Separates and the Older Woman

Behold an oldsters’ gathering in Tracy California sometime in the 1950s.  The city is east of San Francisco, part of California’s agricultural core.  The summers there are very hot. Judging by the clothes I’d say that the photo was taken in Spring or Fall—a few have donned sweaters and jackets while the rest are in shirt sleeves.

Most of the women wear shirtwaist dresses, a standard uniform of the era.  The prints and patterns differ, but the cut looks pretty much the same.  One woman, middle right, has on a kind of caplet, maybe just a big extended collar, that gives her outfit a dressier look. And of course the striped dress, bottom right, is my favorite of the bunch.

Mail order catalogs from this period are jam-packed with separates, skirt and blouse combinations designed to mix and match in order to create more varied outfits.  From what I can tell, only three of the ten women—two in front and one in the back row—appear to be wearing separates.  Perhaps they were considered too casual, just a step up from pants, and thus not really fitting for a festive occasion. I’m going to take a closer look at my photo collection to see if I can figure out where and when older women chose this style of dress.

What was the occasion?  Siblings and their spouses? A school reunion? A club get together?

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3 Responses to Separates and the Older Woman

  1. Great photo! It looks like the woman seated second from right is not only wearing separates, but wide-legged trousers! She looks like a firecracker. Love that stripey dress too.

  2. bellneice says:

    One of the oldest looking women in the group is sitting on the grass (dark shirtwaist, corsage). Difficult to do gracefully in a dress.

  3. Susan says:

    A dress does look “dressier” than separates to me — unless — the separates are really two parts of a suit…. The lady front left with the hat is wearing a matching jacket. Others in dark skirts may have taken their jackets off. Funny that a dress seems dressier, because a shirtwaist might also be a housedress…. Maybe I associate a white blouse and dark skirt with my school uniform! I wore the matching jacket as often as possible, because our uniform sweaters didn’t have pockets; the result was more like a suit. Tucked-in blouses never stayed tucked in for me.

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