Portraying the Victorian Woman - Image 4

Portraying the Victorian Woman

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 Image 4

This image also dates to the mid to late 1850's.  Her hair style is smooth over the ears, with just the faintest hint of extra fullness at the ear.  The fabric is superb - most likely silk since the sleeves of the wide pagoda style.  The pattern to the fabric is rather large suggesting she can afford extra fabric necessary for matching the designs of the larger patterned fabric.  The dress has epaulettes which are trimmed in what appears to be velvet ribbon or perhaps ruching repeated at the sleeve bottoms.  The bodice is slightly longer waisted than her natural waist line and a belt is present.  She has earrings and a nice oval-shaped broach.  No rings are visible but it is difficult to see her hands well enough to tell whether one is present or not.  The collar is wide and scalloped on the edges.  It lies out towards the shoulders and does not appear to meet completely in front given the large size of the broach at the opening.  The design of this fabric has photographed beautifully with a very wide stripe with design in between.  It is difficult to tell, but she does not appear to be wearing undersleeves.  There are small buttons up the front of the bodice but these are not likely functional buttons.  The bodice more likely closes with hooks and eyes with the buttons sewn on for decorative effect.  
The luxurious fabric and attention to detail would indicate this woman was upper class, perhaps the wife of a doctor, attorney, bank president, planter, a university president, or other such professional.

 There is no backmark on the CDV so it is anyone's guess where she lived.  She would have been able to afford servants to do most of the work around the house leaving her to tend to other matters.  Perhaps she organized the church sewing circle or some other worthwhile benevolent endeavor.  Her station in life would likely have been one of having a responsibility to neighbors, church, and her community.  She would likely have given grand dinners and balls, and attended similar functions in the home of friends and business associates of her husband.  Her talents for sewing would likely have been of the fancy sewing type - broderie anglaise on a petticoat or child's petticoat, embroidering a baby's gown, or perhaps knitting some of the more elaborate accessories of the day.  She may have traveled extensively, and kept up on the latest in literature, poetry, and art.  Perhaps she was published herself.

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