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Date Your Victorian Photo ARTICLE 1 by Lisa Schnapp on 02-01-2009



Date Your Victorian Photo- Photos sent in by Bustledress.com patrons.

Photos to be evaluated are to be compressed, the size is no larger than 300K in total size, or up to 600DPI across the photo width. A clear view of a lady's gown in question is required. Photos need to be your property or in the public domain (not personal property of other people) nor the property of other websites please. Send up to 3 Victorian photographs to: Lisa Schnapp at: bonnet@interx.net Lisa Reserves the right to reject photos deemed not appropriate for this venue.
Question from Elaine:
Hello Lisa: Trying to date this old family photo - is it my Grandfather or Great Grandfather? I thought perhaps you would know from the ladies dress if she could have worn it for her wedding in December 1892, or is it much older and dating from December 1872 perhaps?
Victorian Fashion
Lisa's awnser:
Elaine, this is a photo of your lovely grandmother and grandfather, c. December 1892.

Let me explain... Your grandmother's beautiful wedding or dinner style gown appeared couturier made, just for her, and costly in classic design and materials. The fine-weight silk, winter "fern and fleur" pattern fabric and clever faille taffeta trims are the epitome of early, 1890's French style fashion. The gown is tailor fitted perfectly, the few simple details restrained, but defined and exaggerated for couture effect.

Victorian FashionThe Victorian dress shoulders are displaying the brand-new 3/4 sleeve fullness of the '90's. (Lowcut dress bodices and 3/4 sleeves were most often evening wear. The tight, "V" slightly pointed bodice with "fan" folded tucked "Vest" style insert was a crossover style descended from late 1880's. This "fan" insert was to became a fashion sensation in the early-mid 90's, when gowns lost much of the previous era's decorations. Her round necked gown heavily has the previous era's scalloped lace. The ornate shoulder "corsage" was used mostly in the 1880's on ball gowns or special occasions, but also crossed over for special occasions of the '90s.

The folded twist of ribbon belt at the new "round" waist (losing the exaggerated point of pervious eras) and front bow, all indicative of early 1890's. The unadorned "A" line skirt was a hallmark style change of the '90's. If her dress were 1872 or 1882, there would likely be more skirt decoration and less "A" line shaped flare from the hips. I really like her exaggerated bows, with the dark silk lisle gloves. Her diamond and pearl earrings perfectly match the bracelet. Is the double strand of pearls a bridal gift from him?

I shall guess that the gown was originally ivory. The dress pattern and faille details and gloves were likely maroon red (Could be mistaken, but, just doesn't seem dark enough to be black) or, brown or, even possibly the color of his fitted military jacket- dark blue or grey? Your pretty grandmother looks as though she might have had naturally curly auburn or light, reddish brown hair, amber, green or hazel eyes.

Your grandfather's dress jacket appears to be made of fine, warm dress wool, with etched gold buttons and gold tambour tinsel embellishments. He had fine texture blonde hair and light blue eyes. He is turned toward her, sitting very closely to her, no space between them, his arm brushing against her gown, but it interesting to see that he has readied his saber? for a moment's notice. Although in expression they seem solemn, her eyes are soft with almost a bit of a smile, and their hands are relaxed.

Reply from Elaine:
Thanks so much for all the information. It was almost definitely my grandmother then, and not my great grandmother, which is particularly nice because my grandmother lived to a very ripe old age. My great grandmother however died at 30 of TB at the regimental barracks, leaving 3 children of 5, 3, and 1. I'm glad that it wasn't her. As to my grandfather's uniform - he was in the 1st Life Guards - a cavalry regiment that still mounts guard for the Queen in Whitehall Palace today. The uniform I think was red, but I can't be sure because normally he would have a silver breastplate and tall silver helmet on. If this is their wedding photo, then it would have been Christmas Day 1892. I am wondering if perhaps the dress was "handed down to the maid" because they certainly weren't very well off as he was an enlisted man, but his wife's father was a typesetter so perhaps she had more than he did. Thanks again from ruling out great grandma Fanny.
Lisa's reply:
I'm so glad I could be of some help. It's funny to me to see how close I came to the most things. The silver threw me completely off!

That is so wonderful that she lived to a nice old age! She looked very sweet. My instinct on this is that your grandmother's dress had the red accents. If her father was an English typesetter, he made a decent living wage, and likely paid handsomely for a special French wedding gown to be made for his lovely daughter... (Was it your grandfather's mother or father who died of TB?) It is definitely made by someone skilled in tailored dressmaking- this gown fit her to perfection. The gown could have been likely English as well- they made lovely classic tailored gowns too, but often English gowns had very little regard for more than a few details on any gowns (like the large, very ornate corsage, and huge bows) and the details here are each very substantial and bold, so again I vote for French style- many ladies put their fathers into debt over special French Wedding Gowns and trousseaus.

If they married Christmas Day, this would explain the significance of the formal "dinner" status of the gown. (Day gowns in winter usually had long sleeves, plus high necklines, even for wedding gowns.) With your grandfather being in the Queen's employ, there's always the possibility that the dress might also have been remade later as her weight changed, styles changed then eventually discarded or given away. That would be so nice to have had the gown too...Thank you kindly Elaine for permission to allow me to post your lovely Victorian photo!

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