Category Archives: old photos

What Real People Wore: Swimsuits, 1926

Today I’ve got some fabulous inspiration to share from one of my favorite vintage finds ever!  This comes from a scrapbook kept by Eva Kaplan- Class of 1927 from South Philadelphia High School.

Here’s some terribly adorable photos taken in  August, 1926, with handwritten captions by Eva.

And on the back of this last photo, it says:

Ah, the good old days! Just goes to show  you, our perspective of photos of ourselves hasn’t changed much in the last 80+ years!


What Real People Wore: 1900s Family Photos from Erin of The Consummate Amateur

Hello friends!

I’ve got some lovely photos to share today from Erin who authors The Consummate Amateur blog.  She has graciously sent these photos and accompanying descriptions to me to share here with you.  Aren’t these delightful?  Erin says these are photos from her mother’s father’s side of the family and were mostly taken in Ontario, Canada.  Eris says, “They are ethnically English, Scottish, and Irish and the families emigrated to Canada in the mid-1800s, then Bob and Elizabeth (Smith) Wiggins ended up in Detroit. Most of the family remains in Canada.”

I must say, I really love it in old photos when the family is thoughtful enough to put the names. I especially love the pen and ink, with the tones slightly varied.  This is a lovely group show and we get to see a few of the ladies wearing aprons, and I’m particularly taken with Elizabeth’s cardigan!  I also think it’s quite interesting that the gents are not wearing jackets in this photo.  Erin says these are, ” Elizabeth (Smith) and her husband Bob (Wiggins), with Elizabeth’s sister Annie and possible sister-in-law Bertha (married to Elizabeth’s older brother Tom Smith) and two men I don’t recognize (Abe and Charlie)”

Erin says these are “Four sisters Smith: Annie, Mayme, Lizzie, and Gertie”  I love the simple elegance of their hairstyles.  And the little girl barely in the shot looks like she’s ready for nap time!

This shot is so charming I just don’t know where to begin.  The bunny! The giant hair bows!  The cute little outfits on barefoot kids! So darn cute.  Erin says, “Elizabeth’s first two children are Gertrude (named after her sister) and Lin (real name is Robert after his father, but he always went by Lin or Linny…this was my mother’s uncle and then her stepfather, and was the grandfather I knew). Edna and Helen are someone else’s children, but I’m not sure who. Possible Tom and Bertha Smith’s. Edna is named for the youngest Smith child (sibling of Elizabeth’s) who died at age 1.”

Erin says this is “Great aunt Gertrude Smith in what I assume is a nurse’s cap.”

This shot looks a tad bit later than the others shared.  Erin says this is “Lin and Gertrude with their uncle Melville Smith and other family members, including their youngest brother Wilmot (real name is Gordon Arthur Wilmot Wiggins) in an early car (wish I knew exactly what it is).”  Does anyone know about this car?  I love this shot!

This photograph is so lovely and serene.  Her hairstyle is just fantastic!  Erin says, this is “Mayme (one of the four sisters Smith, real name is Mary Louise) with her son Stewart (real name is Franklin Stuart) [aside: so strange how nearly everyone in this family went by nicknames or their middle names]”  I’m so glad Erin has shared the nicknames!  They are just lovely!

A little bit earlier photo, with lovely detailing of their costumes.  Erin says this is, “the whole Smith family: Samuel Mackenzie Smith and Mary Jane McGill (parents), and children in order of birth: Gertrude Katharine, Thomas Edward,  Elizabeth, Mary Louise (Mayme), Harrison Alvin, Melville Wilson, Annie Isobel (who is either holding a doll or the baby Edna who died young).”

Erin says, “this one is a departure from the Smith family. It is my great grandmother Augusta (“Gusty”) Durow on my father’s side and this side of the family is ethnically German. A knowledgeable friend has suggested that this may be a “graduation” photo.”  I agree!  And what a beautiful photo this is!  The lace insertion, and the lovely gathering of the sleeves, and the tucks around the skirt.  What a stunning gown and beautiful photograph.

If you’d like to find out more about her family and the heirlooms that Erin has, please read the following links on her blog:

Elizabeth Smith Wiggins’s yo-yo coverlet:
Augusta Durow Koch’s two quilts:
Augusta’s picture, pocket watch, and locket:
Thank you so much, Erin, for taking the time to share these lovely photos and descriptions with us!

What Real People Wore: Edwardian Inspiration

As you can tell by the title, we had a winner from the poll I gave a while back asking what you prefer for these posts where we talk about fashion in everyday.  More than 40% of you said you like the name as I originally chose it, so here it is!

