Over a century of San Francisco fashion

February 20, 2024


Socialites fascinate me, mostly because my life couldn’t be more different than theirs. And of course, I love fashion. Especially historical fashion. Combine the two? An exhibition of my dreams: Fashioning San Francisco: A Century of Style is on at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco and I had to visit.

Fashions in the exhibition were either gifts of art patron-fashionistas or on loan from local women known for their haute couture. So come along with me and enjoy some San Francisco fashion over the 20th century.


Fashion from more than a century ago was designed for tiny figures, as it is today. Of course, people were significantly smaller in stature then. This piece works best on women who lack bosom. I really can’t imagine how that bodice would work if the wearer had actual breasts.

This ensemble is by Fortuny, who opened his atelier in 1906. I am not a fan of this Delphos look but it’s certainly representative of the very early 20th century. And of course, Fortuny was a big name. His house closed in 1946.


This Jean Patou number from 1932 is exquisitely fashioned and representative of the era, isn’t it?


I didn’t always note the designer and year, because the exhibition was so crowded and I took so many photos. But this has an Art Deco vibe to me.


Kind of interesting, in a suprising sort of way. I kind of like it but not for today.

Close up, this one didn’t look as impressive as it does in the photo. Lots of flowers in San Francisco fashion.


A little flashback to the early 20th century. I love me a period drama and love this Edwardian design.

San-Francisco-fashionThis is an example of a gorgeous piece of art that would be difficult to wear. I can not imagine a great big bow over my bosoms.

But the elegance of this piece is off the charts. It was one of my favorites from the exhibition. The way it’s draped, the flow, the use of color–all so stunning.


The owner of the piece on the right wore it to a Black and White Ball, if I remember correctly. It is more stunning in person and is another of my favorites.


I don’t see myself wearing winged gloves. They certainly detract from the gown–they’re all I can see. But they are interesting!


This one is pretty stunning. She (I think it was Denise Hale) wore it to a wedding anniversary dinner. Of course, I wonder where, and which one, and, well, all the questions. San Francisco fashion that could be in style today anywhere.


Pretty, in a Grecian goddess sort of way. Early part of the century, I believe.

I can’t imagine how much space it would take to sit in this dramatic gown. For me it’s something that’s fun to look at but I wouldn’t want to wear it.


A masked ball gown. I must admit the eye goes to the mask and not the gown. Maybe that’s the purpose? Not my favorite colors.

Sweet and pretty, I envision the 1950s, Sandra Dee vibes.

Another lovely piece…. with that Jackie Kennedy era aura.

This is just beautiful. Romantic. Fairy princess stuff. I do like it…every girl wants to be a fairy princess at least once. It’s why bridal gowns exist, I think.


Not something I’d be drawn to buy, but eye-catching, nonetheless.

Not for me. But definitely art.

I find these kinds of designs gimmicky. They are works of art but impractical to actually move around in.

This classic suit dress rings all my chimes. Lovely. Yves Saint Laurent from the mid 1980s.

I don’t know about these. Fun to look at, not the most flattering for most women. That one on the far left…can’t even imagine. Schmata vibe.

Can you guess the era? 😉


This jacket speaks to me. The pants are props but they go nicely. As an ensemble, a big yes for me.


Creative and interesting. The one on the left is Galliano ready-to-wear from 1996. On the right it’s by Comme des Garcons ready-to-wear from 2006. The photo doesn’t show some of the unique touches. But I have to admit to preferring a straight-out tartan skirted gown without the frou-frou touches. I still remember the gorgeous gown with a full tartan skirt I saw in Scotland years ago. It was gorgeous.


Dior 2002 haute couture.  For me, not so haute. Really looks more like the Sixties, doesn’t it? or that the Cossacks have just ridden up.


I really liked this. The flourish on the lapel is interesting. Alexander McQueen ready-to-wear  1996. Looking at what appeals to me, it’s clear that I’m a bit of a tailored kind of girl. When I’m not wanting to be a fairy princess, that is.

Loving this pants ensemble. Oscar de la Renta 2006 ready-to-wear.

That’s it for today’s post on San Francisco fashion. There were so many other lovely pieces on display that I’ll be going back again, when it’s not so busy and I can really just stand awhile to feast my eyes. If you’re in the Bay area, get your tickets for this one, at the deYoung until August 11.

So I’ve got to ask. Which of these ensembles appeals to you. most?

8 comments on “Over a century of San Francisco fashion
  1. Beth Havey says:

    Carol, fascinating. Thanks for all the time you took to photo and commented. A keeper.

  2. Laurie Stone says:

    Funny how wearing slacks became such a symbol of freedom for women as the years went by. Unthinkable in the early days.

  3. Alana says:

    My favorites to look at were the “guess which era” (1960’s!)pieces and the one with the Jackie Kennedy era vibe. I idolized Jackie Kennedy when she was First Lady and, of course, I had no idea of the darker side of what she was going through with her husband. Oh, and we agreed on the schmata piece. I would have enjoyed this exhibit although I am far (very far) from being a fashionista.

  4. Jennifer says:

    That Dior 2002 looked like some grandmas crochet blanket gone wrong.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "Over a century of San Francisco fashion"
  1. […] Here’s more from the Fashioning San Francisco: a Century of Style, the retrospective of San Francisco fashion that opened at the deYoung Museum in February. These shoes were quite something! (see the fashion post, HERE.) […]

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