Tag Archives: vintage

Fashion Moments – Beret

Fashion Moments by Deborah SweeneyWelcome to my weekly fashion blog post. Each week I will discuss a female garment, fashion trend or influencer from the age of photography (1840s through the 20th century). My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family’s history should be aware of the environment in which their ancestors lived. Period clothing is an important part of that environment from how it affects a person’s movement to their overall lifestyle. This week I introduce you to the beret with thanks to reader Jackie Dinnis with her question about some 1930s berets providing this week’s inspiration.


In basic terms, the beret is a round, brimless hat which generally fits around the crown of the head. It is a soft hat without stiffening. Traditional French and Basque berets are made from felted wool, but different fabrics have been used to create a beret like velvet or cotton. The size and shape of this hat has been adapted and refashioned for millennia. According to several websites, the history of the beret is long and its origins are no longer known. Nowadays, most people think of the French when it comes to berets or elite military groups such as the Green Berets.


Some modern berets (Photograph by the author)


During the 1930s, the French beret became iconic with Hollywood movie starts like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich. The beret quickly made its way into popular fashion. While it did not remain in the forefront of fashion, the hat has never completely disappeared in modern times. The style emerged again in the 1950s and 1960s with the beatnik generation.

Further Reading

A great history of the beret from Hat Tales.

More about military beret styles from blueberet.org

An overall history of hats with a descriptive list of some different hat styles from hatbox.com

Thinking of buying a traditional-styled French beret? Check out the website of Laulhère-France! They have included a “Some History” tab with a great review of the beret’s influence and history.

Blog Post from Glamour Daze regarding the French Beret in the 1930s.


Marlene Dietrich, 1933. Image from the German Federal Archives via Wikipedia.

Sears catalog, Fall 1931. Image from Ancestry.com‘s collection of Sears, Roebuck and Co., 1896-1993.

©2015 Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/08/02/fashion-moments-beret/

Fashion Moments – The Shirtwaist

Fashion Moments by Deborah Sweeney

This is the first in a new weekly series on specific fashion trends. Each week I will present a different garment or piece of female fashion that was prevalent during the 19th and 20th centuries. My goal is to educate family researchers and genealogists about the clothing worn by our ancestors. Dating photographs is an issue we all encounter and struggle with as family archivists. Additionally, anyone who writes about their family history should be aware of the environment in which our ancestors lived, and that includes what clothes they wore.

The Shirtwaist

The shirtwaist was a mainstay of the female wardrobe from the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century. What exactly is a shirtwaist? To understand the evolution of the term, it is necessary to understand the definition of waist to a 19th century person. In modern times, the word waist refers to the part of the human body between the ribs and hips. In the past, waist was another term for the bodice of a woman’s dress.

Waist (wāst) n. The upper part of a garment, extending from the shoulders to the waistline, esp. the bodice of a woman’s dress.

As women became more independent and began working outside the home, their style of dress was modeled after male attire. A well dressed man of business typically wore a white shirt with a turned down collar and cuffs under his coat and/or vest. The term shirtwaist was a combination of the two terms: shirt + waist. Therefore, shirtwaist is a term only used to describe the female version of a male dress shirt.

 Shirtwaist (shȗrt’ wāst) n. A woman’s tailored shirt with details copied from men’s shirts.

A typical shirtwaist was unstructured (no boning or inner lining) and was made from a material such as cotton or linen. Occasionally they were made of silk. Another benefit of the shirtwaist was the ease of laundering. Boned and lined bodices were generally not washed often. Over time, shirtwaists evolved from the simple tailored version of a man’s shirt to beautiful feminine garments embellished with lace and trimmings.

Shirtwaist, c1895, American silk and cotton

Shirtwaist, American, c1895 (silk & cotton). Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Collection

Although introduced as early as the 1860s, shirtwaists became more popular as the 19th century progressed. With illustrators like Charles Dana Gibson regularly drawing sporty and active women, women’s dress was finally changing. However, it would take another twenty or so years before the more natural styles of the 1920s became fashionable. By the mid 1890s, women were no longer being hampered by bustles and hoops as well as obsessive corseting. The movement to promote Aesthetic Dress (which began in England in the 1850s and was led by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones, Frederic Leighton and Lawrence Alma-Tadema) also influenced the trend towards healthier and non-restrictive clothing for women. The Aesthetic dress movement rejected the wearing of tight-laced corsets altogether.


A study for “When Women Are Jurors,” by Charles Dana Gibson, 1902 (Image in the Public Domain via Wikipedia Commons)

The term shirtwaist, or waist for short, endured from the early 1890s though the 1920s. The term finally passed out of common usage with shirt and blouse being more commonly used today.

Perhaps one of the most well known events regarding the shirtwaist was the 1911 Triangle Factory fire in New York City. Shirtwaists were very popular and cheap to manufacture. Mail order catalogues as well as clothing stores all sold shirtwaists. See the links below to learn more about the Triangle Factory fire, and PBS’s documentary about this tragedy which killed hundreds of immigrant factory workers. The overwhelming majority of the victims were women.