Today I have some original images from a very unusual photo album.  This album has had photos ripped out, pasted over, cards pasted on top, and none in any rhyme or reason.  In example, here are a few little images from the album which show what I mean.  Is it a shame, or does it add to it’s romantic mystery?  I suppose a little bit of both!

You can click on the images for a somewhat larger image, in order to see more detail.

We have lovely Edwardian images today.  I would estimate these to be around 1905-1908, and the one with the children a bit later- probably 19-teens.

I admit, I do like Edwardian/Victorian photos of ladies with guns. Brings out my childhood “Annie Oakley” aspirations.  This image is really great, but I *love* the details of her outfit.  The original image was quite faded, but you can see the lovely pleats in her skirt and her bangle bracelet accessory.  In the close up I heightened the  contrast a bit so you can make out the lovely lace collar and neck frill, the gathers in the blouse, and the pointed belt.  I think something like this would be great fun to adapt to the coming 1910s blouse pattern.  Also notice how dark her hat is in comparison to her blouse and skirt.

This trio are out playing about.  I am in *love* with the ladies hats, especially the one on the left.

The same trio, climbing aboard equipment of some sort. Luckily this photo survived after having something pasted on top.  We can see what a gentleman he is, helping the ladies in their adventuring.

This image of a hunter with his prey, and a very curious dog. I have put this image side by side so you can see it as it is now (on left), and with some of the detail brought out (on the right).  I may be odd, but I find the freckled spots on the image to be somewhat romantic and dream-like in effect.  The gents should not be left out of these images, after all! I know nearly nothing about dating old cars, so perhaps someone with a bit of knowledge can shed some light on an approximate date for this photograph?

This is quite possibly one of my favorite photo of the bunch in terms of composition. I wonder if the child in front popped up by surprise, and I wonder if they’re all getting a good scolding by the lady in the apron!  I believe this photograph dates later than the others pictured here.

Hope these offer some fun inspiration for you!

A Big “Thank You” and a Poll


I am totally blown away by all of your supportive comments on my last post dealing with vintage photographs used for style inspiration or clothing history study.  You guys are TRULY awesome.  I feel so much better, and you all made me feel so chipper!  As I mentioned before, I’m sometimes hesitant of sharing blogs on my personal thoughts or opinions (although, believe me, I do have lots of them ;) ) but you all made me feel so confident and seriously HAPPY!  I’m so blessed by the internet and all the similar thinking people that we can be in touch with on here.  So THANK YOU so much!

You are all so thoughtful with your response.  In fact, I really suggest you go back and read others comments, which I’m going to share a little snippet of here.

Click the link below to continue reading, if you don’t see the whole post already.

Continue reading

What Real People Wore- A Few 1920’s Photos and Some Thoughts

I have not posted in the “What Real People Wore” series for some time, and there have been two reasons. I don’t often write really personal thoughts on the blog here because I know there are lots of different opinions out there on many different subjects and the purpose of this blog is not necessarily for me to pronounce my views, but to share vintage finds, images, and my sewing projects and other ventures.  But bear with me a moment, while I share these 1920s photos and share a few of my personal thoughts on using vintage photos for style inspiration or studying how average people wore clothing.

I intentionally took a break from posting these photos for a few reasons. The first is that time got away from me and I honestly forgot. See, we organized my desk here, and if I can’t see something, I forget it… so the momentous pile/envelope of photos got sorted into a file cabinet and “out of sight, out of mind”.  Yes, I really am distracted THAT easily ;)

Secondly, I got a bit of critisism a while back for posting undated photos, on the basis that we cannot use them for studying fashion history since they are undated, and it is unprofessional to do so.  I tell you, readers, that this totally bummed me out for a long time.  First of all, because I really have a passion for studying fashion history and sharing my finds.  I have been independently studying vintage and historic fashion and collecting information and ephemera for coming on 18 years now, and the thought that I could be sending out faulty or inaccurate information out there really made me not only disappointed in myself, but somehow feel guilty.  I am by no means an “expert”, if by expert you mean someone with a college degree in museum studies or something of the kind.  I’m really just a big nerd who likes old stuff.  But I have a passion for it.  It thrills me to find out new information I didn’t know.  I love reading old articles from the actual time period I’m researching.  And if by putting undated images out there with just a general “hey, these are from the 1920s, or 1930s, or 1910’s” is not good enough, I was disappointed in myself for doing that.  I mean, YES, of course, dated photographs are the most ideal, but what are we going to do with all these ones which are undated and, surely, they must be of more use than just saying “oh, look, a picture of someone I never knew.”  Maybe that’s how they all get abandoned in antique shops, etc.

