07 July 2013

Victorian and Edwardian Fashion Photos

The last time I wrote a post was a long time ago--for that I'm sorry.  It's been a busy summer and not necessarily in a good way.  Enough of that for now.  Right now I'm on a short though much-appreciated vacation.  In fact, I'm writing this post on July 4th!  Though you probably won't see it for a few days at least...

First off, as some of you may know, I really love visiting antique shops.  And I don't mean those stupid high-priced ones where all they sell is furniture made of dense wood that looks like it came straight from some rich person's house in the 1800s.  No, I like clutter.  The more the better--because that's where cool stuff hides out.  Some people honestly don't know what they have, or sometimes you get estate sales or something, and it's really wonderful to go through random bits of stuff that's old.

It is interesting to me that so many old family photos find their ways into antique stores, and yet, you can buy them for only a couple dollars.  Many are old, close to one hundred years, if not more, and the older the better.  For my purposes anyway.

Here are my finds from some Newport, OR antique stores, chosen for their value as examples of fashion from long ago.  Although I can't date any of them for certain, I have done my best and would like to put them out there for use as references by other historical costumers (or just for interest/research purposes, that's alright too).

This first one is a studio photo of a young man in a well-tailored suit.

The photo was taken by W. Griffin, an agency located at the corner of 3rd Street and Lincoln Avenue in Hebron, Nebraska.  Looks like the outfit was in business from about the 1880s to 1905ish (source).  This young man's fashion is absolutely right for this era, although I cannot date it precisely because men's fashion was less distinctive than women's fashion.  Perhaps someone with a more detailed knowledge of this time period could do better than I at narrowing down when this photo was taken.

For general interest, here is a scan of the studio mark on the back of the photo:

Of course the price is listed in the upper left and the family this came from has kindly labeled this photo as "don't know."  This is why it's important that you get the older members of your family to label family photos!

This next photo I have considerably less information on.  There is no maker's mark or logo, no writing at all.  It didn't even have a price tag on it.

I cannot see much of this woman's dress either, but the photo is beautifully framed and I love the decoration on her sleeves.  Sometime I would like to try a finely pleated ruffle like this.  Her bodice looks like it extends far past her waist, similar to a polonaise or similar style.  The hem of the bodice may be decorated with a lightly gathered ruffle.  I can't quite envision the effect of the garment on a standing person, but it drapes beautifully when she sits down.  Without doing a more detailed analysis, I would bet this photo was taken sometime during the last two decades of the 19th century--probably in the 1880s based on the sleeve ruffles.

Finally we reach a photo that I've got some information on.  This time it is a rather dour looking couple.

The man wears a winged shirt collar, crisp bow tie, and overcoat with wide lapels.  His waistcoat, probably made of silk, has a shawl collar.  Again, men's clothing from this time period was relatively nondynamic--there were very few drastic style changes. 

I wouldn't say the woman's dress is particularly interesting either, but like the previous photo she has beautiful decoration around her sleeve cuffs.  It is very similar in style to woman's dress in the previous photo.  Without seeing more of the back of her dress I cannot tell if she is wearing a bustle or not and that limits my ability to date the photo even though she appears middle age and may simply be sticking to fashions from when she was a younger woman.  I don't like how her bodice fits around her waist.  She's a heavier set woman--accenting her waist does not streamline the look of the dress.  I would like it better if the bodice did not button all the way down but split below the waist.  I DO like the pleats and ruffles in the overskirt.

Now, here is the information I could find about the photographer/studio.

John H. Oleson was a photographer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  The Minnesota Historical Society has a photo of him and his wife Anna ca. 1875:

John married Anna in 1874 and they ran the photography business together until John's death in 1881.  Then Anna took over the business until she remarried in 1889 (source).  Throughout its existence, the Oleson photography business had several changes of address.  Based on the address on the back of the photo, I know that the photo was taken between 1876 and 1880 (source).

Final gem here is a photo of a young US Army officer, though not as old as the previous three photos.

I'm no expert on military uniforms, nevertheless I'm guesstimating that this photo was taken around World War 1--so, perhaps between 1910 and 1920.  Also, I cannot quite make out his insignia, nor can I be sure that I am interpreting it right, but here is my guess.  He appears quite young and his uniform is crisp.  Not much wear.  Rank insignia was worn on the left cuff.  With his arms crossed I can't see anything--too bad, it would have been interesting to know.  Anyhow, soldiers received chevrons on their lower right sleeve when they were wounded.  It looks like this young man was wounded once before this photo was taken, so he probably saw action in some war.  Beyond that I can't tell much...sorry.  There's not even enough detail to tell what branch he was in as his entire left side is obscured.  Someone with more detailed knowledge may be able say more. (source)

See how interesting a trip down memory lane is?

Seriously, though, if you have family photos you should keep them.  Take them to grandma and grandpa (or whoever is your oldest family member) and write dates and names on the back.  It's so amazing to look back on family members and see how times and fashions have changed.  Our generation is unique in that we can see direct images of our distant ancestors.  We have photos of my great-grandparents.  No, perhaps even farther back than that!  Really, your family will be grateful later on.  As much as I like finding old photos in antique stores, I'd much rather they remain as family keepsakes with names and memories attached to them.  Once they get to me there's nothing personal left.

Now, my next post should be about cosplay.  Both Caterina Sforza and Daenerys Targaryen are finished and ready to be photographed when I am not too tired to do so.  And that's most of the time nowadays.  It sucks to be an insomniac until 2 AM and then have to wake up a 7 AM to make it to work for an 8-hour workday T_T

The big news is that Caterina won first place in Master Division at Albuquerque Comic Expo about two weeks ago!  It was unexpected, but I am very honored to receive the recognition.

Soon enough I'll have stuff to post about Jushiro's Shino Academy uniform as well--I just need time to dye fabric for the hakama and nagajuban.  Sogyo no Kotowari's shikai form is also well into the production stage.  Sometime next week I'll have enough content to make something readable ;)

Until then!

1 comment:

  1. That is super interesting!!! All the information you were able to retrieve just by looking at the picture... Incredible. :O
    Congratulations on the first place win for Caterina!!!