The term Art Nouveau appeared in print for the first time in 1884, when Londoners were clambering on the first subway system in the world and an automobile powered by an internal combustion engine was about to be unveiled by Daimler and Benz in Germany. The Art Nouveau look, often associated with luxury, soon became identifiable across Europe. It could be seen in buildings, tea rooms and objects of every kind, from fashion and furnishings to books and journals.
Textiles were among the repertoire of goods produced by the Wiener Werkstätte in Vienna. Artist Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) designed fabrics and elaborate costumes for the fashion shop of his friend, Emilie Flöge. Among his models was a looser design, reflecting the dress reform movement. This aimed to encourage manufacturers and fashion designers to develop and produce less restrictive and lighter designs. After 1900, a new corset style in women’s fashion created an S-shape silhouette. Soft gauzy fabrics and sinuous lines, in modern shades, were worn. Sportswear, beach clothes and cycling costumes began to appear on the market. Shoes included Art Nouveau motifs and stylistic detailing on heels. Across Europe, there were many fashion publications highlighting the new modes.
Artists and architects could reference guides to elements and philosophies of design from an array of sources. Guimard and Horta, for example, cited the ideas of Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and his call for the use of new materials such as glass and iron, as well as a break with historical trends. The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones (1856) provided decorative designs from many cultures and proposed seeking inspiration from nature. Commercial production of Art Nouveau designs came from artistic groupings such as the Weiner Werkstätte, which allowed designers to put a name on their work. The Württembergische Metallwaren Fabrik in Germany produced Art Nouveau and Jugendstil metalware objects on a mass-market scale, making a wide range of everyday items available in the new styles.
The style of the age could be seen in luxury venues. By the middle of the 19th century, department stores and arcades had changed the shopping experience, particularly for women. Ocean liners also displayed the style. John Brown and Company in Clydebank built many notable ships including the RMS Lusitania owned by the Cunard Line. The reading room of the German ocean liner, SS George Washington, included Art Nouveau interiors by Bruno Paul. Spas were a popular retreat. Vichy, made popular by Napoleon III, experienced a second growth period at the turn of the century - the opera house was completed in 1903. The thermal steam complexes with interiors tiled in Art Nouveau designs, provided the perfect backdrop for restful contemplation.