Evolution of the Shirtwaist

The style of the shirtwaist changed over the years. When dating photographs, it is important to note the changes to cuffs, collars and necklines as well as the rise and fall of the waistline.

Shirt waist patterns from the Modern Priscilla Magazine, 1906. (Image from the Library of Congress)

For Further Reading:

More about the fashion trends that influenced the Aesthetic Dress Movement:


On the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire and Shirtwaists:

©2015 written by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/30/fashion-moments-the-shirtwaist/

Identifying Everyday Clues in Photographs, Part IV

Dating PhotographsToday I present the last part of this series focusing on dating the photograph of Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner. My aim was to take the reader through the process of dating a single photograph by using clothing cues. Stay tuned for addition posts on specific fashion trends like the evolution of the sleeve, skirt shapes and hair styles. My goal is to make this a weekly post.

At the end of part three in this series, I said that we would look specifically at the clothing worn by the “granddaughter” in the photograph because it is easier to gauge the styles of the young. Before I do that, I want to focus on Elizabeth. I am lucky because I have several identified pictures of Elizabeth. I want to make a point about using hairstyles to date pictures.

Elizabeth Over Four Decades

The earliest photograph was taken in the 1880s. Elizabeth is standing while her husband, Christian Yegerlehner, is seated. The photograph is a fairly typical of the times.

Christian and Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner, c1880s (Photograph courtesy of Eric Graham)

Christian and Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner, c1880s (Photograph courtesy of Eric Graham)

The next photograph was taken in 1890-1 in front of the Yegerlehner farmhouse. The baby, William Otto Yegerlehner, was born on 8 March 1890. Elizabeth is standing behind the fence. Her two youngest daughters, Matilda and Sophia, stand with their niece, Bertha (the littlest girl with the doll who was about 4-5 years old).

Christian Yegerlehner Family, in 1891, in front of the farmhouse in Clay County, Indiana

Christian Yegerlehner Family, in 1890-1, in front of the farmhouse in Clay County, Indiana

The next photograph of Elizabeth was taken with one of her sisters, possibly Sevilla. It was likely taken in the late 1890s.

Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner and her sister Sevilla Sheneman(Photograph courtesy of Eric Graham)

Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner and her sister Sevilla Sheneman (Photograph courtesy of Eric Graham)

Here again is another photograph of Elizabeth. This time her daughter, Sophia, as well as another un-named sister are in the picture.

Yegerlehner, Elizabeth (Schwartz) with daughter Sophia and sister

Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner with her daughter Sophia and an un-named sister, c1900 (Photograph courtesy of Eric Graham)

A few years later, Elizabeth took another photograph with Sophia. This time Sophia’s son, Russell, is in the picture. Russell was born in 1905 so this photograph was probably taken about 1909. Sophia lived in Indianapolis and she was very fashionably dressed for the times. Her hair is a wonderful example of the style.

Yegerlehner, Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner with Russell & Sophia (Yegerlehner) Thatcher - c1910

Elizabeth (Schwartz) Yegerlehner with her daughter, Sophia, and grandson, Russell, c.1909. (Photograph courtesy of Eric Graham)

During the 1910s, Elizabeth sat for a photograph with Elizabeth (Krieble) Schiele. Both grandmothers lived with John Henry Yegerlehner and his wife, Lovina (Schiele) Yegerlehner, near the end of their lives. Both women died in 1922.

Elizabeth posed with some of her great grandchildren around 1919. She had only one granddaughter (with three children) by 1922. The only candidate is Mary Anna (Wolfe) Snedeker. Her oldest three children were Walter, Mary and Charles. The youngest was born in 1918. Elizabeth is wearing a white shirtwaist which is very a-typical of her! at least in comparison to her other photographs.

YEG1919 Elizabeth (Schwartz) with possibly Mary Anna (Wolfe) Snedeker and children

The one thing I want to point out about Elizabeth in these pictures is that her hair style did not change for 40 years – a part in the middle with a bun in back. Judging a photograph based on hair alone is NOT a good idea!

 Back to the Photograph!

Grace Wolf & Elizabeth (Schwartz) YegerlehnerSo far, I have written down every noticeable detail about the clothing in the photograph. I created age ranges based upon the possible candidates for Elizabeth’s grand-daughter. To recap, there are seven possible women:

  • Emma’s range (1899-1908)
  • Mary Anna’s range (1901-1910)
  • Bertha’s range (1902-1911)
  • Minnie’s range (1904-1913)
  • Pearl’s range (1911-1920)
  • Sophie Grace (1913-1922)
  • Bertha Steuernagel’s range (1902-1911)

Around 1910, fashion began moving away from from the trends of the 19th century. The women’s silhouette became more columnar, and excessive curves of the late 1890s and early 1900s became straighter. One result was skirts became less full, using less fabric. Instead of being triangular (narrow at the hips, wide at the base), skirts were more rectangular. The hobble skirt, a short lived fashion trend from 1910-1913 was the epitome of the straight and narrow. While I doubt that my unknown Indiana farm girl indulged in such fashion, it is important to know what was happening in the fashion world. Another result of the shift in fashion was the elevation of the waist line.

