Two Sisters?

Gems 12

Similar dresses

These two women have similarly styled dresses, which leads me to believe they may be sisters or another close relative.

Side portrait of a lovely lady

Side portrait of a lovely lady

Here we see a dress that looks to have been made of velvet or other napped fabric. The bodice is embellished with trims and buttons, many details to look at here. Her hair is dressed into an arrangement, then appears to be covered with a net and decorative headband. It reminds me of the Renaissance style of hair covering called a hood, but really only in a tangential way. A hood has a lot more going on with it than we see above.

Gems 12 - Girl

A younger sister perhaps?

The jawlines on these two ladies look very similar, plus with the nicely made clothing and also both wearing earrings, I am thinking more that these are sisters.

Two men and a lady

Gems 11

Two fine men and a fine lady

This page was one of the reasons I so wanted to own this little gem album. I just love the two men pictured. There is so much to look at!

A couple of pals

A couple of pals

Or perhaps they were brothers, I don’t know. I love the clothing layers, the hats, the pipe in the one fellow’s mouth. Both are wearing three piece suits of clothing, which was much more common way back when. The coat, vest, shirt, tie and slacks didn’t always have to coordinate either. The man on the left is wearing a type of hat I think is called a campaign or slouch hat. It looks a bit like a fedora or a homburg, all popular styles of hats in the later part of the century. The hat was made of wool and could be shaped to the wearer’s liking. The man on the right in the picture above is wearing a wheel cap, which I believe evolved out of or at the same time as the forage cap.

Hats of course were once a required accessory for ladies and gentlemen going out of doors. Originally, hats were designed for warmth and comfort, but humans being fickle, we quickly began designing them for style and ceremony as well. 19th century hats ran the gamut, from the simple newsboy to the formal silk top hat, and everywhere in between. Some hats were ceremonial and worn only for special occasions, other hats were commonplace and used for every day wear. It was a very personal choice which hat to purchase. These two fellows chose two very different, but very perfect hat styles.

Gems 11 - Woman

Lovely ringlets

Juxtaposed with the sort of fraternity boy looking pair is this lovely lady. She has a strong jaw, but not hard. Her hair is parted in the center, drawn back into an arrangement, and then features long ringlets dangling from both sides. This was a very popular hair style in the 1870s. The curls were often times separate items that could be attached once the bulk of the hair was made into a chignon. Ladies magazines advertised these and women also could make them at home of their own hair. I have made ringlets like this and they are very delicate once formed, but oh so beautiful and softening to the face. We cannot overlook her bodice though. She has a small white banded collar beneath the bodice neckline, both fastened together with a very large brooch. Below the brooch you can see the tip of a decorative panel in the bodice, style I have seen on dresses from the 1860s through the 1880s.

More Information

Hat History via

Peaked cap, aka wheel cap?

Glossary of hat names

Two dashing fellows

Gems 10

Mr Left and Mr Right

I believe photographs were used sometimes on calling cards as a way to impress the young lady of interest to a young man. These two fellows dressed nicely for their images to be made, I suppose so they could share the images and thereby be certain Miss Susie Jones would remember them. Or so I like to think.

A half portrait

A half portrait

Up first, Mr Left sat for a half portrait, which is essentially half his body. A full portrait would obviously be his whole body, a bust shows the shoulders up. The seated pose allowed the subject to project an official air, or perhaps something more distinguished if that was desired. Mr Left rested his elbow on the chair back and that is the white patch you see in his underarm area. It is a fine portrait and hopefully helped with the heart of his lady love.

Oh, Mr Right!

Oh, Mr Right!

While he looks a bit young and wet behind the ears, Mr Right surely impressed the ladies with his pinkened cheeks and fine brow. His hair looks to have been slightly curly and oiled into obedience. While his face is solemn for the portrait, it looks as though he could quickly smile and charm even the most stern spinster.

Pretty up-do

Gems 9

A soft and gentle up-do and a stern looking neighbor

There is no telling who put these photos into the album and what their thinking was at the time. Did they organize the photos to show relationships or friendships? Were they just putting them in to get a handle on all the tiny photos? Who knows. These two women look like polar opposites, if you ask me! One is soft and round with a floral hair piece, the other angular and stern with a high necked dress. I like to imagine they were both lovely people under the skin.

Gems 9 - up do

Beautiful dreamer

This young woman looks to have an off-the-shoulder dress – perhaps a ball gown – because we can see her full neck and part of the décolletage . Her hair has been pulled back in a soft fashion, and features a floral accent at her center part. You can just see something like a ribbon trailing down the back of her hair and down her back. This could have been an engagement photo, a coming-out photo for a debutante, or other special occasion.

Gems 9 - Stern

Don’t mess with Texas… just kidding

Even though this photo makes the subject look stern, she has an unlined brow and no wrinkles, so she couldn’t have been described as “pinched” by her friends. She also probably has fine hair that just collapses on itself when pulled back into a bun. Mine does. Her band collar is white against a colored dress, with large contrasting buttons and a brooch. So, while she gives the appearance of being someone you don’t want to mess with, I bet she was incredibly nice and a great friend.

