Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Shelf: Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840–1900

There's that picture of your great great grandmother that's undated. Was it taken in the 1860s or 70s? You may know where it was done because the photography studio name is printed on it. But when?

[Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840–1900, by Joan L. Severa.

This book by Joan L. Severa can help you narrow down the time frame to within a few years by examining the clothing. Unlike many parts of Europe where what ordinary people wore didn't change much over the decades, Americans were able to keep informed about fashion trends no matter where they were living.

It's a favorite resource for Marva Felchlin, Director of the Libraries and Archives at The Autry National Center of the American West, as she explained in a blog post earlier this year.
"Severa’s detailed descriptions of the clothing and important historical information support her argument that 'ordinary' Americans cared about fashion. The book is arranged by decade and includes an introduction to the clothing of each era followed by the photographs and analysis. One of the most impressive elements of the book is the documentation of race, ethnicity, and gender in the mid-​to-​late– nineteenth-​century photographs."
The book is available from the usual sources (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.) and even as a used book it isn't cheap, but I think it's well worth it.

© 2014 Copyright, Christine Manczuk, All Rights Reserved.

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