:

AN EDWARDIAN CHILDHOOD by Jane Pettigrew (Boston: Bullfinch Press/Little, Brown and Co., 1992).

This is a wonderfully illustrated tribute to the world of children during the early 1900s. If there is a perfect "beginner's" book to instantly transport you to that magical time, this is it. The fanciful etiquette of the period, regarding a child's place, is put in amusing perspective. The domains of the nursery and schoolroom as well as the glories of play and toys are discussed. This book makes a great gift!

EDWARDIAN PROMENADE by James Laver (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958).

A companion volume to "Victorian Vista," this book by the great social commentator James Laver is a crash course in everything about the opening years of the 20th century that so intrigues - from the lives of the Royals and the social rounds of the American elite to the delights of the theatre and musical hall and the contemporary art scene. Not forgotten are the sporting activities (particularly that of "automobiling" and "aeroplaning"), the politics, the enormous suppers (many menus are reproduced), and naturally the luxurious clothes! The text takes the form of excerpts from contemporary diaries, letters, books, and newspapers so that one has the feeling that you're actually stepping into that far-off world and becoming part of some great and merry party. The book is also beautifully illustrated.