Tag Archives: Dressed for the Photographer

Women’s Fashions From An 1896 Newspaper

It is one thing to have photos found in antique stores and try to guess the date they were taken, but another to have a newspaper spread of dated photos.  There have been many styles during the years, and some women adhered to them, always wearing the newest fashions.  Others were not lucky enough to have ready funds available for new clothes, and wore their dresses until they had to be replaced, fashion notwithstanding.  But seeing these photographs from the February 23, 1896, issue of The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Jefferson County, gives us a great example of what was in vogue for women’s fashion at that time.

And what a glorious time the late 1890’s were.  This was the era of the gigot or leg ‘o mutton sleeve.  At the beginning of the decade the bottom of the sleeve fit tight to the elbow, then a small puff to the shoulder.  Throughout the next six years the puff sleeve expanded and drooped, then expanded until it took almost a yard of material for one sleeve!.

from Dressed for the Photographer, Severa, 1995

‘The drooping sleeve persisted through 1893 and into 1894 but by 1895 had become much stiffer and wider.  Godey’s described the popular sleeve as wide and very flat on top with “a distinct inflation as they approach the elbow” (November 1895).  Such sleeves required about a yard of material each and were so heavy that the shoulder seam was lengthened somewhat to carry the weight.  By 1896 the sleeve had reached its apogee, extending almost horizontally from the shoulder.  The ideal by this time was to have no drooping lines in the upper sleeve, which meant that some internal support was necessary; this was accomplished by flatlining the super sleeve with a stiff crinoline or fibre chamois, a leathery fabric, before pleating into the armscye.’

The women listed in the top photo –

Top four – Miss Eula Haidison, Miss Lowle Braly, Miss Ella Steel, Miss Lena Hawkins

Middle three – Miss Vera Kerchival, Mrs. P. D. Houston, Jr., Miss Lois McClure

Bottom three – Miss Olivia Davis, Miss Clarice Braly, Miss Josephine Houston

1890’s Children’s Photo

Today I share with you a photo of three very handsome children.  Don’t you love the way the girl holds on to her brother’s arm?

This photo can be dated to the 1890’s in several different ways.  The clothing the children wear is definitely from this time period.  In Joan Severa’s Dressed For The Photographer she mentions in the 1890’s the young girls ‘waists shirred to form a yoke, and full bishop sleeves shirred at the wrist.’  For the older boy the Nassau was in style – ‘the popular suit for small boys for ordinary wear, having jacket with square front . . . and a simulated vest which is buttoned in at side seams and can be exchanged for a shirt-waist.’  The younger boy wears a sailor jacket, popular from that time period.

But most telling is the photo card itself.  The use of the beveled edge for cards began in 1885.  The card is not rough or plain, but coated front and back, dating the card from 1888 to 1900.  The embossed gold foil of the photographer’s name dates this card from 1890 to 1900.  There is no imprint on the back of the card.  Remember, this was used mostly for advertising for the photographer.  By the middle and late 1890’s there were fewer back imprints – ‘Since it was considered a period of elegance and simplicity, the heavily adorned backs of earlier cards did not fit into the current style,’ from 19th Century Card Photos Kwik Guide.

The photographer, Thomas C. Partridge, was located at 8 Sepulchre Street, Sudbury, England, when this photo was taken.  The name was changed to Gainsborough Street by 1900, in honor of Thomas Gainsborough, the famous portrait painter from the second half of the 18th century, whose birth place is located at 46-47 Gainsborough Street.  Another clue to date this photo to the late 1890’s!

Samuel Montague Fassett – Chicago Photographer

Scan191 1This is a lovely example of an early 1860’s Civil War fashion.  The skirt is huge – with a high waist and very full at the waistline.  By the mid 1860’s the waist was a bit lower and not as full, the material slim at the waist, with the full material billowing down to the feet – or sometimes gored, with an A shape gore in the center, with a generous gore at either side, with a straight length pleated at the back, according to Joan Severa in Dressed for the Photographer.  The plain hairstyle is also indicative of the early years of the period.

This woman wears a hair band and several pieces of pretty jewelry – necklaces and a ring on her right hand.  Her bodice and sleeves are decorated with soutache braid, common for the period, and still used today.

The photo was taken by Samuel Montague Fassett, whose photography shop was located at 114 South Clark Street in Chicago.  Just a bit of research on Mr. Fassett gave some great information!  He was one of the early photographers of Chicago, who started their shops in the 1850’s and 1860’s.  Along with Edwin Brand, John Carbutt, Alexander Hesler, C. D. Mosher and others, Samuel gave the public the opportunity to have their portrait made into carte-de-visite’s at a reasonable price.  These early photographers also produced outdoor views of the city that were quite popular.

