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Dating photographs by dress

It is worth noting that our view of the Victorians' dress sense may have been somewhat distorted by both a tradition for wearing 'Sunday best' in photographs, and the need - in the first fifty years of photography - for photographic studios to issue instructions on what to wear, to achieve the best contrast and detail in black and white.Hence there seem to be few 'white wedding' photographs as white dresses were difficult to capture well, and dark colours and plain designs therefore predominate.The details need to be compared with fashionable dress of a given date, and then subtle judgments may be made, or additional data supplied through knowledge of the family tree, the photographer's name and address, or the nature of other contributory details such as studio props., or buildings and vehicles included.Knowledge of the history of photography in terms of various processes and their dates of introduction, styles of image produced such as the carte-de-visite, and the size of images most popular at different times, can also be brought to bear.A few well-placed pleats in the bodice and the skirt add interest to the dress.

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So garnet, cherry, wine colour, sea or bottle green, light and dark orange, and slate colours are all excellent colours to photograph.Dress is a vast and complex subject, but here are some pointers to help with understanding, identifying and dating the clothing styles of those family members from the past who stood before the camera in their 'Sunday best'.Fashion in photographs It was understood that clients visiting the photographer's studio (or, less commonly, those inviting a photographer to their home) would be dressed in their best quality, most fashionable clothing.These combined factors can usually be combined to allow the dress historian to arrive at a close approximate dating for any given photograph featuring people in clothes.Group carte-de-visite mid 1880s (c1883-7)There might be a considerable time lag before London fashions reached the provinces, and older people, while picking up on the contemporary silhouette or material in their dress style, might retain some fashion features and hairstyles from their youth.When dating women’s clothing, there are several key features that assign a time frame: This young woman chose her clothing carefully for what may have been her first grown-up portrait.She wore a fashionable dress with a high waistline that is gathered with a fabric band and a rosette.Her concern over her appearance and the outcome of the photograph shows in her expression.The date of this image is quite clearly 1912 to 1915.Some fashion features neatly typify decades, for example men's side partings and women's ringlets in the 1840s, men's centre partings and women's leg-of-mutton sleeves in the 1890s.Certain features are time limited, such as crinoline frames worn only for eleven years from 1856 to 1867, soft bustles gathered up by internal ribbons in the early 1870s, artificial hairpieces from around 1869 to 1874, fishtail trains on dresses c1876-80, stiff angular bustles over steel frames c1881-6, and the introduction of female fringes and hair frizzing in the 1880s.


  1. Nancy Price co-founded in 1999. The London's museum's helpful section on dating clothes and photographs uses items from the V&A's collection to.

  2. Dress was unthinkable. old dress. General Rules for Dating Old Photographs Try to work with one clue at a time. If there. Dating Old

  3. Through dress, average individuals. Intended as an aid in dating costumes and photographs and as a guide for period costume replication.

  4. Dating an Old 1870s Costume Photograph of Charlotte Emma Pitman. specific aspects of the dress and from there estimate the. on Dating Old Photographs.

  5. What people are wearing in historical photographs can offer many clues as to the earliest possible date of a portrait, group photograph, or street scene with figures.

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