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May 28, 2014

Edwardian Sartorialist: Candid Photographs Show Beautiful Women's Street Style in London From the 1900s

We are used to thinking of the Edwardian period as the last great period of formal dress for women and men, the last gasp of 19th century fashion and the ancien regime of costume before the revolution of the Great War and the 1920s.


Linley Sambourne’s pictures show another side to the early years of the 20th century, a casual attitude to dress demonstrated by the mostly young women in them. The roots of the dress revolution are apparent from the 1890s onwards in candid photographs and picture postcards. Sambourne’s pictures are one instance of this movement.

These amazing photographs below were taken by Linley Sambourne when he roamed the streets of Kensington with his hidden camera from between 1905 and 1908.

20th July 1906 in Notting Hill Gate – even in summer gloves are worn and one of these two women carries a muff. They’re in a hurry, striding along, oblivious to the photographer.

This woman is slightly more formally dressed than the first two. Perhaps she is on her way to work.

This picture taken in Cheniston Gardens shows a young maid engaged in the perennial and tedious task of cleaning the steps.

A different set of steps, and a different woman but she looks as though she is responding to a request from Sambourne to hold that pose for a moment.

The next subject is someone much closer to Sambourne’s own class, a distinctly middle class married woman.

In May 1907 she is escorting her two sons along a tree-lined Cromwell Road with just a few horse drawn vehicles in the background. Cromwell Road looks more like a prosperous wide street of upmarket houses as it was originally intended than the major transport artery of today.

This is one of those pictures where the woman is looking right at the photographer as though she knows what he is doing.

This may be a picture of the same woman from behind. They were both taken on the same day in the same place so that may be a reasonable assumption.

This woman who featured was photographed in Earls Court Road in 1905.

This view is of Kensington Church Street, with some horse drawn buses in the background.

A family group, from the front...

and from the side.

Another of his pictures from the rear. This was in St Albans Road, well off the main streets of Kensington and well out of Sambourne’s main patch.

Sambourne captures a young woman of the early twentieth century walking confidently forward looking straight into the eye of the camera. Forget the photographer. She is looking out at us.

(Photos by Linley Sambourne, via The Library Time Machine)






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