Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Twentieth Century Woman: Stereoviews A-Z

Don't confuse the hair-like mop in the middle for another woman like I did! The focus of course is the wife on the left, who is leisurely reading a book while her husband (note the apron) does dishes. It is a funny take on women's lib in the 1890s and early 1900s. I doubt this household scene was typical then, but nevertheless . . .

"Twentieth Century Woman" (ca. 1890s)
Proper Victorian dress for American women up to the 1890s was known for its corsets and layers of clothing. Author Dorothy W. Hartman writes, "One account reported that the 'well-dressed' woman of the late nineteenth century wore 37 pounds of clothing in the winter, 19 which hung from her corseted waist." Whew. It is hard to imagine. But in the 1890s, bloomers (long pantaloons like the striped ones in this photo) became acceptable. Finally, women had something to wear if they wanted to ride a bicycle . . . or simply play.

(See Post A and Post B for history of Stereoviews/Stereoscope)

Copyright 2013 ©Sharon Himsl; [stereoview from Gravseth family archive]


  1. Nothing says "sexy" like striped pantaloons.

  2. I for one am very glad to not be wearing 37 lbs of clothing, though I guess it did help to keep them warm in the winter. I'm very happy with central heating and nice soft blankets instead.

  3. This seems like male fear--something that they still did in 1960s movies where if the wife wasn't doing the home thing, something was wrong.

    Recently, I saw this doc on Discovery or The Science Channel (I can't remember which one) about the mini ice age that controlled our climate from about 1300 to about 1850. And it occurred to me that perhaps women wore all that clothing to keep warm, especially in the winter time. (There was one year called "the year without a summer".) Once the climate warmed up, women's clothing started being less elaborate.

    Slightly off topic, but 37 lbs of clothing made me think of it.

    1. This is so interesting. I have never thought of climate change as a factor in fashion, but it makes sense!!

  4. I would have thought the mop like thing was grandma napping at the table.

    The only good thing about 37 pounds of clothing - you wouldn't need to go to the gym AND every night you'd be 37 pounds lighter. Say'n.

  5. Love this post - and the image! This lady was well ahead of her time. ;)

  6. Thank you for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write ups thanks once again.


"Stay" is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary
(A.B. Alcott). Stay and visit awhile. Your comments mean a lot to me.