Fashion Tribulation

I tend to romanticize the past, particularly the turn of the last century. I love the clothes, the art, and the things people used to do. On occasion, however, I come across information or images that make me question whether it was really worth it to have those things, in place of modern conveniences. This time I came across four photographs that opened up all kinds of questions.

The first photograph is from 1906. First, for context, many (most?) autos didn’t provide much protection from the elements, so you would probably have to bundle up on days when the weather was harsh.

1905 auto


Bundling up is one thing. However, the picture depicts a woman named Blanche Ring, sporting a “driving outfit”. So what is a driving outfit? This poor woman is outfitted with an overcoat, thick gloves, and a chauffeur-style hat. The whole idea of needing separate clothes for driving gives me anxiety.

Blanche Ring, 1877-1961. Full length, standing by window, facing right; in driving outfit. Nov 2 1906. (LOC)


Next up, we have a hairstyle that looks both difficult to achieve and really uncomfortable. She must have something to hold it in place that’s not visible. I’m picturing a funnel. I think hair ribbons are kind of cute, but I’m not so sure about this style. It’s so unusual, it’s distracting.

“Cynthia” Head-and-shoulders portrait of young woman, right profile, with upswept hair and ribbon. 1900 (LOC)


Stage and film actress Allyn S. King is modeling a coat that can only be described as complex. The coat may or may not be sewn to the skirt, but it definitely appears to lack arms. I can’t even imagine how you could put this garment on. It would probably take a team of at least three people to make that happen.

Miss Allyn King 1900 (LOC)



And that’s just the fashion. People had to work so hard back then just to survive. This woman is churning butter. I have no idea how long it would take to churn butter, but I imagine she had to set aside a fair amount of her day and I’m sure it wasn’t the only thing she had to do that day. And it’s not as if churning butter is a task that lends itself to multi-tasking.

Churning butter with old-fashioned dasher churn, creamery, East Aurora, N.Y. 1905 (LOC)


I might love that historical period but I probably couldn’t hang with the tough people of 1900.

Between a gravity-defying hairstyle, a coat that required the aid of multiple assistants to get into, changing into separate clothes for driving, and churning my own butter, there would be no time left in my day for anything else.

3 thoughts on “Fashion Tribulation

  1. I often think that people were happier back when it was a simpler time…however…I know I couldn’t handle any of the above circumstances you described. 🙂 I need my modern conveniences.

    Liked by 1 person

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