The "Belle Epoque" ("Beautiful Era") was a period somewhat like today with unusual international stability, globalization, and an upper class with a luxurious lifestyle built on cheap labor. It began around 1890 and came to an 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 and the human and emotional costs of the war made re-establishing the elaborate lifestyles of yesteryear unthinkable. Something else occurred that doesn't get much play in cultural histories - 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.
I have wondered why we have not seen a second gilded age today after about thirty years of exalting the glories of social inequality. I can think of two reasons - the elite 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 relegation to the role of ornamental hostesses. Imagine Carly Fiorina or Meg Whitman in crinolines - I can't. You don't need diamonds when you can 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 think unions and regulation of any kind are unnecessary. Same for Marxism. Turn 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 -
Queen Mary - May of Teck - that has these Albumettes:
Ina von Rupin, and