Photo Dating by
of this page :
To Date Your Photo
Other Time In History - is a list of clothing items or fashion
fads, that are seen "only
in" a or "only after" a specific time.
Of Photographs From Each Decade For Men, Women And Children to help date
photographs on your own.
References and review.
Samples In Photographs by Decade
Always a work in
progress, please visit often. We apologist for any long periods between entries
some times medical issues prevail.
up date 05/04/2017
and Focus. To gather historic and fashion information to determine a period
in which a photo was taken and boil it down to as little reading as possible by
creating tables and timelines. The historic information helps us to remember the
fashions that are effected by those events. Well, I did that and it was too
complex to put into tables so I decided to remove the table timelines and
collect photos from each decade and list the clothing items. With this method,
the decade that has the most clothing matching your photograph is the decade
your photo was taken. You will see that each decade has some terms from the last
and some new terms and as more decades pass, you will see the change in clothes,
I like the word morph for these gradual changes.
Predicaments. You may have inherited old
photographs in perfect condition or maybe a photograph of a photograph or Xerox
copy and want to know the date. The very first place to
research should be to read the History of Photographic
processes. This will narrow down the era of your photo immediately or at the
very minimum, be an important fact in building your case for one era over
another. Also learning new terminology, to aid in your search for items in your
In the case of
copies of an original photograph, the clues to what the
photographic process was or what the photograph was made of, may be lost, maybe
not. Sometimes it's still obvious what
it is made of, if
you know what to look for. If it is lost, we only have and must turn to the contents of the photograph. The
photographic style of the photographer, the fashions, fashion accessories and
objects in the photograph. As we said in the History of
Photographic Methods, photo dating begins in 1839 when the first photograph was
taken. The Daguerreotype camera was the first commercially-manufactured
camera. Photos at this time (early 40s are rare, so more than likely your research could
begin in the mid forties early 50s).
What qualifies us to determine the date of photographs? First reason is,
since we have been restoring photographs since 1999, we have seen thousands
of photos of our clients with known dates, and developed a sense
for the time period by exposure. We don't claim to be authorities on the topic and
haven't written books about fashion, which is why we can see the dilemmas your
facing easier, researching and clarifying what we find here. After researching the topic
of photo dating and fashions for nine years we are slowly becoming experts by osmosis. As we said, our goal is to simply information
found about the subject in one place for our
clients. We create tables when they work, with this information to help you in your
efforts to determine the date of your photos.
date, you can now match it to a known relative on the family tree. Any information
this subject is found on the World Wide Web and books we have read and
observations of our client photos. We give
credits where it's due at the end of this page with commentary on each book and
website, if we had any comment. As we learn and gather more, we add on to this section of our
site (always a work in progress). This is just a really good place to start your
search, it may save you from buying books, that after reading it, it didn't
apply to your photo. If you belong to a genealogy society suggest to the society
to buy the books and have a photo dating meeting. I would think that would be
great fun! Try and find a minimum of three sources for proof, that back up your conclusions on why
you think your photograph is from a particular era. Too many sites have
contradictions, from people who earnestly think they know what they are talking
about like e-bay and esty. If
you find information that is seriously wrong here, please let us know. Restorations@photosmadeperfect.com
To Date Your Photo
a photo dating
file and work sheet per photo
a copy of your photo so that you are not handling the original. You will
need it for conversations about photo dating in your research, also a
digital copy to share online.
the obvious, establishing and estimating a date range in columns of two decades.
physical properties estimating a date range and add to one column
the fashion terms you see and add to the date range established and add to
either one or both columns. This will establish were in the decade your
photo falls. In the beginning in the middle or peak or the ending of a decade.
analyze photos with known dates to
your photograph, Xerox a copy and attach to file as proof.
- Research objects in photo,
jewelry, spectacles, props and hairdos etc. write down finding in
either of the columns and record information of where the information was
found as proof.
record resources of a minimum of three agreeing on
the same fashion era and record in corresponding column.
down questions you have for future conversations and research in the file.
column with the most arguments for an era is the decade your image was taken
detail reading on this outline.....
To determine a date, create a file
folder and with a clean sheet of paper,
and draw two columns with the two decades you mostly believe to be the date of
your photo. Just like a lawyer, argue a case for each decade. Scan, enlarge and
copy the photo in question and staple it to the folder, as you learn about
fashion you can draw arrows with quick notes so you don't have to dig through
articles. Then research the fashion terms (such as wide sleeves) in the photo and add them to one or the
other column until you can determine which decade has the most items in it.
