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Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900 Hardcover – January 1, 2005

4.8 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

This history of ordinary American fashion begins in 1840 and ends in 1900, spanning a period of time in which changing economics dictated clothing trends. Letters, diaries, period photos and Severa's own analysis provide in-depth and strong analysis of fashion trends and inconsistencies between class and fashion representation. -- Midwest Book Review
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Kent State University Press (January 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0873385128
  • ISBN-13: 978-0873385121
  • Product Dimensions: 11.3 x 8.8 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,600 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
As 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.
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By A Customer on April 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
If you like looking at old photographs with haunting, austere faces staring out from stilled figures in 19th-century garb, this book is worth every penny. The photos in this volume are incredibly evocative and encompass a wide range of people from various walks of life. The photos are nicely presented, with one large picture per page accompanied by an extensive caption that explains the clothing/fashion details reflected in the picture. This is one of those books that I return to again and again because I love what it does to my imagination, in terms of stimulating my ideas regarding both Victorian-era costuming and a way of life that is long since vanished.
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Format: Hardcover
I consider Severa's work to be of great potential use to any family researcher who has ever stared at an unidentified family photograph and wondered just when and where it was taken. For, unless one descends from a famous family, such images are likely to be distressingly anonymous. As with any type of historical research, searching out the context can greatly increase one's chances -- and in a photo, while the countryside and the buildings may not change, the clothing of the subjects almost certainly will. Even those expert in other areas of historical knowledge often make mistakes in interpreting the depicted garments of ordinary people. Or not so ordinary: The author describes several misinterpretations even of Paul Revere's clothing in the famous John Singleton Copley portrait. And Severa, as probably the leading historian of American costume, is certainly the best possible author for a massive study like this. Each chapter covers one decade of the 19th century since the practical introduction of photography, including first a discussion of general trends and the effects of manufacturing innovations and social influences, and then examining and discussing a large number of specific individual and group portraits of farmers, families, children, shop girls, and soldiers in considerable detail. This isn't "just" a reference guide, though, but a fully realized history and the reader not only will learn about the details of American dress but also will acquire a number of new insights in historical method.
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Format: Hardcover
In only about fifteen minutes I identified my gggrandmother's photo as belonging to the 1850's era by her dress, hair and collar. Easy to use by comparing photo to those in the book and the descriptions offered in the text. Arranged by decade, this is a truely marvelous reference and well worth the price.
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Format: Hardcover
I have never owned a book that crosses so many subject lines. Although presented like a school text for a Fashion History class, "Dressed for the Photographer" is such a beautifully crafted reference that it makes historical fashion fascinating.
Anyone who enjoys browsing through very old photographs will be amazed at the quality of the Daguerrotypes, tintypes, ambrotypes and assorted other photographic techniques included in the pictorial sections. The text that accompanies each photograph includes whatever information was available on the subject. In a picture worth a thousand words, Ms. Sevra reads what the economic and cultural means of the people probably were by their manner of dress. In a few well-documented photographs, the photographer is even mentioned.
Probably the most interesting stills are those of African-Americans. African-Americans are portrayed as business-owners, college graduates, and servants. But, the fact that they are included at all is very special. It is unfortunate that fashion documentation of other people of color either wasn't as plentiful or available for inclusion.
Ms. Sevra has managed to portray America as it grew older as a country; the wealth and demeanor of her citizens through the way they were captured on film. It is a unique and quite appropriate historical perspective on the beginnings of a culture that has become the ideal of consumption. I can only hope that in another 100 years, someone else will be as thorough (and unbaised) with today's disposible camera society.
reviewed by Yvonne
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By A Customer on January 24, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have never seen a more complete book for the fashion history enthusiast. Thick and heavy with loads of black and white photographs, detailed descriptions of the photos, and a decade-by-decade listing of the fashions of the time (womens clothing and undergarments, childrens' wear, mens' wear, and even shoes and hats are included!).
A true gem sure to keep the reader entranced for hours at a time...
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