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Clothes Encounters
8/4/2014
Size up these books for a peek at what your ancestors wore.

1. Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900 by Joan Severa (Kent State University Press). Divided by decades, Dressed for the Photographer uses photos and writings from each period to show how even economically disadvantaged Americans could wear styles within a year or so of current fashion. This book is especially helpful if you're trying to date an ancestor's photograph. By comparing the clothing and hairstyles, you can pinpoint the time period in which the picture was taken. Each of the 272 photos has a detailed description, such as: "The child is posed in summer dress style worn around the turn of the decade [1870s]: one-piece, with bodice and skirt gathered into a yoke and waistband.... The Alice in Wonderland look of this hairstyle is created by tying back the hair and holding it off the high forehead with long, curved combs, then tying a pastel ribbon in a wide bow at the back of the crown." This book is well worth the expense if you have a lot of photographs to date.

 

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