Dating 19th century photographs

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Children's dress, which echoed adult clothing to a degree, but also followed its own conventions, may also be harder to pinpoint very precisely.That said, it should always be possible to gain a reasonable date range for a photograph, based on the appearance of its subject's clothing, especially when this technique is combined with the other photo dating methods already covered in previous blogs.By the time photography reached a mass market in the 1860s, the concept of fashion was already well-established and was widely understood across the social spectrum.

Dating dress Dress historians and others with a keen eye for detail can accurately pinpoint 19th and early 20th century women's dress to within five or 10 years, by recognising the different components of a particular 'look' - garments, jewellery, accessories and hairstyles – and knowing when it was in vogue.

Throughout the later 1860s, the front of the skirt became progressively flatter, with the emphasis growing increasingly on the back.

By 1869/70 the material behind was being draped up over a projecting bustle – a pad worn under the clothes behind the waist – and garments were often layered and flounced to accentuate the full, bouncy effect (fig.6).

There may also have been a time lag of a few years between new fashions first being worn in urban areas and their adoption in remoter country districts.

Ideally we should consider all these criteria when considering the clothing of family members as seen in old photographs.

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