Dressed for the Photographer

Dressed for the Photographer

Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900

Book - 1995
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Fashion has always been a cultivating force. And during the 19th century--a time of great change--fashion was a powerful component in the development of American society. Through dress, average individuals could step beyond class divisions and venture into the world of the elite and privileged. Beginning in 1840, with the advent of the daguerreotype, that moment could be captured for a lifetime.

In Dressed for the Photographer, Joan Severa gives a visual analysis of the dress of middle-class Americans from the mid-to-late 19th century. Using images and writings, she shows how even economically disadvantaged Americans could wear styles within a year or so of current fashion. This desire for fashion equality demonstrates that the possession of culture was more important than wealth or position in the community.

Arranging the photographs by decades, Severa examines the material culture, expectations, and socioeconomic conditions that affected the clothing choices depicted. Her depth of knowledge regarding apparel allows her to date the images with a high degree of accuracy and to point out significant details that would elude most observers. The 272 photographs included in this volume show nearly the full range of stylistic details introduced during this period. Each photograph is accompanied with a commentary in which these details are fully explored. In presenting a broad overview of common fashion, Severa gathers letters and diaries as well as photographs from various sources across the United States. She provides graphic evidence that ordinary Americans, when dressed in their finest attire, appeared very much the same as their wealthier neighbors. But upon closer examination, these photographs often reveal inconsistencies that betray the actual economic status of the sitter.

These fascinating photographs coupled with Severa's insights offer an added dimension to our understanding of 19th century Americans. Intended as an aid in dating costumes and photographs and as a guide for period costume replication, Dressed for the Photographer provides extensive information for understanding the social history and material culture of this period. It will be of interest to general readers as well as to social historians and those interested in fashion, costume, and material culture studies.

Publisher: Kent, Ohio : Kent State University Press, c1995.
ISBN: 9780873385121
Call Number: 391.0097 SEVERA
Characteristics: xxii, 592 p. : ill. ; 29 cm
Subjects: Fashion.
Portrait photography -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
Fashion -- United States -- History -- 19th century.
Costume -- United States -- History -- 19th century.


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loblollyrosa Jul 16, 2012

Reads like a text book or manual on American fashion, with all the abundant details used to date the costumes pictured. A great book that might be somewhat overwhelming to the casual reader.

bonitakale Jul 01, 2012

This is so good I got tired of borrowing it and bought my own. Severa brings her expertise to dating and explaining clothes that real people wore (with information about what went under them, too.) I'm not even interested in fashion, but this book is entirely captivating.


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