Saturday, January 17, 2009

Those Wacky Styles

Looking through some old photos of wife and myself today, I laughed out loud a few times.

Wearing striped bell bottoms or Levi's that always look too short seemed to be the order of the day. Why did I wear my Levi's so short? Every photo showed three inches of socks showing between the bottom of my pants and my shoes. Why?

Yeah, they were shink-to-fits but couldn’t I just add enough length when purchasing them? I remember having ‘cheat’ grass sticking in my socks all of the time and grousing about it. Duh!

Why did my father buy his Levi's so long and then roll them up with several folds? Why were John Wayne’s pants so short in every movie of his that I’ve seen lately? No wonder he had to wear cowboy boots or else his legs would have been bare half way up his calf.

I kind of remember the ‘cool’ factor associated with bell bottoms. Mine weren’t too wild but my wife had more ‘flare’ in her taste of the style. Were we sane in the early 60’s? I think we were more sane than the more current “butt” showing styles that are so aberrant when measured against common sense, but wonder what we were thinking at the time.

Looking at old photos of my ancestors, apparently, insanity is a continuing condition in human clothing styles. I don’t know of any woman who would consider wearing the clothing of the 1800’s today. Women seem to always take the worst hit in the extremity of ‘style’.

The cartoon strip ‘Herman’ gets it right all too often. See the comparison below of Herman to the hat worn by my great grandaunt in 1900 Plymouth, Massachusetts. The color in the cartoon seems to be the only difference in the hat ugliness scale.

uglyhat Drew Sally Ann 3

There are some great blogs and websites that will help you place approximate times on your old photos. When I mentioned the ‘60’s styles, you probably all had images of the era come to mind. As we look farther back in time, it is a little more difficult to assign the decade(s) associated with a ‘style’ because they are father away from our reference points.

However, using the style of dress to help establish a timeline for a family member is extremely useful in focusing the year range for our research. Click on this Link to see the Drew home where aunt Sally was standing. I can see her daughters and my 2nd great grandfather sitting on the porch watching the parade of men and ladies strolling by after attending the 4th of July holiday celebration in town.

We see long hot skirts and long sleeves for the women in that photo. Long jackets and a hat on the man. Were these folks nuts? Didn’t they melt as easily as I do on a hot 4th of July now? The styles locked in the period of the photo even without the date written on the back.

I use style comparisons on old photos all of the time when a date isn’t written on the back of the photo. The approximate date really helps in my research, especially if the photographers name and business location is listed at the bottom. With that information I can place my relatives in a general area in a fairly narrow range of years. From that information, I can search all the records in the area and hopefully find them.

There are great sites and blogs available to help us date photos from the dress styles seen in them. Do a quick Google search for terms such as “genealogy dress style dating” and learn from them. I’m sure you’ll find the effort rewarding in your research.