The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies - LEADERS IN ONLINE GENEALOGY EDUCATION

Clues in Photographs: Men’s Clothing

Men’s Clothing, 1900-1950 

What trends existed in men’s clothing during the 20th century? Knowing what clothing was popular in which decade can help you pinpoint when that family photograph was taken and who possibly is pictured. Some trends by the decade include:  

Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects

1900s – The frock coat from the previous decades was being pretty much replaced by the sack coat, especially when it came to daywear.  A man might wear plaid trousers, a solid color jacket, and a vest of a different but complementary color. The turn-cuff in trousers was introduced, as was the front crease in pants. Shirts collars were very tall and stiff, often turned down into pointed wings.  

1910s – The vest was collarless and fastened lower on the chest. The flat cap and newsboy cap were becoming popular. Spats or gaiters made their appearance.  

1920s – Casual dress was emphasized, and Hollywood and the military uniforms of World War I were the greatest fashion influences. Lapels were narrower at first, becoming wider later in the decade. Pants were straight and narrow, cuffed and shorter, revealing the socks.  

1930s – The Great Depression that ushered in this decade resulted in the loss of the bright colors in clothing that had been popular for two decades. Sportswear abandoned knickers early in the decade in favor of casual pants. Neckties were the only colorful relief for this decade and included stripes and other geometric designs.  

1940s – Hollywood ruled fashion in the 1940s, as the suits of the 1930s became more exaggerated, resulting in heavy chest padding, double-breasting, wider shoulders, and billowing trousers. The most exaggerated form, the ‘zoot suit’ had a longer coat, high waist, and pegged pants.  

1950s – Teens and young men were favoring white tee shirts under leather jackets. Jeans were becoming popular as well. The businessman was wearing business suits that were single-breasted, narrower in form, with less shoulder padding. The vest was falling out of favor.  

Men’s clothing during the 1900s can hold some helpful clues in your genealogy research. Our “Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects” course will offer you insight to help you answer questions you have about your historical family photographs.  

Women’s Clothing 1900’s

Women’s Clothing in Photographs: The 1900s 

What were women wearing in the decades of the 1900s? That answer is important as we look at family photographs. Here’s a few trends seen in the 20th century.  

 

Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects

1900s – The styles of the late 1890s continued into this decade. The skirt developed a train, was full below the knee, and became more ornate with pleats and smocking at the hipline. Evening dresses revealed more body, sometimes with sleeveless or off-shoulder cap sleeves.   

1910s – Many daywear dresses took the form of very feminine suits. The main change in dresses was that the hem came up to the ankle during this time, and it never went down again. Hats were often veiled.  

1920s – Women’s clothing became unfitted, with simple bodices at first, gradually being accented with seaming and paneling. Necklines were scoop or V-shape and usually collarless. Sleeves varied from long and straight to bell-shaped. Dresses were very ornamented with pin tucking, braids, embroidery, and beading – which was very popular – particularly for evening wear.  

1930s – It was in this decade that Hollywood glamour began to have its lasting impact on fashion. By the end of this decade, shoulder pads were becoming fashionable, a trend that would continue into the 1940s.  

1940s – Hollywood ruled fashion in America beginning in the 1940s and after the end of World War II, its influence spread again outside of America.  In 1947, Dior’s “new look” arrived featuring full skirts at a longer length (mid-calf), and round shoulders, a full bust, with narrow waist and full hips. 

1950s – The full skirt was in high swing but required crinolines to maintain their circle shape. Skinny “pencil” skirts were also popular. Evening wear featured ball gowns in short lengths called “cocktail dresses.” Hats were a necessity during the day, as were gloves.  

Have you ever wondered what time period a photograph of your great-grandmother or grandmother was taken? With our “Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects” course you will learn about hidden clues found in your family photos.  

Clues in Photographs: Women’s Clothing

Women’s Clothing 1830 – 1890 

When researching the lives of our ancestors in photographs it’s hard not to notice all of the changes happening through time. Some changes were big while others were small and may go unrecognized.  Take for instance women’s clothing during the 1800s.  

Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects

1830s – It was the ending of the “romantic” era, and women were wearing the hourglass silhouette, which consisted of very full sleeves, very wide necklines, a v-shaped bodice, and wide ankle-length skirts.  

1840s – The styles of this decade were still feminine but more conservative, with colors becoming darker and more somber at first before turning to prints and plaids by the end of the decade. Sleeves were now fitted to the arm, skirts were fuller and floor length. 

1850s – In the mid-1850s, the crinoline (a lightweight, hoop-like cage) expanded skirt width even more. Shawls and capes were worn. 

1860s – The bodice was shortened more during this time, but the shoulders were the same as in the 1850s. Square necklines became popular for daytime wear. The neckline was embellished with ruffles, lace, shirring, and or braid.  

1870s – In the early part of this decade, shoulders and sleeves joined at the point where they normally do to this day. Necklines remained high. The bodice was a cuirass, which was a long-wasted, form-fitting corset composed of whale bones or stiff bonelike structures that extended down to the hips. Cloaks and short capelets were worn as outerwear.  

1880s – The cuirass bodice continued in the 1880s, as did the high neckline and the tight sleeves. The skirt was pleated, draped, layered, aproned and often had a train in back.  

1890s – Evening gowns had elbow-length sleeves. Necklines were very high and were supported by boned collars. While the bustle was gone, layers of gathered fabric remained in its place throughout the 1890s. The skit eventually become slim over the hips and then were gored and flared out for a more circular appearance.  

Something as simple as the style of sleeves or even the placement of buttons can offer clues in historic family photographs. With our “Photography: Clues Pictures Hold Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects” course you will learn more about those hidden clues in your ancestral photos.  

Identifying Military Uniforms in Photographs

Military Uniforms in Photographs 

To correctly identify military uniforms in photographs, it is necessary to read reference books and related websites about the particular branch of the military in its specific country during the correct historical time period. There are absolutely no rules about how a military designed its uniforms over time, although there are a few observations that can be made about military uniforms in general.  

Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects

A country did not always automatically give uniforms to its military personnel. In some cases, a soldier or sailor had to supply his own uniform, as was done in the case of the Confederate Army during the U.S. Civil War. Uniforms, like other clothing during the early years of photography, were often handed down from father to son.  

More often than not, the higher the rank of the individual, the more ornate the uniform was. The uniform almost always included headwear, so the style of the hat or helmet is a further indication of rank. The insignias worn on uniforms provide further information about the individual. 

It’s easy to miss clues when viewing the photograph of an ancestor in military uniform. With our “Photography: Clues Pictures Hold, Editing, Digitizing and Various Projects” course you will learn more about locating and identifying some of those clues within your photographs.    

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