was recently sent this wonderful photo from 1913 with the request to research information about their costume and occupation from the photograph. The sender thought the women were
wearing some kind of uniform related to their religion. All I was told
about this old photo was
the known date of 1913.
It's always good to have a known date to the picture, but
the sender needed to clarify ideas about the people in the old photo.
My first reaction was women in mourning dresses and that this was a
family photo taken after the death of perhaps the mother in the family.
Since they are fully grown women it does not seem unreasonable that their mother
had become ill and died. At this point I was not aware
of their identical family surnames, neither did I know the birth dates of all three characters.
women wear identical dresses of the era and this may be because mourning styles
were limited in order to keep them fashionable. On close inspection they
also both appear to be wearing a simple and limited tasteful amount of mourning jewellery.
Itís interesting in that the young women have personalized the
dresses Ė one has removed, or turned-in, the contrast shiny fabric waistband belt.
The dresses also have some decorative elements such as
small pattern guipure lace neckline yokes and deep cuffs of lace, plus decorative button trim.
The mourning dresses have moved beyond the
untrimmed plainest of mourning gowns, indicating that this photo was taken
more than six
first stage mourning. You can read more about Victorians and mourning
fashion on the mourning dress page.
I also thought one other interpretation was that the two
women were shop workers or reception staff or schoolmistresses and had to wear
the same gown for uniformity. For example, they could have been the main
housekeepers in a large manor house or hotel.
jewellery was an important part of mourning dress. On the left we see a dark possibly jet brooch and on the right a black necklace
made of black beads with a black cross.
is unlikely that young women of that age would wear such a totally black 'day' dress
if they were not in mourning.
Their mourning dresses are unlikely to be one piece dresses, but as was
the custom at the time, consisted of two pieces of garments, but still described as
a dress. After 1908 the fullness in dresses became reduced as narrower
fashions emerged. As a result over the next five years more dresses began to be
constructed as one piece gowns. When skirts also shortened c1915/16, frocks were more usually just one piece
especially as waists were elevated.
When made as two pieces the
bodice top was often called a waist and was worn with a fabric matched skirt.
The skirt style is quite fashionable with all those side buttons,
but not as narrow as many dress images of 1913. The blouson bodice style was seen many years before,
but the narrow straight sleeves are of the later Edwardian era.
By 1913 many women were wearing under-the-bust empire line gowns. These
dresses are only very slightly above the waist if at all.
By 1913 a V-neckline was
the most fashionable neckline and the V-neckline was denounced from the pulpit for its
vulgarity. This neckline suggests a respectful, demure and serious approach to the
nature of the event with such an all occasion dress rather than desire to be
fashion conscious with limited use occasion dress.
The manís flower
is probably pinked stiffened silk fabric Ė it has a black
button in the middle which would make it a mourning accessory. For him it
significant outward sign of mourning garb. The photograph may even have
been taken as a family effort to show other family
members that this nuclear family was strong in its unity to the rest of their
family wherever they were in the
world. If the family was large they may also have been the most important
and significant family members. These women may have acted as mothers to
Note that the man has a
large volume of black fabric - a cravat or tie at his neck. From these
thought it fair to assume the sitters were all in mourning dress.
The manís fingers
and fingernails are dirty. The marks on his fingers suggest permanent
scarring such as the blue black marks a coal miner picks up when he cuts himself
and can never rub them clean of coal dust when he washes and thus gains a
permanent 'labour' tattoo.
From this I concluded he must
have been a worker in manual trades rather than say a full time religious preacher
or doctor despite his clean respectable attire.
Look closely at the enlargement of the photo far right and
you will see he
also wears a gold wedding band on his little finger which might be the only
finger his recent wifeís ring would fit.
A few days later I was told that this old photo is of Newton Weddell (1849-1921), Hannah Weddell (1878-1942) the lady on the left, with Mary Weddell (1889-1961) the lady on the right.
Other information I received later about these sitters was
that Newton Weddell was from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. He was a slater and
tiler by profession (which helps explain those permanent black marks on his
fingers). Despite his working class background he was a Freeman of the City
due to his grandfather being a member of the Tanners' Guild. His wife
Jane, with whom he had ten children, died in 1912.
The photograph was sent to
his son William in Australia - the message on it reads "A Merry Xmas and a Happy
New Year from your loving father and sisters."
12 November 2006 Ref P617
If you have any pictures of your family wearing mourning
dress I would be interested in seeing them to add to this page or another page.
I am also seeking volunteered wedding photos/paintings of the era 1800-2000.
For more information on Dating Old Photographs
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