6/16/2009

Photo of the week - Olga

Date: 1900's
Photographer: B. Bolling
Sitter: Olga
Provenience: Vetlanda (Hvetlanda, with old spelling), Sweden.

This is a photo from the time when everybody went to the photographer, when everybody was handing out their photos to friends and family - and now you can find these pictures in the old photo-albums, not knowing anything about the person there. If you are lucky you have a name, something written down by somebody who knew who the sitter was. In this case all which is known of her is her first name: Olga - written on the front of the photo.

But more can be deducted if the photo is closely studied. The photo-studio was situated in a rural area of Sweden, and this is very likely a rural girl. Her dress is up to date, it has obviously meant quite a bit of work - and she is just as obviously not from the upper classes of the world. Her chequered blouse (you can see a hint of a dark skirt too, so it is certainly not a dress) is trimmed with lace, which makes it unlikely she was poor, but the fabric is a bit stiff and so is the lace. She is obviously dressed in fine clothes (you did that when you went to the photographer back then), but it is not the clothes of someone who could afford to buy whatever they liked - this is a time when flimsy materials were quite in vogue.

The only jewellery Olga is wearing is a brooch at the collar, it is small and rather simple - far from the daring, flowing styles of the art nouveau which were popular at this time. Her hair-do is just as simple, her hair is just pinned up in a homely fashion - still it is quite modern for the time, and looks quite beautiful that way.

After all, beauty is not just a matter of money.

6/13/2009

Fashion of the week - Ladies dressed for a visit, 1874

This picture was published in the French Journal des Demoiselles in 1874.

For once this fashion print does not show an odd mix of dresses for different occasions, but rather chooses to show different models of the same type of the dress - that is the dress for visits. This kind of dress was meant to be worn when leaving the house in the daytime to go and visit others, or doing other stuff in the daytime which meant you wanted to look your best

Of course this was not a luxury afforded by everyone, most women did not have a spare change of clothes for when they were going to call on others, but the fashion magazines did not have that kind of woman as their main audience either. For them the important reader was the well-to-do woman (often the kind with a well-to-do father or husband), and they could very well be persuaded they needed something like this.

The difference between these dresses and normal day-wear is, of course, that these are more fashionable, more over the top. There are trains, ruffles and mixes of different fabrics - light and dark and chequered and plain. Even the girl, wearing similar clothes (but with a shorter skirt, since she, after all, is not grown up), has different fabrics in her dress. At the same time you would not mistake these dresses for evening-wear. The colours are too sombre, the cut too modest for that - and you would not have had long sleeves. This was for showing off - in the daytime, which could be just as important, even though it might be more common with smaller gatherings then, than later at night. After all, a lady should always look her best.