My friend Sally, a historian of photography and a photographer herself, is one of world’s great garage sale mavens. It would take too long time to list all the treasures I have received as the result of her sharp eyes—old kimono, luxurious scarves, rare needlework, odd post cards. However, this 1940 photo is perhaps the greatest gift. It is the oldest evidence that I have found so far of older women wearing pants in a social setting.
The photo comes from a garage in Hollywood, and the setting might be a lush backyard in the Hollywood Hills. Obviously it shows some kind of celebration, and the writing on the back, “M Bday,” suggests a birthday party. It’s my guess that the gray (or white?) haired woman in the middle front was the family matriarch. A closer inspection shows her in a light top with a bow at the waist, slightly darker wide-legged pants and wonderful open toed shoes. Since all of the women in the front row are in pants, you wonder just who the trend setter was in this family. Did the mother follow the daughters, or was it the other way around?