The street style blog exploded onto the nascent blogging scene as the new craze-du-jour in 2007. Seven years later, every major fashion city is saturated with ‘photographers’ roaming its streets, approaching well-dressed strangers with the flattering request of “Could I take your photo for my blog?”
‘Street-stylists’ may be patting themselves on the back for inaugu- rating this new phenomenon, but in reality, credit is owed to famed Punch cartoonist Edward Linley Sambourne. Considering that he was shooting the fashionistas of South Kensington in the early 1900s, it’s surprising it took a century to catch on.
The work of this amateur photographer is unique as a rare glimpse into the casual dress of the Edwardian woman. With its depiction of the constrained but immaculately coiffed woman grimacing in her discomfort, it offers a stark contrast to the stereotypical image of contemporary dress.
Though they might seem rather prim to us Oxonians in our crop tops and tight jeans, Rebecca Richardson insists that an Edwardian context these shots are “laced with erotic undertones”.
It didn’t take long for the blossoming fashion indus- try to seize the opportunity to monetize this ripple of social change, sexing up silhouettes and creating the ‘ideal’ hourglass figure. Indeed, the maxim of ‘sex sells’, prominent in today’s fashion media, was active, albeit passively, in a time governed by moral and social judgment.
Amongst all this praise of his uncredited revolution, Linley Sambourne’s workâ€¨is somewhat tainted by his dubious methods. ‘Candid’ is the operativeâ€¨word here. With the use of a concealed camera, his subjects were entirely oblivious they were being photographed.
Before the days of CCTV, this clan- destine operation may feel like an intentional and active violation, perhaps altering the impact of his project.
However, I can excuse Edward his surreptitious ways – his work, limited by a lack of resources, was unique for the time and every Katie, Tom and Emily has him to thank for their current corner of the internet.