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Despite low earnings as barbers, laborers, cooks, or laundresses, they could afford to buy or sew at least one nice suit or an attractive dress.Like white Americans, black Americans proudly dressed in their best clothes and posed for portraits. In this post, I want to point you to some good reference websites and other tools works available for dating your photographs.Below is a picture of Nannie (left) with her daughter Minnie.Nannie took another picture, below, in the early 1890s, with those same telltale pointed sleeves.Ulie was born in 1883, so he probably was between 10-12 years old. The turn of the century brought about the Edwardian Era.The 1900s was marked by puffy blouses and tiny waists created by extremely tight corsets that made women’s bodies look like the letter S (called “pigeon breast” for good reason). The 1900s was marked by puffy blouses and tiny waists created by extremely tight corsets that made women’s bodies look like the letter S.Cornell University just digitized an amazing collection of African-American photographs recently, but one of my all-time favorite collections is the Missouri State Archives digital database of 19th Century African-Americans.
Shown below is a photo of Thomas Copelin and his wife Sarah of Montgomery County, MD.
My ancestor Nannie Barnes, from Hardin County, TN, clearly liked to take pictures and we are fortunate to have a lot that she took. 1880 was an occasion to pose with her new husband below.
Born in 1864, the picture below can be dated to the late 1870s, (very early 1880s at the latest) by the slightly wide sleeves, scarf, and fitted bodice that cuts just over her hips. She wore a much fancier hat, and although her bodice is still very fitted, notice its a little shorter.
Let me first say I was fascinated by how closely even rural African-Americans followed the fashion dictates of the times.
Almost everyone had at least one nice dress or suit.