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!
Thank you for the information about the dress. I volunteer for a project to archive the clothing collection of my county’s historical society, so I’m always eager to learn more about when certain styles were popular. And the candlelight certainly presents challenges for photography. I recall watching Emma Thompson’s version of “Sense and Sensibility” and straining to see what was going on as the lighting approximated candlelight. I think your model was an excellent choice.
And it’s so hard to find out what ordinary people wore! I really love both of Joan Severa’s books.
And my lovely model will be returning with another later dress that I have!
That was stunning. Glad it feels as soft as it looks. Thanks.
I’m glad you liked it!
Gorgeous and a stunning model!!!
Thank you. I am so fortunate to know someone who is just the right size and willing to help out too!
I say that dress is still fashionabe today. Thank you for the info a Great Post. Blessings Always, Mtetar
I wish that was still the fashion! It is so beautiful and flattering. I used to have to dress like that when I worked at a historical park, and it was really comfortable too!
This is an interesting addition to the challenge, and I really like the lighting and look of the photos. Terrific!
Thanks! These photos aren’t great, but I did think they fit the challenge. Sometime I will work on photography by candlelight again.
Such a nice idea to photograph it in an ambiance similar to the one it “lived” in!
Yeah, when I told my husband my bright idea, I said, “I want to capture it as it was really seen,” and he said, “By digital camera?” 🙂