Match it with the information you have on the relative, that you suspect it is.
stay focused on facts, backed up by photos to your claims to a specific date when dating a
photograph and list them as short sentences not a history lesson. Attach
photos of proof and keep a record of where the information was found.
Your folder should have, your photo copy, your argument
worksheet, list of resources where each item of proof was found. You may think you'll find
it again and maybe you will, but don't take the chance that the page is no longer
in service or the site is now charging for information. One way to capture the
information is to take a photo of the computer screen with your phone and print
that out. Another options is to copy and paste it to Word program and print it from there. This
practice is okay if it's only for your personal use. Be mindful of copyright restrictions.
Note physical properties first, that's the easiest. What is your
photo made of? Cooper, glass, tin or paper? etc. See "History of
Photographic Processes" for detailed descriptions of how to tell what you
Trends. Remember that trends in fashions, hairstyles and facial
hair, often overlapped. Some individuals find a hair style that works for them
and never change it, in their entire life. I know, I can think of a few in my
life and some clients have confirmed this with many photos of one an ancestor
through-out their life, never changed the hairstyle in seventy years. Magazine
covers exaggerate styles just like today and were circulated very slowly,
particularly if one lived in rural area. Take note of decades in which wars
took place, fashions were influenced by war uniforms. Be mindful of repeating
styles. The style says one decade but the physical properties of the
photograph say another decade. I have seen copies of 1840 daguerreotype photos
on 1870 card mounts. Note where the relative lived, town versus country
fashions and rich versus poor. American lag behind European fashions
about a year.
On your worksheet estimate, note, the sitters
age, estimating their birth year by recognizing facial features that
are clues to what decade of life their in, like jowls, deep laugh lines and
crows feet. List objects in the image, like
what type of flooring, describe the background, what objects are they holding
or leaning on. These are all words to search for. This sounds easy enough
if you know what you are looking at to describe it. You have to train
yourself, what to look for, to determine a date range. On this page you will
find sewing/fashion terms table. We found a website about vintage
sewing, re-enacting, and costuming. All eager to learn, teach and experience
the joy of sewing something period and wearing it to a era themed event, and
they were key to putting a name to what you are looking at. Make note if they
are pregnant, a clue to the next generation and the jewelry present too can be
Describe the clothes. Sounds simple but if you are not aware of fashion
terms, you will look at it and say obvious general terms. Example, a sleeve, can
be described as having many parts, what kind of sleeve or what kind of skirt,
what is the hair doing, is there a part and are the ears covered? So reading
here was your first step, if you can't find it here
then it's time to search
for whatever it is that I don't have here. You may want to let us now about your
particular photo so we can post it and describe it here for others to see. You will come
across sites that show you in detail the type of sleeves that were popular from
1860 through 1880s. The bustle period was1880-1889, search for bustle. If
your search is for men's fashion the same applies, search for men's fashions
like top hat, "jacket lapels wiki" etc. Keep in mind, that as in today's photos for
example, you could have a photo of someone in the 1970s that is wearing clothes
from the 1950's or be in theater with a costume on. You may want to simply look for photos in the time period you
suspect your photo is in and see if the clothes, objects or style look like your
There are a million places to find conversations/blogs,
articles, and books about fashion history and most of them are focused on a
specific time period or type of clothing.
Terms and Eras
was my experience that when reading articles, blog's and books that may hint at
explaining clothes of specific eras, and fashion terms, that in the author's efforts to avoid being
repetitive or not wanting to commit to a specific era, chose broad terms to describe
a period and many ways of describing
the same era. This was very confusing for me. Below is a
table that I hope will be helpful to relieve some of the confusion when you search. This could be a handy place to return
to or put a table like this in your photo dating file.