Two Civil War Women

Gems 8

Let’s call them Susan and Jane

In an unidentified album I sometimes give the photo subjects names, just for my own entertainment. I name the women traditional names, like Susana and Jane, Martha and Mary. Men I have fun with because men’s traditional names are so very different from our modern names. Herman, Harold, Josephus, Isaiah, Eustace….all great, traditional names. All difficult for a modern boy to grow up with!

Gems 8 - left

Young Susan

This young woman I have named Susan. She has a beautiful bodice with trim applied in a chevron pattern across the bust. This was fashionable and reflects the trends at the time. Many women decorated their dresses with trim in the bosom area to draw attention. I’m guessing this might be right after the war based on her hairstyle, which appears to be wider toward the top of the head rather than along the jawline. Her cheeks were tinted by the photographer.

Gems 8 - Right

Not so plane Jane

Jane here has a lovely, serene look to her face, but I bet she could bust out in a laugh quickly. She almost appears to be smirking. She has a cleft in her chin. Her hair is pulled back in an arrangement on the back of her head and bound with a ribbon, which may have been decorative rather than functional. Her collar appears to be a fold over collar and is fastened with a brooch. I’m going to say her dress was green, just because. :-)

Two young men

Gems 7

Two young men, one with fluffy hair

Two young men, one younger than the other, share this page in our Red Gem album.

Gems 7 - boy


It is unfortunate that these gems seem to tend toward off center, because I’d like to see the whole person. This young man, maybe an early teenager, has nicely slicked hair and a tidy suit. His bow tie is small above a dark colored coat. The unknown photographer tinted his cheeks to show the bloom of youth on his face.

Gems 7 - Man

This is quite a hair do

This fellow has a slightly different tie than his page-mate. It is a style that tucked under the collar of his shirt, a style that was popular throughout much of the Victorian era. His hair, though, is what captures my attention. When a man has curly hair, it is sometimes difficult to keep it under control. Heck, when a woman has curly hair it is sometimes difficult to keep it under control, haha. Haircare products in the 19th century were nothing like they are today. Hair was pomaded and waxed with various treatments made with wax, grease, oil and various other preparations intended to bend the hair into the form the wearer desired. While they were often given fragrances to help an individual smell good, they still could be heavy and weigh down the hair. This particular gentleman does not appear to have used any sort of hair oil. His hair is really puffy! One wonders why he didn’t just cut it very short, but we must remember that men’s hair was worn a bit longer at this point in history. Prospective lady friends must have thought his hair was dreamy and romantic.


Gems 6

Two fashionable women, one fashionable young lady

I love looking at these images because I can learn so much about historical clothing (which I love). Today’s page from the Red Gem album shows us a pair of ladies on the left and a single young lady on the right. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Gems 6 - ladies

Pill box hats

It is unfortunate that the photo seems to have been made slightly off center, because we can’t see the left hand woman as well as the right hand one. But there is so much to see! The lady who we can see well, on the right, is wearing some sort of saque coat made of some sort of fluffy material. First, a saque coat is a coat that buttons with one or two buttons close to the neckline. They are large and loose garments, perfect to go over large sleeves or embellished bodices. Of course there is no reason one could not have worn a saque coat over a simple bodice with narrow sleeves, just that the unfitted body of the coat lent itself to covering without crushing. I can’t quite tell what kind of material it was made from. I asked some of the historical clothing experts I know, and discovered it could be Persian lamb or some sort of novelty woven wool.  Now I’m picturing the novelty faux fur fabrics at the local fabric store. Whatever it was, it has an unusual look, and might have been included in the photograph for that reason. Her hair is pulled back to the back of her head and she is wearing a pillbox hat. Her companion has on a lovely checked fabric dress with a straight buttoned front and white collar. I have a dress similar to this in blue and white check, so that is of course how I picture this dress. The Checkered Lady also has on what appears to be a pillbox hat, or possibly something with a very small brim. My friends who helped out with the ID on the saque coat estimated the date of this photo to be just after the war, so 1865 or 66.

Gems 6 - Girl

The girl next door

Their page neighbor wears a very typical and fashionable example of 1860s clothing for young women. The trims going across her bust and shoulders were intended to emphasize width in opposition with the large skirt, thereby making the waist look small. She has coordinating trim at the wrists of her sleeves. It is difficult to tell if the buttons of her bodice were functional or not, but they appear to be large and may even have been made of the same fabric as the dress. Her hair is parted in the center and drawn back over her ears, then allowed to fall loose down her back.

While I don’t have any fun links for you today, if you are on Facebook and wish to learn more about civilian clothing, you might be interested in a group called The Civilian Civil War Closet. There are several fashion historians on the site (like, literally historians who work at museums and stuff!), as well as experienced seamstresses and experienced living history demonstrators. It is extremely educational and I have learned quite a lot from them!

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