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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    early 1800's daguerreotypes as records of the era's fashions

    Severa examines daguereotypes of American women and some children and men for what can be learned about American fashion in the 1840s and '50s. Severa is a former curator of costume at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. That she examines over 250 and has something different to point out about American fashion with each one attests to the variety and bountifulness of the fashion during the short period of the two decades--which is what the author wanted to demonstrate by the daguerreotypes. Women in the earlier 1800s had more fashion choices than they did in the middle and latter nineteenth century. 'In the 1840s the visible model [for women's fashion] was taken, as it had been for centuries, from royalty.' Designers in Paris and other fashion centers quickly picked up on the fashions displayed by queens, princesses, and duchesses in their marriage ceremonies, crownings, and other public appearances. And these trend-setting fashions were quickly picked up by American women in turn. Most of the women in the daguerreotypes are well-to-do, able to keep up with the latest and the finest fashion of the era. In addition to noting and naming parts of the fashions visible in the numerous daguerreotypes, Severa makes comments on such points as materials and unseen features cut off by the frames which most readers would not be aware of. 'The dress is of rich silk, with fitted sleeves, fan front bodice, and full bouffant skirt' is part of her description of the dress of one young woman. The author's enthusiasm for the subject and succinct, informative annotations along with the pictures of actual historical persons make this an especially enjoyable survey of this short but exceptionally rich period of American fashion.

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