The "Belle Epoque" ("Beautiful Era") was a period similar to today with unusual international stability, globalization, and an upper class with a luxurious lifestyle built on cheap labor, cheap resources, and endless water and air. It began around 1890 and came to an abrupt end in August 1914. In the Anglophone world, the Belle Époque covers the end of the Victorian era and the entire "Edwardian era" that includes the first four years of the reign of King George V and Queen Mary. World War I swept away ancien régimes in many places. The human and emotional costs of the war made re-establishing the elaborate lifestyles of the Belle Époque unthinkable (although maison Worth tried). Something else occurred - women attained greater political and economic status. This may have contributed to the acceptance and durability of what is well documented – fashions much like those worn today. A gilded age without long skirts and trains is just not a gilded age.
The preceding paragraph was written a few years ago. In mid-2016, the instability created in the Belle Époque by nationalism is emerging in Russia and China and has been been replaced by religion in the Islamic world and USA where fanatics seek to have a Battle of Armageddon. Some, not all, US Christians seek a Rapture where the good will be sucked out of their shoes into the bosom of The Lord (the one God known as Allah in the Islamic world). Daesh seem to have a similar goal. The war drums beat louder every day. Racist identity politics thrive in Europe and in the USA, where one candidate for President offers Hispanics as scapegoats. His opponent is unable to “think outside the box” of “neo-liberalism” that is neither new nor liberal. It isn’t gender, Elizabeth Warren can think outside of the neo-liberal box. The USA tries to lead the world, but steadfastly offers only Capitalism - not democracy or self-determination - to people all over the world. So called “trade” pacts show the USA stands squarely for the global rich - not the rights of man or freedoms (other than the economic freedom treasured by the rich). Daesh offers Allah. We are either in or on the brink of global religious war. Which side has the better-sounding cause?
The Belle Époque ended on 28 June 1914. It may be that the end of the second gilded age will be dated to 11 September 2001, when a long religious war began in dead earnest.
I have wondered why the USA has not seen a second gilded age of dress today after about forty years of hearing non-stop propaganda from a controlled press and media that extols the glories of social inequality. I can think of two reasons - the élite understands that negative publicity and, worse, public scrutiny could follow ostentatious display. But far more importantly, élite women will not stand to be stuffed into corsets and frills and being relegated to the role of ornamental hostesses. Imagine e-tycoons Carly Fiorina or Meg Whitman, or now Hillary or Chelsea Clinton, in crinolines - I can't. You don't need diamonds when you can rule companies with thousands of workers as undisputed monarchs, buy politicians, and pour tens of millions of your money into election time attack ads.
So ends this trip down Memory Lane. Many Americans today want to return to those thrilling days of yesteryear when a white male could see how superior he was just by standing in front of a mirror, disputes were settled man to man, men wore guns in holsters, and you could do anything you wanted to on your property without worrying about anybody else, much less ozone depletion, global warming, endangered species, or fished out seas. And women were Women and men were MEN. Many Americans also think labor unions and regulation of any kind are unnecessary - unions and regulations are said to be just like Marxism. Life was simpler (and shorter) back in the good old days. But keep turning the clock back and watch what happens!
NOTE: ALL images from the USA Library of Congress Bain collection have been cropped.
The Belle Epoque - 1890 - 1914 that has these subalbums:
Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna, that has this Albumette -
The Daughters of Maria Alexandrovna, that has these Albumettes -
Irma von Geijer, NEW
Maria Immakulata, NEW
Clementine Hozier, NEW
Lucy Duff Gordon, Lucile, that has these Albumettes -
Designed by Lucile, and
Queen Mary - May of Teck - that has these Albumettes:
Ina von Rupin, and