On the other side of Indiana in 1913, my great grandparents, Robert and Sara (Troxell) McGraw, celebrated their 50th anniversary. They had a large family and many friends came to celebrate the occasion. They all posed for a photograph. I am showing this photograph because they were of a similar socioeconomic status as my Yegerlehner relations. They also lived within 150 hundred miles of each other. Notice the waistlines on the women – young and old. The majority of the women are wearing dresses or shirtwaists and skirts that are higher than the natural waist.

McGraw 50th Anniversary (40) 200 bw

Robert and Sara McGraw 50th Anniversary, 1913, Fayette County, Indiana

Our mystery Wolf woman is wearing a dress that sits at her natural waist. I would deduce that my photograph was taken before 1910. Therefore this eliminates Pearl and Sophie Grace as likely candidates for the mystery girl. The earliest date in their ranges occurs after 1910. I would also point out (based upon the photograph of Elizabeth with her great grandchildren) that the mystery woman does not look like Mary Anna (Wolfe) Snedeker. So Mary is probably not the mystery girl either. So we are left with Emma, Bertha Wolfe, Minnie and Bertha Steuernagel as possible candidates. The remaining girls have ranges that are virtually identical so I am not likely to determine who the mystery girl is. My only hope at this point is to find a relative from the Wolfe or Steuernagel branches who can identify her.

The Years 1900-1910

Our mystery girl’s silhouette reminds me very much of the Gibson girl. Charles Dana Gibson was an illustrator from the 1890s onward. His illustration “Love in a Garden” was published in 1901.


Love in a Garden by Charles Dana Gibson, 1901 (Image via Wikipedia Commons in the public domain)

In 1901, fashionable women were still piling their hair on top of their heads. Our mystery girl’s hair is not. She has fullness at the side of her head instead of on top. Here are some factory workers in 1908 in Indianapolis with some more realistic hair styles:

Lewis Hine Collection. Library of Congress. Young People in An Indianapolis Cotton Mill, Noon, Aug., 1908

I would also point out that several of the young woman are wearing half sleeves and their shirtwaists are collarless, in particular the woman in the front row with the checkered pattern.


Ultimately, we can only do our best to date photographs. Fashion is not static. We can learn the trends but we can not always account for all the variables. While I would estimate that this photograph was taken mid decade, I could be off by a couple years in either direction. There are many resources out there and many are free! If you are interested in honing your photography skills, check out Mauren Taylor’s website: http://www.maureentaylor.com/ She covers additional photo identifying techniques beyond clothing.

Come back next week to find out more about a specific fashion trend! If you have a topic that you would like me to cover, leave a comment below.

If you missed the first three posts in the series:




 ©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/23/identifying-everyday-clues-in-photographs-part-iv/

Lena’s Postcards #71

Connersville, Indiana, December 21, 1929 5PM

Addressed to:
Mrs. Lena Hackleman
Fayette St.

I am wishing you a Happy Christmas and New Year
Love Beulah H.

[Editor’s note: Due to the impending end of the school year, I am going to take a short vacation from Lena’s Postcards. There are still about 50 cards left in the collection. See you in June!]

©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/17/lenas-postcards-71/


Lena’s Postcards #70

Pontiac, Michigan, August 27, 1927 8PM

Addressed to:
Mrs. Lena Hackleman
Fayette St.

Having a fine time
Bertha Beck

©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/16/lenas-postcards-70/

Lena’s Postcards #69

December 20, 1926 3PM, Rushville, Indiana

Addressed to:
John W. & Lena Hackleman
923 Fayette St.

Rushville, Ind.
We are hoping you are much better & able to enjoy the Christmas Holidays. We are well as usual and wish me might be able to visit you some day.
With love
Julia Shortridge
Ollie McMillin

©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/15/lenas-postcards-69/

Lena’s Postcards #68

Connersville, Indiana, December 31, 1925 12M

Addressed to:
Mr. & Mrs. J.W. Hackleman
923 Fayette St.

From Mrs. Emma Sherry

©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/14/lenas-postcards-68/

Lena’s Postcards #67

Connersville, Indiana, December 22, 1925 8PM

Addressed to:
Mr. & Mrs. J.W. Hackleman
Fayette St.

Seasons Greetings from Ida & Estella Shortridge

©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/13/lenas-postcards-67/

Lena’s Postcards #66


Greensburg, Indiana, December 21, 1925 8 PM

Addressed to:
Mr. & Mrs. J.W. Hackleman
923 Fayette St.

This is to remind you am thinking of you hope both are reasinable well
Nona Burns

©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/12/lenas-postcards-66/

Lena’s Postcards #65

Connersville, Indiana, December 24, 1924, 9AM

Addressed to:
Mrs. Lena Hackleman
923 Fayette St.

Hope this fines you both well as usual Best Wishes for Hubbell family

©2015 copyright by Deborah Sweeney
Post originally found: https://genealogylady.net/2015/05/11/lenas-postcards-65/