Turn-of-the-Century Today: Antique Science Inspiration

Antique Science 1

Image via Magic Balloon, Whim Quarterly, and Filmmaker IQ

This month, we’ll be carrying a fascinating array of scholarly styles that celebrate all things antique science. The idea came about from a mixture of turn-of-the-century images that have inspired me to think about exciting inventions and discoveries from years past.

Imagine what it would have been like to be an early adventurer like Amelia Earhart, the first aviatrix to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean only to disappear when attempting to fly the full length of the globe. Or, to be scientist Nikola Tesla, inventor of modern AC electricity – a futurist seemingly born far before his time.

Given that I was a teenager when we entered the 21st century, I’m curious about what it was like to be young when life crossed over from the late 1800s into the early 1900s. People must have felt an odd mix of both fear of change and excitement for the new discoveries to come. In fact, it couldn’t have been that much different from today – we’re just moving at an even more rapid pace.

Antique Science 2

Images via Etsy, snails and mushrooms

With science comes art, an opportunity to be creative. During the early 1900s, scientists had to have an artist’s eye, too. To write scientific papers, you had to be able to draw or paint what you were studying, or at least have a partner who could do that with you. It’s not like photography today.

Illustrations like these, and others from encyclopedias and textbooks from the early 1900s, are how people learned about the natural world. There’s something so beautiful about their precise hand-drawn lines and earthy colors. If you enjoy these types of images as much as I do, keep an eye out for the playful mushroom sweater we’ll launch later this month.

Antique Science 3

Image via Etsy, ffffound!, and Toovey’s

I consider traveling scientists from the turn of the century some of the world’s most relentless adventurers. Whether mapping the night sky, searching for new species, or collecting specimens, scientists such as Edwin Hubble and Charles Darwin were revolutionizing their fields and paving the way for future innovation far before they knew how their discoveries would impact the world.

Celestial prints from the late 1800s, early animal illustrations, and even the handwritten notations on these Victorian-era microscope slides inspired some of the other items we’ll be carrying on the site this month, so stay tuned for more to come.

Until then, I’d love to know: what do you think the world will be like (or wearing) when the next generation crosses centuries?

About Susan

Susan's all-time favorite things include pugs, eating outdoors, and absurd mushroom-themed housewares. Her current obsessions include nail polish, wedges, and anything high-waisted. Her ultimate style icon is her grandma, and she's one of the founders of ModCloth!

Suggested Posts

Galentine’s Day Style + DIY Self-Love Kit
February 05, 2019
This Face Mask Is Like a Bouquet for Your Skin
January 17, 2019
Workplace Besties: A #TeamModCloth Trio Shares the Love
January 10, 2019
How to Style a Party Dress Three Ways
December 20, 2018
The New Black: Styling All-Grey 3 Ways
December 13, 2018
Travel Bug: Saumya Takes Us on a Tour of DC
December 06, 2018
Party Recap: Hello Kitty’s Birthday in LA
November 12, 2018
A Pampering Present: DIY Concentrated Bubble Bath
November 05, 2018
Easy Makeup for Going Out: Featuring Anna Sui Beauty
October 22, 2018
Haunt Now, Haute Later: Three Scary-Stylish Outfits
October 11, 2018


  1. Avatar
    Kate S 08/06/2013 at 8:13 am #

    As a fashionable, female scientist I am so psyched about these science-inspired items coming to ModCloth. I collect vintage medical items, as well as antique medical texts. Thanks for the science love, Susan!

    • Avatar
      Susan 08/06/2013 at 1:14 pm #

      So cool! I hope you love them as much as I do 🙂

  2. Avatar
    Caitlin 08/06/2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Does this mean map print items? Please say this means map print items.

    • Avatar
      Susan (ModCloth) 08/07/2013 at 1:12 pm #

      I love map prints too! Rest assured, we are working on more 🙂

  3. Avatar
    Nancy 08/13/2013 at 9:12 am #

    I am so excited!!! I am a chemistry teacher and I love this! I will be looking forward to seeing what comes out soon! I echo others and say again…thanks for the science love!!!!

  4. Avatar
    becca 08/13/2013 at 9:27 am #

    This is probably the most exciting news I’ve ever seen on modcloth! I’m currently getting my degree in biology with an intrest in mycology. My two loves in life are antiques and science. Especially when they involve mushrooms. 🙂

  5. Avatar
    Karen Uriot (@karenn55) 08/14/2013 at 12:05 am #

    I’m so happy to read that !
    I’m a french PhD student in biology and one of my passions is to buy original batanical illustrations along the banks of the Seine in Paris 🙂

  6. Avatar
    Kate S 09/02/2013 at 9:49 am #

    I’m pretty sure I could be best friends with every woman that has posted in this thread 🙂 For anyone interested, here is a link to vintage medical/botanical illustrations from my collection of antique books:

Leave a Reply