When I found this photo on eBay, I originally thought the pattern was dots—and I was about to launch into an essay on the love of dotted fabric in the 1930s. However, once I enlarged it the pattern looked more like gingham checks. No matter–the small scale of the pattern makes it another beloved choice for older women in the thirties.
It’s clear this is a summer outfit already from the white straw hat and the white sensible shoes. Another obvious clue is that the top of the dress is sheer, with a colored slip underneath. The bottom part of the dress looks fully lined. There are odd looking ornaments high on her chest. To me they look a bit like misplaced breasts—not the look she was going for, I’m sure. The belt buckle also has a little ornamentation.
To choose the approximate date for the photo, I looked first at the length of the dress and the styling. Both indicated the thirties. The sleeve detail then pointed me to the middle of the decade. The dress above, from the 1935 Sears Spring catalog, has the same sleeves and even a similar ornamentation, although in a more attractive spot. Wasn’t this a lucky find? It even features polka dots! My local public library has made Ancestry.com available on line, a resource that provides a full run of the Sears catalog. I’ve used it before, but now I get it for free!
Where was she going? Where had she been? I’m guessing this was a Sunday-back-from-Church snapshot.