Dating Family Photos from Clothing

If you have some mysterious photos, try dating family photos from clothing,
hairstyles and jewelry. As someone who named her blog after a 1920s line of dresses,
I have some favorite resources on this topic.

1. Fashion-Era.com

The Fashion-Era.com website features multiple pages with specific tips on dating family photos from clothing, hats, and even undergarments. The featured image above comes from their article entitled “The Costume Detective: How to Date a Photograph Using Costume History Example 1 – 1910” by Pauline Weston Thomas.

Other sections of the website are organized by era and use illustrations and text to help pin down a time period.

2. Free Webinar: Clues in the Dress: Dating Photographs from Clothing

Dating Family Photos from Clothing

A 1926 Sassy Jane frocks advertisement.

“Clues in the Dress” is part of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s excellent free webinar series. “Are you a genealogist with unidentified photographs of your ancestors? Leslie Bellais, Curator of Social Life, Wisconsin Historical Museum, will provide you with ways to date those photographs, and possibly figure out which ancestor is being portrayed, by illustrating ways to date the clothing in the images. She will cover men’s clothing as portrayed in photographs from the 1840s to the first decade of the 20th century and women’s clothing through the 1930s.”

The webinar will be presented for the first time on 17 Oct 2018 from 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM PDT. (When you register, it will automatically convert the timezone to the one your computer uses.) To register, click here.

If you cannot attend at that time, the webinar is recorded and will be available at the webinar archives here.

3. Landscape Change Program, University of Vermont

Don’t be fooled by the title. The University of Vermont’s Landscape Change Program offers thousands of online images arranged by decade. The program is funded by the National Science Foundation to digitally document how the Vermont landscape has changed over time. Fortunately for genealogists, this includes many photographs of people and fashion, conveniently arranged by decade:
1850s | 1860s | 1870s | 1880s | 1890s | 1900s | 1910s | 1920s | 1930s | 1940s | 1950s

4. Crow’s Eye Productions

Dating Family Photos from ClothingCrow’s Eye Productions creates videos showing what it was like to get dressed in different times in history. Crow’s Eye Productions was “established by Nick Loven in 2005 to bring alive history through beautifully crafted videos using historically accurate period costume and locations.” Creators of the “Getting Dressed in…” series, this site can provide context to your research in Europe in different centuries.

5. Vintage Victorian

Victorian Era aficionados unite at Vintage Victorian website. Founded in 1989 by Catherine Bishop, Vintage Victorian produces historical reproduction clothing, accessories, period fashion reference books, as well as doing restoration work on period outfits. “Our interest primarily focuses on 19th and early 20th Century fashion, although our portfolio of designs includes items from the 18th through the mid-20th Centuries.” The site’s library is arranged by the following categories:

For other Sassy Jane posts about dating family photos, click here.

About the Author:

Nancy Loe has an MA in American History and an MLS in Library Science and Archives. She has appeared on PBS’s American Experience, at Rootstech, SCGS Jamboree, and state and regional genealogy conferences. Her website was featured in Family Tree Magazine's “Social Media Mavericks: 40 to Follow.”

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