7/08/2008

Photo of the week - Lady with muff

Date: circa 1910
Photographer: Marius Cristensen
Sitter: Unknown
Provenience: Copenhagen, Denmark

Nothing is known about the lady posing for this picture, but the photo itself reveals a few good details about the lady in question and the setting of the picture.

It is a studio-picture from Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark and the photo uses the newer spelling of the city: København, instead of the older form Kjöbenhavn. That alone tells us that the photo is from this side of 1900. The clothing the woman is wearing tells the rest.

The lady is wearing a dark, velvet jacket, hat, gloves and a muff - she is dressed to go out. She has on one of those long and slim skirts that was the big craze around 1910, made to accentuate the female figure, and really hard to walk in. The jacket gives her the typical post-Victorian, pre-World War I silhouette, the S-shape (it is more easily seen in women dressed in dresses, but is very prominent here too).
That she is a lady of the higher classes goes without saying, the skirt could belong to most women at the time - and when you went to get your photo taken you wore your best clothes after all - but not the jacket. A velvet jacket was not something owned by everyone. The motif is actually a sure sign in itself too. Taking a photo of yourself, with or without the rest of the family, was something most people did by now. It was popular to give photos of yourself to friends and family, to send them to people far away and so on. But it was not necessarily cheap and most people could not do it that often. That meant that when you did do it, it was serious business and you put your best clothes on. There was really no point in showing yourself in the same clothes as you had when you walked down the street any other day, you went for your Sunday best. And you never wore out-door wear on the photo since that would hide the clothes that very likely had cost you more than your coat.

This is a lady who plans to take more than one photo, one who can afford it and therefore has the opportunity to choose to show herself off in this manner too.

Anyone interested in fashion-history must be grateful.

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