Aug 23, 2009

Dressed for the Photographer

Speakers Sherry BirchSherri Birch gave a wonderful presentation on dating old photographs by clothing at the general meeting thursday. Although she wasn’t able to be in costume (pictured right– it’s a long drive when you’re in a corset, ) she provided the audience with a wealth of information on using fashion to date old photographs. During her lecture she recommended a great reference book: Dressed for the Photographer by Joan L. Severa, Curator Emeritus and costume history consultant for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin Museum. I thought I would repeat the title here for those who weren’t able to attend. One reviewer had this to say about the book:

Ms. Severa’s thoughtful and articulate tour through approximately 60 years of American Fashion reads more like a novel than a fashion textbook, although it is certainly an excellent example of the latter. Her inclusion of a detailed historical preface to each decade studied, provides the reader with a good sense of the times these people lived in, their wants, hopes and backgrounds are all captured and rendered understandable to both the historian and the casual observer.

Cover of Dressed for the PhotographerAs a newcomer to the study of dress, I found her ability to recognize and explain subtle details of clothing nuances extraordinary. Many of these were, at first glance barely visible in an aging photograph, but upon her outlining them they became so readily apparent as to cause the reader to wonder why they hadn’t seen it sooner! It is a lovely book, either for the professional costumer or historian, or the casual observer who might want a glimpse into the history of those who came before, and the role fashion played throughout the early history of America.

You can find Severa’s book at and other bookstores.

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