I love Sepia Saturday because it keeps me posting at least once a week when life gets hectic. This week’s prompt features Boadecea (Celtic queen of the Iceni tribe which rebelled against Roman rule in Britain, AD 60 or 61). At least, it features an actress dressed as Boadecea, since photography was invented a couple thousand years after Boadecea’s heroic acts in the name of Britain.

Of course I have lots of pictures in costume, just not many from the 19th century. The amazing Cabinet Card Gallery features tons of cabinet cards of actors and actresses in various costumes. Since I have more modern photos, I thought I’d share one that has been in my family for many years.

Pioneer family

Pioneer family

This photo was incredibly difficult to photograph because the glass reflected every little glare! You can still see my hands and camera, I apologize. It is framed professionally so not possible to remove the photo for scanning.

The photo itself was taken in the late ’70s. Visitors who know anything about historical fashion will immediately question the dating because Mother there is wearing an Edwardian dress and hat! As well you should, this is MY family in the 1970s, hehe. I have done this to you before, Sepians, but this photo was actually taken by a professional photographer and gave us an idea of what it might have been like to sit for a portrait 100 years prior.

We were in a little town somewhere in the Western US, maybe in Colorado. I don’t really remember. The dresses are over our regular clothing and nothing matched. My sister’s dress was a turkey red and mine was a light pink. My mother’s dress was either lavender or light blue. My dad has a black drape over his legs to make it look like he is wearing slacks. I can remember thinking it a long and arduous process because the photographer would come and rearrange a tiny detail, go back and look through the camera, come back and rearrange a tiny detail, etc etc. The original photographers really did think of themselves as artists and arranged photographs with composition and imagery in mind. Then of course we got the giggles. It was very difficult to not smile, in particular for young girls with lots of energy. But also, we were relatively spoiled at this point by instant photographs. The concept of not smiling and holding still were so foreign to us, it was difficult to hold it for just a few minutes.

Regardless, this photograph hung in my parent’s home for 30-some years. When they moved to a smaller home, I took the photo and now it hangs in my house. Most people don’t think it is anything but an antique photo depicting a loving family. I love that my mother had it framed to look antique, as well. One day it will be in actuality an antique photo, haha, but at this point it is a neat family treasure.

For more photos of people in costumes, click over to Sepia Saturday. You will be happy you did!

Playing around


Catherine Shull


This CdV from the 1860s is identified as Catherine Shull. I picked this one up because I found her dress bodice to be really unusual. It almost looks as though she is wearing a black corset on the outside of her dress. Since I know that would never happen, my next guess is that she has on what is called a corselet/corslet, Swiss body or Swiss waist. For young women, a popular fashion was this large belt-corset hybrid.

The corselet was boned in the center front and and back, laced in front, and they were worn on the outside of a garment, quite often over a Garibaldi style blouse. They first were shown in fashion magazines as early as 1860 (Peterson’s), but were called girdles or belts. Later magazines called them a corselet or corslet depending on the editor’s preference, and others referred to the blouse fabric as being Swiss and another referred to it as “a body in the Swiss style”. To further confuse matters, a “waist” was what we now know as a blouse. This is a difficult item to research, and I have discovered that many people in the historical reenactment and costume reproduction community prefer to call this a Swiss waist for some reason. 19th century corselet’s were made of all manner of fabrics, with velvet, silk satin, silk taffeta and silk brocade being popular choices. Some had little sleeve caps that went on the upper arm while others simply cinched the waist. I imagine that this garment was a particularly titilating item, as it caused the waist to appear small and the bust to appear large.

Miss Shull posed for the Collins gallery at Number 8 South Salina Street, Syracuse NY. The gallery was located over Everson’s Hardware store. There are a number of Catherine Shulls living in New York with a birth year in the 1840s. I am guessing she is between 15-20 years of age in this photo. Unfortunately, there are so many Catherine Shulls, it is unlikely we can truly identify which one this one is.

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