How much do you know about your grandmother's fashion sense'
Hollywood costume designer Betty Kreisel Shubert, author of
Out of Style, is considered the go-to vintage fashion expert. Betty received three unidentified photos of Denise Levenick's grandmother, Arline Allen Kinsel, and was tasked with trying to determine the time/date of the photographs.
Arline Allen Kinsel, ©2007-2014, Denise Levenick, The Family Curator. www. TheFamilyCurator.com.
The Bolero Dress and the Double-Butterfly Hat
At first glance, the overly decorated dress with fancy bolero and fanciful hat trimmed with two, too-tall butterflies, seemed an aberration of popular fashion and probably designed by a home dressmaker, although the unique hat shows expert millinery construction.
But surprisingly, research showed a dress with identical style lines in a 1915 Sears catalog! The only difference was in Sears' use of embroidery trim versus eyelet trim in our sample photograph.
Sears fashions were selected for, and sold to, average America women, but were about two years behind high-fashion magazines. Therefore, we can assume that the dress shown in the 1915 catalog could have been worn between 1913 to 1916.
As seen in Sears Catalog 1915-1916. Sketch by Betty Kreisel Shubert
A key style clue in dating vintage dresses in is their ever-changing skirt lengths. Since this is not a full length picture it is helpful that the Sears 1915 dress is shown full length, ending at the ankle and revealing spool heel pumps. This was slightly longer than women were wearing their skirts at this time, but this was obviously a dressy summertime outfit and perhaps the lower skirt could could be left off to adapt to different skirt lengths.
Counter to popular fashion in those years, the whimsical hat that dominates the picture is worn tilted up, like a picture hat, instead of flat, like a platter hat. The only similar hat I found in the Sears catalog shows a sailor-like, platter hat. Although it was usually worn flat, it could have also been tilted up by a fashion maverick like our lady.
Her hair, shown peeking under the shirred, wired brim is bobbed in the Castle Bob
style as worn by popular fashion icon Irene Castle of the famous dance team of Vernon and Irene Castle. ("Bobby pins" were invented to contain this hairstyle).
Sears even devoted an entire page to show belts four to six inches wide, emphasizing the mid-to-low waist, as in our sample picture.
From all these style clues, we can conclude that the woman in the picture was a self-confident individualist with a sense of humor who dared flaunt fashion rules so, she flipped her hat up and added a double butterfly, when the average woman would have only dared to wear one!
To learn more about Arline Allen Kinsel, visit the rest of the story at The Family Curator
Another version of this article first appeared in Family Chronicle Magazine
and was later reprinted by permission of the author in the FGS Forum
Illustrations excerpted from the book Out of Style: A Modern perspective of How, Why & When Vintage Fashions Evolved
©copyright 2013, Betty Kreisel Shubert which can be found on Amazon.com or by visiting www.OutOfStyleTheBook.com