AB: Severa – Dressed for the Photographer

(This is an entry in the Annotated Bibliography.)

*Severa, Joan L. Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 1995.

This enormous book is an excellent resource for examining 19th century clothing, especially on a more ordinary level than many high fashion-oriented resources allow. It contains a vast quantity of early photographs, carefully organized chronologically, and generally subdivided into women, men, and children. Each image is carefully analyzed in a detailed text description, though some well-known historical costumers have asserted that Severa’s assessments of presumed color in daguerreotypes and other early photographs are extremely uncertain or incorrect. It is not instructional. Images are printed in grayscale, though most or all would originally have been more brown than black, with the “sepia” tone of early photographic processes. There is a bibliography, as well as a thoroughly organized index. I personally own this book, and would highly recommend it.

Note for 1830s research: Even though photography in America almost entirely post-dates the 1830s, this book is still a useful resource in studying 1830s clothing. Several of the first daguerreotypes in the book are from the very early 1840s, and one may even date from 1839, so they are of some use in researching pre-photographic era clothing of the late 1830s; even when they are obviously slightly later, they offer some clues.

Also by Joan L. Severa:

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