researching some of these personalities and social movements, you can see samples
of clothing. If you have a photo of a nurse for example, think of nursing
personalities or events that may show photos of a nurses uniform of that time
period. If it's not the same uniform then at least you know what decade it's
Knowing the names of
the parts of a dress will help you identify a decade. I started creating
tables with the definitions of fashion terms and then realized that particular
names of fashion items would change from one decade to the next. I remember in
the 60's for women, narrow pants below the knee were called "peddle pushers" and
now the are called "capri's". In my mother's hay day strapless shoes were called
mules, I asked her why and she said because you could kick them off. Look at your photograph and describe
the parts and assign one term for it, for less confusions. When discussing your
photo with someone remember they may have a different name for what you a describing,
that's why you need a copy of your photo in your file (not the original). Find the photograph
with the most fashion terms matching your photograph and you have the decade of
Eras, commonly used in conversations about fashion
(copy this and stick it in your file
if it helps you)
- 1901, much
of world, same time period
- 1861 pre-civil war years
(Great War) -
War II -
Events and Personalities Effecting Fashions
- 1901 Victorian Era Prince Albert mourned 1861
- 1881 Rational Dress Reform
- 1865 Civil war, economy falls, Suffragettes 1865-1928
- 1877 Reconstruction Era
- 1910 Edwardian Era 1912, Titanic Sinks
- 1918 WWI - Influenza Pandemic, Jazz Age
- 1945 WWII - Amelia Earhart
Personalities to study and compare their clothes
Alexander Graham Bell
and Politicians – Lincoln,
setters - Amelia
Right Activist -
Susan B. Anthony,
Oakley, Wild Bill (Western wear)
Earp, Jessie James, Bonny and Clyde
History – General
Dress Reform - Amelia Bloomer
Other Time In History is a list of clothing items or fashion
fads, that are seen "only
in" a or "only after" a specific time.
So if you have photographs with any of these items it will help you narrow down
or dismiss any decade you had in mind or you can research the item further.
After 1840, pants with drop front button flaps
are never seen again with the exception of sailors.
After 1840 lapels on men's jackets with the
"M" notch are rarely seen.
After 1850 pagoda sleeves were out of
After 1860 Round floor length hoop skirts were out
After 1865 (Civil War) and not so much after
1880's, veterans and freed slaves
headed West looking for work and found it driving cattle, they became the first American cowboys.
They work bandana's for the dust, leather chaps on their legs, dungarees and
In May 20, 1873 Levi Strauss patented blue jeans,
(denim, dungarees) mostly worn by gold miners, farmers and cowboys.
After 1913 President Theodore
Roosevelt, an avowed Audubon Society sympathizer, and a widespread
letter-writing campaign driven by church associations, many of whom distributed
the Audubon message in their various newsletters, the plume trade was halted by
such laws as the New York State Audubon Plumage Law (May 1910), which banned the
sales of plumes of all native birds in the state. By 1920, similar laws were
enacted in about 12 other states. Audubon Society activities are responsible for
many laws for the establishment of game commissions and game warden forces, or
prohibiting the sale of game. In conclusion between the periods of 1910 and 1920
the use of birds in ladies fashion that date it was likely a re-worked
After 1918 (WWI) names of ships on sailor
hats were no longer used. They switched to just "US NAVY"
After 1918 (WWI) beards became unpopular due to
health/sanitary concerns in the trenches with lice.
After 1933 cars lost that square look early cars
In Photographs By Decade
Return to "My
Activities in Period Clothing"
War Fashion Glossary/Images/Events
Star Enterprises- Early Bustle Era Dresses 1868-1876
Collier’s Cyclopedia 1901 “Victorian Mourning Customs”
References and Review:
I have read the following books for my research in creating a new work, here at
Photos Made Perfect. Here you can find the topics of Photo Dating 101 which are the
physical properties of determining the age of a photograph, History of
Photographic Processes". Then a pages of
photo dating by fashions and other miscellaneous photo dating items.
My reviews for the
following books are focused on the photo dating for the genealogist, not necessarily
on the history of fashions, cultural influence of fashions or value of the
fashions or the value photograph itself. The thought behind these reviews
is to help the genealogist sift through the best books that will aid in photo
dating. They are all good and each has a slant on topics with specific interest.
So why promote the books you ask? Well, you can pretty much date any photograph with the information here on my site
to begin that's my whole point. However, these books offer more by going into
more detail about a specific topic that pertains to what your looking for. These
books offer amusing insights to why clothes morphed which helps to retain what
you learned easily. Also buying these books you have access to the photographs
to do as you wish with them, some people cut them out and frame them or use them
as book marks. My site is less yak with the emphasis on visual samples with to
the point sentences.
If you would like me to read and comment
on your book (only as the pertain to photos ), just mail it to us
free of charge and we will add it to this column after we have had a chance to
read it. Top of column, most recently reviews. If you want more information on a
particular book, click or call, I don't mind sharing more, I could only say so
much here. 619-397-7600.
Last Update was on 10/21/2016
Fashions for Women and Children Society's
Impact on Dress by Linda Setnik.
