Dresses to Dream of
I used to pass by all the old photos in antique stores, but then I saw the book Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840 – 1900 by Joan L. Severa. It is one of those giant books that looks like it should be chained to a shelf in a medieval library. You feel important just picking it up. What makes it even better is that it is stuffed with 270 historic pictures of clothing, and detailed analysis of the fashions shown and what they say about their wearers.
After you read it once, you understand that all over America, even on the frontier, fashion trends traveled and were adopted very quickly, often within a year of first being published. And then you want to read it all over again.
After the second reading, you find yourself beginning to remember fashion trends of the different decades – those times when dresses were cut close to the body and then when they ballooned back out, those times when light fabrics were in style and then when dark colors were more fashionable.
After the third reading, you find yourself picking up those old pictures, guessing the dates based on the clothes, and being ecstatic if you find you guessed right within a decade.
Now I enjoy collecting those photos and studying the details, almost as much as studying an actual piece of clothing.
Based on what I have read, I would guess that these pictures are from right about 1900 (the top picture), 1888 (the middle picture), and 1892 (the bottom picture).
Am I right about the dates?
I guess you will have to read this wonderful book and draw your own conclusions.