Monday, June 24, 2013

A Little Edwardian Fashion

Lately I've had this fascination with vintage fashion and have been researching some of the trends from the early to mid 1900s when my grandparents were posing for pictures. All four of my grandparents were born within an eight year window, 1901-1909. Many pictures in my collection have no dates, names, or places recorded on them, but, those that do have been helpful in figuring out time periods for the ones that do not, sometimes based on clues taken from the style of dress, a hat the subject is wearing, or a location.  I know that this is definitely not an exact science since I, and I am sure you too, have favorite outfits that are so yesterday but I have to say that generally I don't wear them when I know that I am going to have my picture taken, so I am going to surmise here that I can date (approximately) some pictures based on fashion when weighted against the other clues in a photograph. I've got a grandmother (pictured as a child below) that was always the picture of fashion, you will see more of her and her awesome outfits to come this summer!

I've got a date on the picture of the brothers below, you've seen this one before in The Story of the Peach. The next picture had to have been taken around the same time or just a little earlier based on the birthdate of the subject. So, here are a couple of kids in Edwardian style of dress that was popular in the early 1900s. 

Youngest standing in the front of the picture (my maternal grandfather):
Daniel Claude Thomas
Born October 10, 1905
A note on the back of the picture says Daniel was two years old.
Lena May Stockton (Abbott)
(my paternal grandmother)
Born June 2, 1901

A couple of questions beg answers here:

1. Seriously? My grandfather, in a dress?

First of all, the little boys in dresses question. It was not at all unusual to see the little dudes running around wearing "gowns" until they were potty trained. Yep, it is as easy as that. Families were big, mothers were busy and it was just easier than dealing with all of the clasps and buttons in the pre-snap age of clothing. The bow? Sailor inspired outfits were popular for children during this time period as well. Maybe the bow is a southern Georgia mom's nod to the sailor style? The little guy behind my grandfather is definitely sporting the sailor look as well! A boy's first pair of trousers indicated that he had come of an age where he was considered a man and ready for work, and, that was MUCH younger than today!

2. Black stockings and black shoes with a white/light colored dress?

Yep, as much as we would cringe these days at that combination, it was quite popular to clothe little girls in dresses like these that mimicked adult fashion and to pair them with black woolen stocking and black shoes. Dresses with long sleeves, high necks and lace were the most popular for little girls. This style is definitely not the most comfortable for playing and cavorting about but just perfect for tea parties and the quiet, passive, entertainment expected for young ladies in the early 1900s. The dress, the shoes, and the stockings are all "give aways" for giving this picture a date around 1905 give or take a couple of years.

3. So what exactly is "Edwardian" style and why is it called that?

For those fans of Downton Abbey think back to early episodes, pre-WWI and you've got it, Edwardian style. Named for England's King Edward VII, Edwardian reflects the opulence and optimism of the early 20th century (1901-1910).  The formality of the Victorian era gave way to a more relaxed and carefree time during the reign of King Edward. Styles were just a little more relaxed, especially for women and children. America had turned the corner from the difficult years of reconstruction after the Civil War and there was unbounded hope and a more carefree lifestyle. European country homes were popular for the upper class and in Amercia we see the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, and others building huge empires. Europe was the leader in fashion trends. Even though independence for America from England was one hundred and twenty five years before, the fashion world was still (then and now!) largely influenced by our former homeland from the east.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer in Utah-land!

So, its summer here in Utah-land and that means you won't find me here as often for right now! Hopefully you will bear with me and check in from time to time!

Here's how this summer thing works for me now that I live "out west." The second year we lived in Utah it snowed in June. I have trust issues with the weatherman that still have not diminished! While summer has been upon us for a few weeks I have, really, just in the last week, garnered enough courage to truly believe that it is here.  No more socks and sweats, no more quilts, and no more cringing from the cold when opening a door to walk outside.  Basically, we spend 7 to 8 months in "winter mode." We have not had a good conversation with a neighbor in months, only waving between plumes of snow being ejected from our snow blowers or as we pass in our climate controlled automobiles on the roads in the neighborhood. We have not walked barefoot in the grass or smelled the sweet aroma of fresh cut alfalfa. We've not enjoyed morning coffee on the deck or a steak on the grill since last summer. We've been ready to sleep at 8 pm because it had been dark for hours already.