At first glance, without reading it,
the images used, makes for a nice coffee table book. Through out the book
were glossy pages with large images, some in color, most in sepia tones of the
era so you could see details, which is the point of
dating clothes that other books have lack. I really liked
that the children's chapter more in-depth, which I find other books to be
weak in. Also there were more fashion terms used not found in other books
which is always good to know more. She includes price guide for collectors
of vintage clothing and images of clothing construction.
Costume 1860-1900 for Ladies, revised and expanded 2nd edition. Also
by Linda Setnik.
This book was in black in white (harder to
see detail), a treasure trove of historic research and more beautiful
photographs. Both books
emphasize fashion history. Information about the physical
properties of photo dating is included. Her credentials are excellent.
Author is a
consultant for a museum and graduated with honors in history.
Victorian Costume in Early Photographs by Priscilla Harris Dalrymple.
Unique photos to possible find the fashion your looking for. Author is
a collector of photographs. Excellent source for finding that one garment
your looking for and a back up as a second source to what you already
know. Copyright 1991.
of Style by Betty Kreisel Shubert
book for fashion terms.
light reading and amusing stories.
I particularly like her credentials and excellent illustrations by
her, she is a customer designer for Hollywood.
named by KIRKUS REVIEWS' BEST BOOKS OF 2013!
Old Jewelry 1840-1950 by C. Jeanenne Bell.
If the photo your
trying to date has a really good close up of jewelry, you will want to
look at what I have here on my sight and if not you will want this book.
How to Buy Photographs by Stuart Bennett
wish list to read
for the Photographer by Joan Severa
because of images of everyday people fashions instead of famous, rich people in
formal portraits or magazines that really does not reflect reality, just like the
and Costumes from Godey's Lady's Book by Stella Blum.
Mostly black and white fashion plate drawings and 8 glossy fashion
plates in color. I like it again for a secondary source for the period of
1837-1869 including children.
17, 1886 “Mourning and Funeral Usages”, Death in the Victorian
Family” by Pat Jalland.
life in Victorian England”
by Sally Mitchell
in everyday life 1876-1915” by Thomas J. Schlereth
may recognize morning clothes in your photo and want to read about “Death,
Grief and Mourning”
by Geoffrey Gorer. 1965 Doubleday.
Miscellaneous photo dating items here.
Bonnets and Hats by Maureen A. Taylor
Beautiful collection of women's hats that you
won't find in the internet. Many photos from the Library of Congress.
I would like to have seen more photo dating
remarks with each sample.
Godey's Ladies edited by Robert Kunciov
I like Godey's books because he was there! It's great that people like
this author published it again. Mostly drawings and fashion plates.
Good for photo dating but best for costumers and seamstresses.
Way They Were: Dressed in 1860-1865 Volume 2 by Donna J. Abraham
I like this author because she gave a lengthily description on how she
came to be a teacher of civil war fashions, so I felt it was very
credible. The personal collection of her photos was staggering, nicely
done so you can see details she spoke about. Too bad it was only 2
|An Illustrated History of Hairstyles
1830-1930 by Marian I Doyle
I haven't read this one, the title explains itself.
You need this book, when all you have is a very tiny bust shot
with no real detail of the clothes.
Bazar 1867-1898 by Edited and with Introduction by Stella Blum. 1000
This book measures 9 1/2 x 12 so
the illustrations were huge! Dates and description of the dresses not a lot of
yak, perfect for photo dating. All drawings black and white.
Photographs, second edition by Robert Pols.
I liked this book because it confirmed my findings in the internet and
touched on a little bit of all the topics of photo dating that found most
helpful, like the physical properties in the section here at this site "History
of Photography Methods" and photographer style and props. There
weren't very many photo samples and they were small but it was loaded with information
in charts that were hard to read. I read this book many years ago and
still reference it today. Emphasis was on technical photography style and
processes. No credentials stated, sound very much like a photography buff.
Fashion, the definitive history of costume and style.
love this book because it is over the top, for the attention deficit reader, an
encyclopedia of fashion designers and timelines, for the professional interested
in fashion history. The images will blow you away. It reads like a magazine with
short paragraphs. It covers daywear, evening wear, sports wear, and FYI, nothing
about children. two years of shoes and purses. It started with ancient world
which takes up half the book, then to include timelines and designers up to the
present. It's impossible to do any era justice in 2 pages. Photo dating
for the genealogist just trying to get a date from 1840 to 1950, not so much. A
good resource for secondary confirmation if you find what applies to