This dress gives a whole new definition to party outfit, since the woman looks like a wrapped package. The asymmetrical design is gathered across the left shoulder—you can see the fold beneath her large pin, and across along the left hip. While the diagonal wide ribbon is an interesting detail, it draws attention to her rounded stomach above.
I had a very difficult time dating this photo. My first guess was that it was from the 1930s—the skirt length, the wide shoulders, the rather thick heels with small platforms. However, I was unsure and so I turned to my go-to expert on dating old photos, Jen Orsini of Pintucks. She has a great eye and a huge stash of vintage patterns, as well as a career teaching fashion history behind her. Her guess was around 1950. “Here’s why I think so,” she wrote. “Slender skirt (late 30’s through the war years would probably be more ‘A’ line and possibly shorter), small shoulder pads (there were smaller shoulder pads worn after the war–but not the extremely wide ones), hat and hair (if you look at this alone, her longer hair and hat seems to be a 50’s style).”
Jen included a January 1950 Simplicity pattern drawing to bolster her assessment. The dress on the left, #3065, came in larger women’s sizes “so clearly mature women were still wearing crepe and diagonal skirt details after the war (while the younger girls were already adopting the longer lengths and big full skirts in crisper fabric).
You can see I still have a lot to learn, but I have assembled a team of experts to help me out. Thanks, Jen!
Interesting. I had guessed the 1940s. But sometimes older people find it hard to change their styles, or wear clothes they have had for decades, so that makes dating a solitary older lady quite hard work. Well done.
The woman in the photo was clearly dressed in her very best, going somewhere special.
In high school in the late 1950s the home ec classes I took were taught by two elderly unmarried sisters, at least they seemed elderly to me. They both wore exquisitely-made dresses but the dresses seemed very out of date to me. Looking at the photo above, and reading your friend’s analysis to determine the date, perhaps my teachers’ dresses were just more sophisticated than what I was used to, even though I think my mother was fairly sophisticated.
its a lovely photo, obviously going somewhere special. i was at a family christening some months ago, and my aunt (well in her 80s) was wearing white gloves with her suit, she looked so smart and even though its been years since i have seen anyone wearing day gloves, she didnt look at all out of place either!
Sehr interessant, und diese Handschuhe! Alle meine Tanten hatten (in den 50er Jahren auf dem Land) Schubladen voller Handschuhe aus Leder in allen möglichen Farben und ich weiß noch heute wie wunderbar das gerochen hat.
Meine roten Schuhe sind übrigens von FLY London und sehr bequem.
Schöner Gruß Mema
Thank you for this lovely post Lynn. You have heightened my awareness of how mature women dress and have dressed throughout the era of the photograph, and it’s a gold mine of content and mystery! One quirky coincidence is that I had taken the photo of that sewing pattern illustration for your reference library when you sent that photo to me, ah hah!