Family Photograph

by annagrant94


My Great Great Nan

The image I have chosen to look at is of my Great Great Nan she was born in 1860 and the image was taken about 1890. As she is no longer with us I won’t be able to interview her, but I will look into the types of clothing, fabrics and accessories that were worn and used in the 1890’s.

From the photograph I had to establish the era in which it was taken I looked into 80’s and 90’s fashion within the 19th century and the difference between the 1880’s and 1890’s was quite big, with the skirts going from quite a big bustle to a much plainer and straighter skirt and also the sleeves going from being quite straight to become what was known as mutton; puffed at the top and then become more straight at the bottom. Both of these changes are demonstrated in the image of my Great Great Nan so therefore I felt it related more to the 1890’s fashion.

In 1890 cameras had been invented but not to the standard that we use today. Cameras were mainly owned by professional photographers in the 19th so this meant that either they would come to your house or you would visit them. From this photograph it looks as though she has visited the photographer and a scene has been created for the photograph with a seat prop and also a backdrop of some sort.  Photographs also took a long time to take so the subject being photographed would have to wait around for a long time before the photo was taken, which explains why people never smiled in photos, and also why simple sitting down and standing poses were used.

In 1890 the fashion changed quite dramatically going from quite a bustled skirt slim sleeves, and many layers under the dress, to quite a straight plain and loose skirt. With the skirt being left quite plain, the designs on the bodice became more elaborately decorated and with so much change it was said that it was a revelation within fashion.

IMG_3708Detailed Bodices, Plain Skirts.

With the sleeves on dresses becoming extremely large, this then made the waist look tiny in comparison. In previous years women seemed to look a lot larger than they actual were this was due to the way they dressed by making the hips look a lot bigger by using crinoline or a bustle,  making them look out of proportion. But in the 1890’s there was no distortion with the structure of the skirt, with it being fitted at the waist and naturally flowing over the hips, the larger sleeves and the hem of the skirt becoming wider nearer the bottom, created a counterbalance, making the waist appear a lot smaller.

IMG_3691Puffed sleeves and lace insert around the neck like the photo of my Great Great Nan.This Image was taken from a magazine called Woman At Home which was published in the 1890’s and all magazines from 1897 where taken and published as a book which was was located in the library archive.

large hips  Dress with large hip Bustle. dress of 1890 1890 straight dress

Even though skirts were quite plain Petticoats become a lot more elaborate with the end of the skirt creating quite a full shape women would wear petticoats with lots of flounce at the end to hold the skirts out at the bottom, some were also edged with stiff piping cord which made the skirts stand out stiffly.

1890 petticoatDetailed petticoat

With the waist required to be as small as possible and becoming quite understated, women sometimes wearing a blouse and skirt with the clothing not being very structured they depended on a very tight firm under structure, which meant corsetry played quite a vital role within the 1980’s fashion change.

Hairstyles where slightly wavy in texture and then gathered up into a simple knot on the top of the head, the style was very soft. In response to such hairstyles hats become a lot bigger with brims become larger, decorated also with elaborate trimmings, which also included stuffed birds used as decoration. As you can see in the photo of my great great Nan the hat she is wearing is quite largely brimmed with quite a big decorative flower arrangement on the top.

1890s hair1890 Hairstyle

IMG_37101890 HatIMG_37091890 Hat

In the later 1890’s the demand of lighter weight fabrics became more and more popular and also the change in the colour of the fabric becoming a lot paler.  The plain firm textured material that was used earlier within fashion was swapped with a more openly woven material with much more surface detail such as delicate muslins and laces. The colour within the fabrics changed a lot also from quite dark colours to white being a colour that would be worn a lot and also pale blues and mauves.

IMG_3711Lighter Weight Dresses

late 1890's dresses 1973.376a,b_CAMDresses lighter in colour and less fabric

From the image I have of my Great Great Nan you can see many similarities from what I have described from the clothing that was worn in the 1890’s and the clothing she is wearing in the image. She came from a working class background and therefore means the clothing she is wearing in the picture would have been her Sunday best. I found it hard to find information and images about the working class within the 1890’s but feel the information I have found gives a general overview of all fashion within the time frame of the 1890’s.

Penelope Byrde (1992). Nineteenth Century fashion. London: Typest. p83-p87.

Carol Belanger Grafton (1998). Shoes Hats and Fashion Accessories. Canada: Dover Publications. p85-p88.

Nancy Hayden. Women’s Clothing of the 1890s. Available: Last accessed 10/12/13.

Ladies Treasury. (2002). Fashion in the 1890’s. Available: Last accessed 10/12/13.

Vintage Fashions. (2012). 1890’s fashion footage. Available: Last accessed 10/12/13.