Shadows of the Past
Three years ago when I was photographing this dress from the 1800s, I got to wondering how it would look by candlelight, the way it was seen when it was new, 170 years ago. Our friend Cara graciously agreed to model it for me, and while the pictures did not turn out as well as I hoped, I still think they capture the beauty of the dress.
So even though I need to try photography by candlelight again, this is my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadowed.
Dating the dress is a little tricky. According to Joan Severa’s book My Likeness Taken: Daguerreian Portraits in America, the fan front bodice was popular from the 1840s until about 1853, but it was often cut long, going to either a point or a softly rounded line. This one has the fan front but it is gathered at the natural waist. The narrow bias cut sleeves are very simple. with no fullness, ruffles, or caps, making them harder to tie to a certain year. And to be more accurate, I should have come up with some sort of white collar.
This fabric still feels amazingly soft and comfortable, not brittle at all. Severa says that the US had a large textile-printing industry by this time. To see more details about the dress’s construction, including a close-up of the weave, cartridge pleating, and tiny tiny hand stitching, visit the original post.
Texas became a state in 1845, and our town, Montgomery, was in existence then (and the place that the Lone Star flag originated!) so I will guess that as the date for the dress. Its owner may have kept it as a commemoration.
And thank you to Cara for bringing this dress back to life!