A good friend told me that when I moved away from the eternal summer of the tropics that I would learn to appreciate the rhythm of the seasons. She was right! It is summer. The snow, that turns to rain as the temperatures warm to spring, is gone. We probably won't see precipitation that actually makes it to the ground again until the first snow in the fall. There is something fun to do every weekend, yards to tend, gardens to harvest, bikes to ride, Zeppes Italian Water Ice to enjoy, and mountains to climb. It is time to dismantle the "Pinterest Fail" Christmas decorations that were hastily tossed into the garage as soon as the ground yielded enough to pry them from their frozen anchor because, well, I need those tomato cages now that the garden is beginning to grow. It is light by 5:30 am and the sun shines until almost 10 pm. The days are long and filled with activity. It is wonderful for now and the last thing I want to do is spend evenings on the computer!

By September we will be exhausted from the long days and oh so ready for fall.  Beautiful fall....the first step towards a slow down, preparing for winter, grateful not to have to concern ourselves with feeling guilty for not making the most of every moment of warmth. Yep, we will be ready for winter again, we'll actually welcome it but for's summer in Utah! The temperatures are sizzling, the mountains are green, the grill is heated and I'm gonna go out and walk barefoot in the grass to check out the garden that has awakened from winter under two feet of snow. I'll be here, just not as often!

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens..." Ecclesiastes 3:1a

That was then...

This is now...

That was then ...
This is now...

That was then...
 This is now...

That was then...

This is now...

"Pinterest Fail" Christmas decorations along with the
 NOEL decoration that spent most of winter  almost completely covered with snow.

A slow start but if the past is any indication, the garden will yield a most abundant harvest later this summer.

THIS IS NOW!!!!!!!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Happy Birthday Lena May!

Thanks to my awesome Aunt Ginny I have this beautiful picture of my grandmother. Today is her birthday!

Lena May Stockton (Abbate/Abbott) was born on June 2, 1901, in Green Township, Ohio. She was raised by a single mother in the early 1900's. That could not have been easy but I do believe that Lena May and her mom made the best of a tough situation. Oletha Williams, Lena May's mom, was ever optimistic and from stories I have heard it sounds like their life together was always an adventure for better or for worse!

I can still hear my own mom say, "You are just like May!" She said that often when I was dressed in my "power, professional" woman suits in the 1990's, complete with matching scarf or brooch and more recently when I whined that I was running late for work AGAIN because I was having a hard time finding the right coat or a specific pair of shoes/snow boots to match my outfit. Yep, this Floridian still struggles with the fashion nuances of living in the west and with remembering that is it more about function than style especially when the temperature is low and the snow is blowing.

Oh yeah, one more thing, my mother always said I reminded her of Lena May when I was displaying my fiercely independent side. I am pretty sure that my mom secretly admired that independent streak even though it sometimes "drove her to her bed" as she would say! May was an independent lady and self-sufficient when necessary, both qualities that I admire.

I remember Grandma Abbott mostly later in her life when she and my grandfather lived in Austin, Texas, after their retirement. They were happily retired and enjoying their leisure time after years of working. Visiting Texas last summer I talked to an old neighbor of hers. The neighbor was a young girl when Lena May lived on her block. She remembered Lena May giving the children in the neighborhood homemade cookies and Kool-Aid and she remembered the day that Lena passed away. "She was such a nice lady, we were all so sad."

Happy Birthday Grandma Abbott, how I would love to sit down and have a cup of coffee and chat!
Lena May Stockton (Abbate/Abbott) and Angie Abbate (Mood)
Santa Monica, California
Summer, 1965
And, yes, Lena May put together my perfectly matching cowgirl outfit!