Clothing advice that women received in 1912 and still does today

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Times change, and so does fashion. But certain things have remained the same over the years. For this article, I delved into what women wore to the office in 1912. Surprisingly, it doesn’t differ much from what women wear to work nowadays.

Clothing advice that women received in 1912 and still does today
A group of women who work together in the Ayer Mill mending room, Lawrence, Mass. 1909, By Unknown author – , Public Domain,

Clothing advice that women received in 1912 and still does today

Columnist Anne Rittenhouse was the woman who knew everything about fashion at the beginning of the twentieth century. In a December 1912 article (New York Times), she discussed the trends for working women, including tips. I’ve compiled five fashion rules for the working woman that still apply today.


1. Follow the gentlemen

According to Rittenhouse, it’s wise to draw inspiration from men’s clothing when choosing your attire. She emphasizes the importance of simplicity, allowing women to build a wardrobe that is easy to mix and match.

While there’s more room for personal taste and style nowadays, this rule still applies in formal settings. It’s evident, especially in politics, where women often wear simple clothing resembling men’s attire—think plain, straight suits without jewelry.


2. A suit is convenience

The article highlights that a suit is a convenient choice for women because it always looks good, and that’s practical.

Well, I have nothing to add here. A suit, whether it’s a pantsuit or skirt suit, remains a fantastic item in the wardrobe.

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3. Be prepared for events after work

Rittenhouse writes that women feel freer and better when, after work, they wear a different blouse than the one they worked in. Therefore, she advises women to keep a secret stash of blouses and accessories in their desks. This can come in handy when going out after work, for example.

I think this advice is timeless. A fresh and clean garment feels better for most people, regardless of gender, than clothing they worked in. There’s also extra clothing in my office in case I want to look particularly neat or simply feel cold. Very convenient!


4. Black dress

When it comes to wearing a dress to work, the columnist recommends going for black. This would be the most reliable color in a business environment.

The black dress is a timeless garment that can be worn well in both professional and private settings. But as Rittenhouse describes, it is indeed a wise color choice, especially in formal environments.

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Don’t be too flashy

The article states that women who wear flashy clothing automatically exclude themselves from a better position. It also points out that women generally tend to buy clothes that don’t last long, whereas it’s wiser to invest in high-quality clothing.

Although there is thankfully more room for diversity in the workplace, flashy clothing is still not universally appreciated. The same goes for the sustainability of clothing. Despite the increased awareness that excessive clothing consumption is detrimental, there are still people (not only women) who buy clothing knowing it won’t last long.

I find it very enjoyable and relatable to read Rittenhouse’s advice. Do you also recognize her advice?

Best regards,


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