Category Archives: 1900s

Pattern Mixing, Early 20th Century Edition

A quick glance at fashion pages these days shows that pattern mixing–combing gingham with florals or dots with plaids–is on trend right now. You might think it is all part of the “anything goes” style philosophy of the current era. … Continue reading

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Ida B. Wells–A Giant among Women

Here is a short list of Ida B. Wells’s accomplishments: school teacher, journalist, newspaper owner, anti-lynching crusader, mother of four, civil rights leader, and black women’s suffrage advocate.  She filled her life (1862-1931) with more achievements than tens of other … Continue reading

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Polka Dots or Stripes?

Let me make a confession—I don’t like polka dots.  Delving into fashion history has made me realize that I have very strong opinions about textile patterns in general.  From the outset I knew I didn’t like flowered patterns. Geometric designs … Continue reading

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A Summer Idyll, ca. 1909

This beautiful photo, an eBay find, is the front of a postcard. A little research revealed that it is what is called a “real photo postcard.” Although such cards had long been in use, the Kodak company developed special paper … Continue reading

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Harriet Strong, the Pampas Woman

When you drive around Southern California, you often see big stands of pampas grass, the tall billowing plant in the background of the photo above. It grows like a weed. Native to South America, the plant was brought here in … Continue reading

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Rookwoods, 1907

Sometimes you find astonishing information on the back of old snapshots.  This one turned out to be a treasure.  It reads: “1907–Miss Helen Culver and Miss French at their home Rookwoods, Lake Forest, Ill.  Back entrance.”  Imagine my delight when … Continue reading

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A Uniform for the Old–A Lace Collar on a Black Dress

Last week’s photo reminded me that the black dress with a lace collar served as a kind of uniform for the old in the first half of the twentieth century.  The outfit combines two elements deemed necessary in any older … Continue reading

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Young and Old in Seattle, 1900s

Although you can barely see it in this scan, a stamp in the bottom corner of this photo shows that it was made at the Bradley Studio on Third Street in Seattle.  I love these small clues of origin.  Judging … Continue reading

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Staging Fashion

Before the era of film, women went to the theater to discover how the latest looks would move on real women’s bodies. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was a partnership between leading actresses and the fashion … Continue reading

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The Comedy of Clothes by Jessie Gillespie, 1914

The idea of “who wore it better,” so popular in supermarket magazines, is apparently nothing new.  Jessie Gillespie, an illustrator for the New York Tribune and the Washington DC Evening Star, published witty observations of current styles.  Above are her … Continue reading

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