Vernacular Photo Tuesday: Vintage Fashion & Style

Welcome to the second installment of Vernacular Photo Tuesday. No, I didn’t forget last week but since it was my birthday decided to hold off until this week. In the last installment I shared a small portion of my photo booth collection and discussed my friend Albert’s line of photo booth greeting cards. Today I’m sharing another aspect of my collection– vintage fashion and style. As you know from this blog, I wear vintage and thrifted fashion every day and I’m curious to see what the ‘everyday person’ wore in decades past to get inspiration for my own outfits. Snapshots come in handy as they go beyond what we see in classic movies and in lifestyle magazines– they show us what real people wore to the beach, on a date or on holidays like Christmas and Easter.
Prior to the 1920s, photography was a costly endeavor and the equipment was too cumbersome for practical use outside of the studio. Everyone looks so grim in early portrait photos because they had to sit still so long, sometimes up to a minute, as the large-format (glass or film) negatives required a good deal of light to be exposed correctly. To stop subjects from moving, chairs had metal clamps that the head and neck would be fitted into! While there are many collectors of early photography, I prefer post-1920s images they are the precursors to the modern era of medium.
The first three photographs are studio images from the 1940s (I’m basing this on the style of their clothing as they are not dated). This was before the widespread use of color film so the first image of the woman in pink was a black and white image that has been hand tinted. There are classical elements in the photo including the column, a draped velvet curtain and a rounded chunk of marble.
The cardboard frames that contain the images are also artistic– the simple graphic shapes are of the Art Deco style. The examples above and below are rich in texture– the lacy tiers of the woman’s dress makes me wonder if this was a prom or wedding dress. It also looks like she is wearing flowers in her hair.
It’s amazing how glamorous the average person looks in these photos, the woman below has put on her very best with the giant fur collar taking up a good portion of the frame.
Most interesting to me are what I consider to be the vintage precursors to ‘street fashion’ and ‘wardrobe remix’, two genres that are prevalent in 21st century photography and blogging. Although Kodak had introduced the easy-to-use Brownie camera in 1900, most families did not have a camera until the 1920s and 30s when they became more portable and inexpensive. Back then you shot the roll of film then sent the whole camera (with the film inside) to process the images. Then Kodak would send the camera back with a fresh roll of film inside!
Most of the ladies reading this blog can likely identify with the above set of photos as the main purpose of the image is to record the young woman’s outfit. I’d like to think this is the vintage version of me! We’re lucky that we can take daily outfit photos, this woman only took seasonal snapshots of herself. Like any good wardrobe remixer she has reworn one of her accessories, that darling bow hat! I also own a similar fur-trimmed coat.
Here are two young ladies posing in the city– the architectural elements in the picture on the left really make the image, the pillars, rows of windows and the steps animate the picture and frame the fur coat-bedecked woman. She also wears clumps of flowers in her hair like the studio-posed woman we saw earlier, must have been a popular style? The woman on the right is from an earlier era based on the cars racing behind her! She looks to be from the 1920s, the balloon sleeves on her frock are an unusual element.
Don’t worry boys/men, I didn’t forget about you! It’s more difficult to find images of men’s fashion but the photo on the right is bizarrely wonderful. I can’t figure out what’s going on with the dude on the left in the plaid shirt– doesn’t he look like a caricature of a lumberjack? Is he some kind of body builder? His silhouette is so odd, he has a massive chest and looks like he’s wearing riding pants? At first I thought it was a cardboard cutout but it looks to be a real person. Anyone know what’s going on here??
When I was a kid, Easter was THE holiday for dressing up. I was lucky enough to get a frou frou dress with a tulle skirt and sequins along with an Easter bonnet. This little girl is the earliest wardrobe remixer I’ve come across, her tilted beret is jaunty! I’ll take a grownup sized version of her entire outfit please.
Ladies in leisure at what look to be faraway places. The girl on the left looks to be sitting on a bench made out of a column. On the right is the perfect vision of a 1950s girl on the grand tour in Italy or Spain, posing in a frilled blouse with her bike and bottle of vino (wine)!
Some day I hope to come across a matched set of luggage just like this– I believe it’s Samsonite from the 1950s. I already own the train case in a marbled green.
Finally a burst of color as we hit the early 1960s. I’m particularly fond of images shot in interior domestic spaces–look at that TV! What makes this a unique image: the shoe casually slipping off the young woman’s foot, the photo of the young woman on the TV set (image inside an image) and the contrast of the older woman’s fashion and the younger woman’s. The 1960s saw the widening of the generation gap and you can see this shift in the photo– the older woman’s dress looks more ’50s with the belted waist and full skirt. The younger woman has a beehive hairdo and a shorter, more flowy dress.
Whew, hope you enjoyed looking through vintage fashion and style as seen through a few examples of my vernacular photography collection. As I took the time and effort to scan these images, please post a link back to Thriftaholic if you repost them on your tumblr/blog/etc. Thanks!

Comments 0

  1. Love all of them, but especially the first photo. Every year we go to a vintage dance on Catalina Island and I always have a dress to make for my sister. This one is perfect! We'll if I come up with anything as neat.

  2. Thank you for sharing all these wonderful photos!! I collect the vintage snap shots too, because like you, I feel they are wonderful fashion inspiration. Plus, I love seeing how real women put together looks back then. What I find so interesting, is that often I feel the ladies look very much like the starlets of the time which makes me feel like stars back then were closer to being "real" than stars today. 🙂 Great post, can't wait to see what you have for next week.

  3. What great images, thanks for sharing! The 60s one with the woman's photo on the TV looks almost exactly like how my mom's 8th grade graduation photo from the mid 60s looks like.

  4. I adore old photos such as these–I collect them too and send one with every order from my shop. The ones I keep for my collection are people with their pets. I love this feature and especially your analysis of each one.

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