Friday, March 27, 2009


Here are five more of the Vintage Fashion Victims cards that I designed using photos from my collection of antique images. As I wrote in the text introduction that will be included with the 30 jumbo postcards in the series, once photography was “invented” by Daguerre in 1839 (other men like Talbot were also discovering their own photographic processes at the same time), everyone wanted to have at least one photographic portrait taken in his or her lifetime, and a trip to the photographer’s studio required much thought about what to wear.

By 1854, paper photos mounted on cardboard backing became generally available and not as expensive as the cased images—daguerreotypes and ambrotypes—that came before. (Small ones were called Cartes de Visite or CDVs and larger ones were cabinet photos). Everyone eagerly bought, collected and put in albums photos of celebrities, politicians, freaks from Barnum’s circus (especially “General Tom Thumb”) and actors and actresses, as well as members of one’s own family.

Two of the women in the photos above were celebrities—one was the Queen of Spain and the other was a mistress of the Prince of Wales. Naturally women everywhere wanted to see what these illustrious women wore, so photographers selling their portraits made good money.

I’m also including one of the earlier images—a daguerreotype of two sisters in identical dresses. A friend noticed in my last blog entry that one of the women was wearing fingerless gloves a la Madonna. The two sisters in the dag above are really rocking the black lace fingerless gloves, which were in style in the 1850’s when this daguerreotype was taken. If you click on the photos, they’ll get bigger.

11. The caption on the card says “I’ve got a tiara, a title and an 18-inch waist, and I still can’t get a date.” On the back, the explanatory note says: This cabinet card was taken in Madrid by Fernando Debas, who seemed to make his living photographing the Spanish royals. The lady is “Maria Christina de Habsburgo-Lorena, Queen of Spain”, whom he also photographed in 1893 with a little boy identified as “Alfonso XIII, King of Spain.” The photographer airbrushed a bit to make her tiny waist even smaller. Imagine the corset she’s wearing, and the pain!

The caption says: "Someday I bet, women will get to vote, smoke, and wear skinny jeans.” The note on the back: Image from a stereoview published by George W. Griffith in 1903, a racy photograph of a “fast” modern woman showing lots of leg and smoking a cigarette. The caption on the original stereo card says, “Waiting for the Boys to Come Up.” (Stereoviews were 3-D when viewed through a stereoscope and views of famous sites around the world and comic situations acted out by actors—often in risqué situations-- provided hours of amusement in every home. This is what people did before there were movies!)

26. The caption says: “Does this suit make my butt look big?" The note on the back: Those two bathing-suit beauties are back on the beach in their sassy shoes, shamelessly showing off their bodies on this stereoview, but it has been stamped on the back ‘Approved for Sunday 1930’ by the Commissioner of Public Safety in Boston, despite the risqué display of skin. These flappers are clearly members of the Lost Generation.

The caption on the photo: “My stylist swore it was one of a kind!" The note on the back: A daguerreotype of two sisters(?) in dresses made from the same extraordinary fabric. Both have white lace collars, black lace fingerless gloves and the winged hairstyles that date this to around 1850. Boned corsets underneath bind their breasts flat. The tinting to their faces and hands was done in the photographer’s studio.

The caption on the lady in the foxtails and fur wrap reads “P.E.T.A. Schmetta! These foxes should consider it an honor!” The note on the back: Written on the back of this cabinet card, taken by W&D Downey in London, Photographers by special appointment to Her Majesty the Queen are the words: “Mme. Cornwallis West, June 27th ’83.” Mary Cornwallis West (1835 – 1917), nicknamed “Patsy” , was the daughter of a mistress of Price Albert. She herself became the mistress of Edward, Prince of Wales, when she was just 16. She was quickly married to Col . Cornwallis-West, a loyal man about twice her age. In her fifties, she fell in love with a 23-year-old sergeant who had been wounded in the First World War, causing a scandal that rocked the government. In this photograph, “Patsy” is 48 years old.

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