But then I had a second thought.  This thought is “Fashion” vs. “Clothing.”  If we want to study the history of FASHION, then of course, we go first to the place fashion originates.  In most cases, that would mean high fashion magazines and fashion couturiers.   Fashion, in my opinion, could also include dated photographs of high fashion or society photographers.  Where the fashions came from can often be pinned down to not only the year, but the season if we follow fashion history in that way.  If you’ve studied fashion at all you’re probably aware that there are two theories= the “trickle down” effect- meaning that the high fashion and wealthy people who wore the latest fashions, and in time they trickle down the ladder, in some form or another, to the masses.  Then we have the “trickle up” effect, which is the opposite.  It starts with the masses and heads on up the ladder.  This was not quite as common in the past as it is today, but it’s worth noting nonetheless.  “Clothing” is what I term as things that people put on their bodies in order to dress themselves.  Yes, we get more fashion forward, but we also get just the regular outfit, which may have been worn for five, ten, heck even fifteen years by the same person.  These are not high fashion photographs at all and were never meant to be, they’re just images taken of PEOPLE.  Sure, sometimes they got dressed up nice for the camera, or if it was a special event or trip, but thank goodness for Kodak and their Brownie, because after the turn of the century we get more photos of people doing everday things than we had before when photographs were mostly in posed studio settings. I don’t think this look through everyday photographs of the people of America (or other countries’) should be discounted when looking at how the average person created their look (or didn’t create a look, but just put clothes on their body), just because someone unfortunately forgot to put a date on the back.

So, after much thought, I’m still going to be posting these images on the blog.  Most of them are undated.  Most of them are not high fashion.  I’m not really doing this to try to teach the history of the progression of fashion, but merely show how average people of any given decade dressed themselves or their family.  To show people going about and living their lives, and how they looked while doing it.  Feel free to use for research or style inspiration, or not, at your will, but since I like them and I have them I’m going to keep on sharing them.  And since I like clothing the most, of course, that’s generally why I have collected them, but others may find them interesting for other reasons.  Classic cars, architecture, household interiors, street scenes, or clothing and hairstyles.  I think they’re lots of fun and I hope you do, too.  But we’ll take them with a grain of salt, because, in essence, if you want to learn about the history of fashion it’s best to start with going back to your basics of where fashions and styles originated. But if you want to see everyday clothing and everyday people, these old photographs are great fun.

I know I’m being exceedingly long winded in this post, so please forgive me, but I also want to ask your opinion.

When I started posting these a while ago I called the series “What Real People Wore.”  But since then I have wrestled with that title.  I don’t want to say that movie stars and fashion icons, or those with larger incomes or smaller incomes than those pictures in most home photographs were not “Real People.”  Real people come from all different backgrounds: financial backgrounds, social backgrounds, and have all different careers.  What I meant with the title was simply how the average person would dress.  If anyone has any suggestions for a better little title for this series of photos, I’d love to hear.  I’m the worst and coming up with catchy little names ever, so if any of you are creative types in that way I’d love to hear what you think or your ideas.

Many thanks for listening to the ramblings, and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

>What Real People Wore- Ready for their Close Up


Here’s some vintage German photos of some close ups and a studio shot.  These are great for hair and makeup inspiration, and it’s also somewhat nice, in my opinion, to see that not everyone was as glamorous as the Hollywood stars or Vogue models.
Strange to think that these may be someone’s grandma (or great grandma), and the photos have passed hand so that they’re now here for us to all see on the internet, and admire their style.
These two ladies look like their photos were probably taken in the late 1930s.  Sometimes it is hard for me to date old photographs, especially European ones, as their fashion was a little different in aesthetic than their American counterparts.  And check out those ringlets on the girl on the right!  I would wager her dress is a home made creation.
Old photos can be quite hard to gauge because women did often wear their clothes for years, and especially older women didn’t bother keeping up with fads, hemlines, and other little changes that distinguish one year’s (or decade’s) look from another’s.  The ladies above look like their photographs could be from the 1930s, but the lady on the left could possibly be as late as the 1950s. The lady on the right reminds me of secret sleuth for some reason-  kind of Miss Marple-esque- and I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if some of her ensemble was carried over from the 1910s or 1920s.  Perhaps the coat and chain?
Keeping up with the Victorian/Edwardian theme I’ve been dabbling in- doesn’t this lady’s hair and even jabot give her a somewhat 1870s style?  But the photo above was taken in 1968.  I don’t know German, but if you do I’d love to hear what you think it says.
Hope you’re having a great weekend!