Last week’s photo reminded me that the black dress with a lace collar served as a kind of uniform for the old in the first half of the twentieth century. The outfit combines two elements deemed necessary in any older woman’s closet—a black (or very dark) dress and a bit of white around the face. The photo above shows two women, one old and the other even older, wearing this “uniform” in Natchez Mississippi in 1935.
I didn’t have to look far in my collection of snapshots to find similar photos starting in the early 1900s and extending into the 1940.
Why the preference for black? One 1904 article explained it in terms of mourning. “That black best becomes many older women is well, because so many, while perhaps not wearing deep mourning, are yet so in the habit of having black gowns during many years that they never ‘feel right’ in colors.” (Harper’s Bazaar, October 1904, 971). Dark colors were considered slimming, and basic items in black could last many years and even get made over for older women on a budget.
And why lace? Any light colored fabric would have the same effect of bringing light to the face. Lace, however, added a touch of luxury.
These photos span over four decades. Do you know of any that show the tradition lasting even longer?