The Sporting Life, ca. 1910

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

There is a long note on the back of this photo, partly obscured by black paper from where it was ripped from a photo album.  “Dear Emily,” it reads.  “Do you remember this swell crowd?”  Then the writer goes on to talk a lot about Bill, who looks a lot better after shaving off his whiskers.  According to the note, Bill is at the center of the action, teaching everyone tennis and learning how to dance.  I wonder if he is the tall man in the back on the right.

What a sporty looking crowd! Obviously it is summer time, given the white dresses and white shoes. Do you think the women really played golf or were they just using the clubs as props for the photo? The woman on the far night is wearing very flat shoes, often advertised for sports.  And although it might be hard for us to imagine women moving much in these outfits, historic photos show us that they did.

Mrs. Henry Philips, Palm Beach Florida, Vogue March 1, 1912

Mrs. Henry Philips, Palm Beach Florida, Vogue March 1, 1912

There are many clues leading me to date this photo to the early 1910s. First off is the length of most of their skirts, which show just the tops of their shoes.  Next are the hats, which turned from wide and exuberant to less dramatic in the first years of the decade. We see both styles here.

But it was really the necklines that grabbed my attention.  The “v” neckline, so common now, was introduced into ladies’ day wear around 1910.  Then it was an avant-garde style, regarded as scandalous by many who were used to the very high necklines of decades past.  In this photo the oldest women sport high necklines, while some of the younger ones wear the newer style. Corset types also appear to divide the generations.  While the older women look tightly packed in their clothes, the younger ones favor looser styles.

Were there discussions between young and old about just what was proper to wear in this group portrait?

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3 Responses to The Sporting Life, ca. 1910

  1. Your commentary about this photo is so informative!

    I have family photo albums from the first decades of the 20th century and you’ve inspired me to give them a closer look.

  2. Fabrickated says:

    My grandmother used to play golf in clothes like this in the 1910s and early 1920s.

  3. Lizzie says:

    I love this photo so much. There’s a lot to see and think about. Some of the women (the one sitting, the one on the far right, and the one in the middle back) do appear to be dressed for a round of golf, while most of the others seem a bit too dressed for the sport. Mt guess is that the group is at a summer resort, and Bill is introducing them all to the wonders of sport, regardless of what clothes they happen to be wearing. But who knows?

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