The Fourth of July in Ohio, 1938

From the Library of Congress. Click to enlarge

From the Library of Congress. Click to enlarge

If you are an older woman and do not wish to display your crepey upper arms, what do you do on a hot summer day?  These three in Ashville Ohio show a common solution—pick a lightweight, transparent fabric.  The women on the left and right appear to wear dresses with a transparent upper bodice, with a dark lining or slip underneath.  We can see bits of their shoulders too.  Only the arms are visible on the woman in the middle.

From the Library of Congress. Click to enlarge

From the Library of Congress. Click to enlarge

The photos are by Ben Shahn, who is best known as an artist.  They are part of a series documenting a carnival like Fourth of July party in Ashville, Ohio.  There were free side shows, wrestling matches, and even a peep show where you could pay ten cents to see images of a “Nudist Colony.”  These three friends have worn their best summer dresses to the event–are they checking to see if they have the winning number in a raffle?

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6 Responses to The Fourth of July in Ohio, 1938

  1. Carol in Denver says:

    What a sharp eye you have! I would never have noticed the sheer sleeves on all the dresses and appreciate your bringing that to your readers’ attentions. These photos seem to me to be a commentary on “dressing up.” In the current world, many people almost never dress up, whether for weddings, church, or jobs. Not too many years ago, people even dressed up to go to the grocery store.

  2. Those sheer dresses were very up-to-the minute styles in 1938 – 1939. I like the fact that your photo shows the “header” — a ruffle of fabric — inside the sleeve seam which puffs the sleeve tops in all three dresses. Sleeve headers appeared in a lot of 1980’s dresses, too. And imagine, getting dressed up to attend a parade and carnival — maybe also a commemoration ceremony? In the rest of the photos I saw some men in suits, and a boy in a necktie, but also quite a few hatless women and women wearing trousers. Great set of pictures!

  3. Carla says:

    As always love your blog!! You do have a great eye!!

    Amazing how dressed up they are for the 4th of July celebration!

    I think they are looking for the 10 cents necessary to view the peep show!!

  4. Pingback: More Sheer Dresses from the Late 1930s | witness2fashion

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