This is a reposting from the early years of my blog.
This panoramic photo comes from the 1915 San Francisco World’s Fair, known as the Panama Pacific International Exhibition because it celebrated the completion of the Panama Canal. My resourceful friend Sally discovered it while doing research at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. It isn’t clear why these people gathered together for such a large group photo—maybe it was a club or society of some kind? (Sally even scoffed when I asked—“We are lucky to know as much as we do,” she said.)
There are at least three different styles for older women on display here—the elegant matron style, the older shirtwaist style, and a more fashion forward silhouette. I’m going to talk about them one by one.
In a detail from the center of the photo you can see the elegant matron style. Seated at the visual center of the picture, these two women must have been important. Their black dresses are conservative, but the details are very elegant. The woman on the left wears a top made of lace netting; the one on the right has on a gown trimmed with wide lace. Both have touches of white near their faces.
They appear to be following this fashion advice: “As a rule, the older matron or grandmother who is wealthy grows increasingly elegant in a conservative way. Because she is a woman of leisure she need consider only social needs in planning her wardrobe and is usually clad in the finest of laces, silks, and furs.”