« Fashion history through photographs, part I | Main | Quilted petticoat »

December 09, 2009


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FIDM Museum

I love the carte de visite BECAUSE her bodice is pulled a bit too tight. It's so fascinating to see how clothes look on an actual body, which is something you don't see in paintings, fashion plates, or from simply looking at the garment.

Also love the little girl's hair bow in the snapshot...it's bigger than her head! Lady Gaga could take a few tips from this child.

Becky D

Yes, I also love that photo with the too-tight bodice! Our ancestors always seem so mysterious, elegant and solemn in posed photos. I think I tend to stare at the faces and romanticize the unknown tidbits of their lives. It's interesting to have a more observant eye than my own point out the stark reality that ladies were sometimes as ill matched to their garments then as they are now - myself included!

And that little girl...oh my...what a furry little ensemble!


Very interesting series. It's remarkable how much information can be found in one photograph.

FIDM Museum

Becky, people often look very solemn in older photos, you're right. Having your photograph taken was a more solemn event than it is now. You considered how you'd look for prosperity, as photos preserved your face for a very long time. Also, you simply had to stand still for a long time, as some of the earliest processes took a long time. This changed with the snapshot, which allowed the documentation of casual, spontaneous events.

Lizzie, I have the same reaction. Makes me want to look at photos of my family and see what information I can discern.


I think while it is more common for Victorian sitters to be unsmiling, it is a myth that they never smiled.

Check the Smiling Victorian group on flickr for plenty of great examples!:


I agree with the comments about how useful it is to see 'ordinary' people wearing their clothes, and the flaws and mismatches that are often displayed. Its a useful corrective to the picture perfect fashion plates.


I first became interested in fashion history when my grandmother told me she had trunks jam-packed full of old family photos. I learned so much about photography and fashion going through those trunks. And, I had fun! Many families have photographic gems hidden away. There are still treasures out there!

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