One very interesting note on Mr. Fassett – he took a photo of Abraham Lincoln on October 4, 1860, that was used in campaign posters.  In a more somber tone, he also took a photo of the hearse that contained Lincoln’s body as it made its way through the streets of Chicago in 1865.  This photo has no rights attached so I am including it for you.

Lincoln hPhotography has come a long way from those early years!

Pompadour Port-Jupe – Fashion of the 1860’s

Scan_Pic1271 2Fashion statement of the early 1860’s! 

How extraordinary to find a photo of this unusual fashion of the early 1860’s!  This was included in a group of photos I purchased on Ebay.  Generally for the Civil War period we think of huge hoops, enormous skirts that sweep the floor and large fans for flirting!  But the custom of looping dresses, pulling the outer skirts up – or down – at intervals, kept the bottom of the dress from getting soiled during inclement weather.  How many thought it risque to show even a bit of a boot?  Godey’s Lady’s Book was alternately known as a magazine and a book.  Although begun in the 1840’s, by the 1860’s Godey’s was the magazine that all ladies waited for!  Publication ceased in 1898.

From Dressed for the Photographer by Joan Severa (my go to book for old photos!) – “Another innovation of the early sixties was noted in Godey’s in August 1865:  ‘the custom of looping dresses has now become universal.’  A variety of methods were used to pull up the outer skirts at intervals, mostly involving cords on the inside of the skirt.  In May of 1864, Godey’s carried a description and a drawing of ‘The Pompadour Port-Jupe’: an arrangement of eight cords hung from a belt worn over the hoop and petticoats; the cords were attached at the bottom end to points near the inside hem of the dress skirt and by loops spaced up the skirt to the waist.  The free ends, four on either side, were drawn through the eyelets to the outside of the waistband where they were held together by knots.  When the skirt was drawn up, the two clusters of cords were pulled out and tied together in a bow at the waist.  This custom, ostensibly originating in the need to keep walking-dress skirts from touching the street, developed into a fashion fad, with the underskirt keeping pace with design embellishments:  ‘As the dress for the street is generally looped up, it is necessary that the jupon [underskirt] be prettily ornamented.  Buff, nankeen, gray, and violet are some of the favorite colors, and jean and reps favorite materials, both it is said washing well.  With us the black and white striped petticoats, with a brilliant bordering, are very fashionable for traveling and ordinary wear’ (Godey’s September 1863).

The following is a page from Godey’s from the July-December 1862 issue:

image of page 11


A Study of Men’s Neckwear – 1860’s to 1870’s


To begin a journey through the styles of the men’s neckwear in the 1860’s and 1870’s, I think it important to look at the decade before.  This is John Linton Edwards, my third great grand uncle, photo taken about 1856.  This was the decade of the over-sized suit, wide lapels, high collars and a cravat tied tightly around the neck.  In all the photos I have during this time period, the men are all dressed similarly.


This photo still shows the wide lapels that continued into the 1860’s, but the coats were cut shorter and fit more closely.  Of course, during to the Civil War, many fashions were held over due to the inability to afford – or procure – new material and clothing.  Notice the shirt collar – it now folds down.  The cravat is similar, but not as large, and hidden beneath the collar.


In this photo, taken in Canada, it is easier to see the wide lapels – and the cravat is better seen.  Notice the handle-bar mustache!


This gentleman is J. H. Baker, about 21 years old.  He gives us a wonderful example of a colorful silk cravat.  He also wears a silk scarf around his neck, visible between his coat and vest.


This gentleman is sporting the high collar of the 1850’s with a wide, silk necktie, tied in a loose knot, low at the throat, with the square ends overlapping.  Generally these neckties were striped, as per the photo.


This gentleman is dressed much the same as the previous, except he doesn’t seem as fastidious at tying his necktie!  He does wear the watch chain that most men did at that time.


I love this photo – the suit is in a more interesting material – and the collar is of a different material.  Don’t you love the beard?  He wears a slim, black tie with his folded down collar.


This man’s collar is hard to see – but it is a stand-up version.  His tie is thin and in a light design.


These last two gentlemen’s coats are different – this particular one buttoned close to the neck – with just enough room for his short, stand-up collar and checked tie to be seen.  During the 1870’s shirts were made without collars or cuffs.  Generally a wardrobe of six collars and six pairs of cuffs would last a gentleman for about one year.  The collars and cuffs would be washed individually, thus making the shirts last longer.


A double-breasted coat is shown in this photo.  And the tie appears to be held with a pin.

Just as fashions come and go – and sometimes reappear – today, so it was in years ago!  To help date your old photographs, Dressed for the Photographer by Joan Severa is an excellent book, giving a decade by decade synopsis of the fashions of the day, and many photos to aid in dating a photograph.