Who are these women gathered together on a fairly chilly day? Members of a women’s club? Girl scout leaders? A quilting circle? My guess is that they are teachers, which would explain the wide range of ages and also the miniature chair that the young woman on the left is perched upon.
And how can we explain the wide range of outer garments, moving from a simple cardigan all the way up to a full length fur coat. I think the more lightly dressed ones popped out of the building behind them, while the rest had to walk a further distance.
I’ve picked the mid forties for several reasons, beginning with the skirt and coat lengths that you can see at either end of the back row. The saddle shoes worn by the woman front left might also be a clue. According to the wonderful site Vintage Dancer, saddle shoes for women were available from the 1920s on, but only reached wide popularity in the 1940s. The wide lapels on some of the coats and blazers also point to the forties, as do the longer curly hairdos that some have.
There are a lot of fur coats in this photo. Would teachers be able to afford them? Perhaps the coats in the front row are mouton, a fur made from lamb’s skins. It was a lower price alternative to fancier kinds. (I had a vintage mouton coat in the 1980s, so thick and warm I called it my “bear coat.”) The big coat in the back row looks like a more expensive fur, but it could also be dyed coney cat, which sold for the same price as mouton in catalogs. I found ads for both in a 1945 Sears catalog going for $70. That is about $1000 in today’s currency—a lot, but perhaps not a king’s ransom as an investment purchase.
The old and young diverge in style, with an indeterminate area in between. The youngest looking one in the back wears casual separates and low heeled shoes. Her much older counterpart, the white haired woman in the back row, has drawn back her hair and has on what looks like a clutch coat from the 1920s. What about the middle aged woman in the front, with her quite long flowered dress? Didn’t she know that length was out of style?
And here’s a final mystery. Why did woman in the middle of the back row wear a dress that was missing a big, distinctive button? Hadn’t she heard it was picture day?
All stories welcome.