1/28/2011

Immigrant woman

Woman from Genoa, Nebraska
Date: 1890's
Photographer: Cody - probably the photographer's last name
Sitter: Unknown
Provenience: Genoa, Nebraska, USA

At the end of the 19th century thousands of men, women and children left their homes in Europe in search for a new life in the US. Quite a few of them came from Sweden - some of them made it over there, some of them did not, and quite a few of them sent photos home to family and friends they had left behind. This is an example of that. It comes from a family photo-album, which once belonged to my great-grandfather who had relatives who went over and sent photos home to him and his family. But the name of the woman in the photo is lost.

This photo is quite typical of the ones people took to show how well they did in their new world. It is much bigger than your typical CDV (the usual format for portrait photos from this time), over twice the size actually, and the woman shown in full figure is wearing a very elegant dress - especially if you keep in mind that she came from rather humble surroundings in her old homeland where a dress like this would have been reserved for higher classes than hers. Also the hair is made with great care. It is actually made with so much care that the poser chose to take her hat off and keep it on the chair next to her, and not on her head (which would have hidden her carefully arranged curls). And at the same time it is important to show the hat too - something she most likely would never had owned back home, women of the lower classes most often wore shawls and not hats.

Compare her with the woman on this photo from the same album - who is a typical example of what the women back home looked like, and how she herself would have been dressed had she stayed in her old country.

1/21/2011

Sakuya Shiina

Name: Sakuya Shiina ( 椎名 サクヤ), Saku for short. 
Appears in:  Hoshi wa Utau (also known as Twinkle Stars, manga in 11 volumes)
Creator: Natsuki Takaya
Age: 18 years old

A character I love from one of the best mangas out there - and created by one of my favourite mangakas (manga creators) Natsuki Takaya, most known for Fruits Basket. The last chapter of the story was released in the magazine Hana to Yume in Japan on the 20th of January this year.

Saku lives in a small town in Japan, attending the last year of high school, working part-time, and has a small stargazing club at school with her two friends, Hijiri and Yuri. But life has not been easy for her, when her parents got divorced her mum had no interest in her and she stayed with her father and step-mother and became the victim of psychological abuse. She ends up living with her cousin Kanade, a rather lazy and unfriendly person who doesn't care for much - but that arrangement actually works. In school she is rather average and often get picked on. Her greatest interest is watching the stars, which gives her comfort and strength to carry on.

Things take a strange turn for her when she meets Chihiro Aoi, a young man who suddenly appears in her life - actually at her very informal birthday party when she turns 18. She thought he was a friend of Kanade and Kanade had invited him thinking Chihiro was Saku's boyfriend. He is, of course, neither. The second time Saku meets Chihiro they talk about stars - and the whole conversation ends with Chihiro shouting at her that he hates her. And then they end up in the same class in school.

Chihiro doesn't have much to recommend him, but still Saku falls for him. She can see that he is a troubled person, and she tries to show him how you can find happiness in this world all the same. She tries to teach him about the singing stars. He is a very slow learner, but Saku has patience, and even when she learns about him having a girl-friend from before, Sakura, who tried to commit suicide and ended up in a coma, she can't give up on her feelings. She knows that it will make her unhappy, that she can never compete with the duty Chihiro feels for Sakura.

How it all ended? You can find the answer here! (I don't want to have too much spoilers on this blog - but I have no such scruples on my other.)

1/10/2011

Roman hair-do, ca 350 A.D.

Glyptoteket - Roman woman

Date: About 350 A.D.
Place: The Roman Empire
Exhibited at: Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
Photo: Mine
Description: This is a late Roman piece (late as in "everything of importance to the Roman empire happened in the first 150 years after the year 1 A.D.", not as in that the western Roman empire wouldn't survive for another hundred years) and it shows a hair-do quite as complicated as they could be earlier. Romans might not have heard of hair-spray or -gel, but they still managed to create some amazing coiffures - and some where you wonder how anyone could have worn it. This hair-do is rather easy to understand - the sculpture offering a clear view of it (though it does not reveal if she had hair extensions - which we know were sometimes used).

With or without the help of extra hair, the hair was gathered into two long braids which was curled around the head to form something not totally unlike a basket (though a crown might be a more suitable term, if you want to sound fancy). This meant that the top of the head (not seen here) was left exposed, but framed by braids, and the face, in turn, was framed by a curly fringe, going from ear to ear and leaving just a couple of slightly bigger curls at each ear. It is obviously a hair-do for the very rich - and only the very rich would have afforded to immortalize themselves in a piece of stone like this - but at the same time it might very well have been a hair-do that would survive day-to-day business quite well.

1/05/2011

Fashion from 1845

1845 - Victorian women

Date: 1845
Source: Unknown
Description: The colours of this plate have rather washed out, probably by too much sun but you can still trace a light green in the dress on the woman to the left and a light blue on the woman to the right. The colours were probably darker to begin with - and the dresses at this time were often in shades darker than these.

The dress to the left is a common day dress, worn in the daily life of most women at the time - complete with the bonnet of the married woman (or elderly women who were unmarried, but considered themselves off the marriage market). The woman to the right is wearing a walking dress, a little bit more formal than the day dress, meant for wearing when venturing outside - for example when paying a visit to friends. The dress is completed with gloves and a bonnet and a shawl. Shawls could be worn instead of a coat, and were rather big garments, matching the big skirts.

1/01/2011

Woman with a stiff collar

Woman from Vetlanda
Date: Before 1909
Photographer: Nanny Ekström
Sitter: Unknown
Provenience: Vetlanda (Hvetlanda, with old spelling) - or possibly Wirserum (Virserum), Sweden.

This photo is possibly late 1890's, but more likely from the first years of the 1900's. There is no date on it (nor a name), but the photographer had changed her design of her own name on the photos by 1909.

The most striking thing about this portrait is the collar the woman is wearing. It has a rather male flare to it, very high and rigid - probably very uncomfortable to wear with a lot of starch (and I really mean a lot - these pieces could be so solid they had an almost cardboard-y feeling to them) and not entirely practical. It was not something you used as a woman if you were to run your household, do cooking and cleaning and look after your children. This was the time of housekeepers - if you could afford it - but that did not mean the woman was supposed to just sit back in a chair and not do anything, just that the odds of having to get your hands dirty was much lessened. This woman is not dressed for that - her attire has a formal feel to it which makes me guess (though, for obvious reasons, without knowing) that she either worked as a teacher or in an office of some kind. This is after all the time when women (unmarried women) were able to get out and get a job in a way that had never been possible before, without degrading herself in the eyes of society.

I unfortunately know precious little about the photographer herself - not much more beyond the fact that she was active in the late 19th century and early 20th, in a town in Småland, Sweden. She was obviously successful in her work because she could open a second shop in another, smaller, town. And she was herself a part of this new society where women had more possibilities of earning their own living - being a photographer was something that was considered possible for 'proper' women to do.