I find many of the photos for this blog in thrift stores, at flea markets, and on sites like eBay. Most of them are not dated, which means that I have had to teach myself how to make educated guesses about when they were made. Awhile back I asked a costume designer friend of my daughter’s to date this photo that I found at a thrift store in Western Massachusetts. In my view, costume designers are the most skilled people in the world of dress and fashion. For their work, they need a very detailed sense of fashion history and a keen understanding of how clothes were made and worn.
There was so much to learn from her analysis of the photo! She looked carefully at small details like the cuts of sleeves and the placement of pleats. She also used the husband’s mustache in her dating process. However, her most important discovery is that the photograph was made from two different negatives. She noticed that the carpet pattern beneath the husband’s feet was different than that beneath the wife and children. There is also a strange faded spot where the daughter’s hand meets her father’s. Perhaps this family was separated by continents and reunited only through the photograph.
Given my own training in Russian history, I associate the kerchief that the mother wears with Russian and Ukrainian peasant women or Orthodox Jewish women who covered their hair for religious purposes. The aprons that both mother and daughter wear also makes them look like they come from the countryside. And look at their very sturdy shoes, the kind you might wear working the fields. This older woman is either a very recent immigrant, or else she is still in her native country waiting to be united with her husband.