These snapshots from the 1930s show a common color pattern for the period: older women in dark-colored dresses, with younger women in lighter ones. In photos from the era, the women’s clothes are often color coded in this way. You can often find the oldest woman by locating the darkest dress.
Such markers are a continuation of standards prevalent from the beginning of the twentieth century, when the most common color for older women’s clothing was black, even for those who weren’t widows. Older women were advised to choose dark colors, which were easier to care for and seen as slimming. We can’t see the exact color in these black and white photos; perhaps the dresses were dark blues, browns, greens or reds. But they were certainly dark.
In California today, the opposite is more likely to be the case—the young in dark clothing and the oldest women in pastels and beiges. I wonder when the switch began.