I love antique photos. You can learn so much about how things have changed, and again how little has. We inherited 3 trunks of photos from the late 1800's to the 1940s and 50's. Most came from an enigmatic, extremely hard working but photo-loving woman named Lena, an ancestor of my husband, born in 1879. She had more contacts, more postcards (several hundreds) and more photos of herself taken than anyone who is not a well know celebrity. She seems to have collected antique photos from all around her. She unfortunately didn't identify many, only writing "Lena" on many given to her. I think she assumed she would remember, and of course after that it wouldn't matter!

We are still sorting through all the stuff trying to piece together Lena's fascinating and sometimes tragic life. Meanwhile, here are a variety of photos, including some of the highest (and lowest!) fashion.

I have also included the very old family photos I have from my mom's side of the family.

I hope you enjoy, and thank you for visiting my blog.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

My Favorite Photo; and Wasp Waisted Women

 This first photo is fun. It reminds me of David and Goliath. The child looks so small and demur next to that huge auto!

The next  photo shows a lady with a naturally small waist. She was a maid and housekeeper at Napa Mental Hospital around 1906, and was a friend of Lena (see the earliest blog posts). 

The second photo demonstrates how the corset could artificially produce a tiny waist.

  The corset was worn continuously from the 1600s to the 1960's by most ladies aspiring to women's own dictates regarding  the Well Dressed Lady. If worn correctly, the corset was  supposed to produce a waist the size of which a man could enclose with his two hands.
   Women (generally seamstresses) actually designed and sewed  most of the corsets themselves. The dowagers and mavens of high society enforced the definition of the successful lady in those circles, which included a tightly laced corset. Doctors and other outspoken gentlemen generally decried the use of corsets, but for a misogynist reason: they felt that women would be able to produce fewer children if their "womb was pressed upon." Since churning out babies was considered the female's primary task, and value, one can find a lot of literature objecting to corsets, especially during the Victorian era.

    Those women who succumbed to society's dictates certainly experienced some major physical problems. Fainting and shortness of breath were inevitable, considering how tightly the corsets were laced.  Stomach and bowel problems were constant, given the much diminished internal space allowed for those organs. All this contributed to men's admonishments against corsets, and contrarily  made women who wore them seem more "delicate," which was valued by the male sex as it made them feel more masculine in comparison.

Thank you for visiting my blog. Chris


  1. The original intent of corsets sounds so painful! Glad they've evolved into pretty, decorative garments (sometimes uncomfortable, but definitely not a health risk) instead.

  2. it's a great way to preserve old photographs on a blog! i like the fact we know more about these people. it's also like a history lesson to me :)