If you’re hitting a brick wall when it comes to identifying family members in old photos from the Victorian era, you’re not alone. Even the most seasoned family historian will run into this headscratcher from time to time as Victorian fashions throughout the time period can look very similar to the untrained eye. Every fashionable gentleman could be seen wearing narrowly tailored sack suits during the 1870s. It got us thinking…we create a similar list of useful tips for dating photographs?You have used such a variety of methods in dating the featured photos that we thought you’d like to share them in one place and help out those who are new to the ‘craft’.Some fashion features neatly typify decades, for example men's side partings and women's ringlets in the 1840s, men's centre partings and women's leg-of-mutton sleeves in the 1890s.Certain features are time limited, such as crinoline frames worn only for eleven years from 1856 to 1867, soft bustles gathered up by internal ribbons in the early 1870s, artificial hairpieces from around 1869 to 1874, fishtail trains on dresses c1876-80, stiff angular bustles over steel frames c1881-6, and the introduction of female fringes and hair frizzing in the 1880s.Please bring photographs with you to the lecture and we will all try to date them for you using the techniques outlined in the presentation.
Knowledge of the history of photography in terms of various processes and their dates of introduction, styles of image produced such as the carte-de-visite, and the size of images most popular at different times, can also be brought to bear.This was especially true in the 1840s when men’s clothing offered tightly tailored coats and trousers. What to look for: Single-breasted, semi-fitted coats falling to mid-thigh. Older gentlemen still wore frock coats, but younger conservative men would sometimes do so, as well. In the early 1840s, shirts contained high straight collars with thin cravats worn in a bow tie style. 1850s men’s fashion was still considered formal, but clothing was looser, less tailored and made a statement with embellishments. Shirt collars were still worn high and starched with tips turned down into wings during the earlier part of the 1890s. Determining an approximate date may help you to know whether the woman in the photo is your grandmother or your great-grandmother. Fashion, especially women’s fashion, was very distinctive in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.Becoming familiar with certain popular silhouettes enables one to assign a date range to a photograph, thus helping to identify those pictured.