Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mary, Mary

I found this photo online, and fell in love with it. It is of Mary Lees Davis, and was taken in 1876, when she was 16. She wasn't particularly famous, but was born into some privilege, as she was sent to boarding school, had French lessons and music lessons, as was typical for girls of some means in that day.

I love her clothing. This photo was taken at Stourbridge, her boarding school. Her hair was what grabbed my attention, as she wears her hair long and fairly straight, which isn't seen often in photos of this era. She almost looks like she has a Bump-It in. Usually hair of this era is seen pulled back into a bun. If it was worn down, it was usually in ringlets -- can you imagine creating those curls with a curling iron heated over the stove? (Remember Meg's burnt hair in Little Women? It was published in the late 1860s, but there are still commonalities with the 1870s.) The drama it would create in a teenaged girl is unfathomable. I wonder if this is all her hair, as extensions were common in the 1870s. (Again, remember Jo selling her hair in Little Women?)

The draped apron-type front was fairly standard for daywear of this time, as was the ruffled flounce seen near the bottom of the skirt. 1876 was fairly late for bustles -- they were pretty much gone by then -- but it almost looks like there is a small bustle in the back of the skirt. A couple of years later, you would see a much narrower, almost column-like silhouette. The button front dress was also common, as seen here. There are just so many things here that are standard in the dress, but the hair is very different that what you usually see. Perhaps Miss Mary had her own style.

I imagine her with beautiful chestnut hair, and the dress in blue.


  1. Very striking. The modern-like hair caught my attention first too--almost looked like one of those old timey photo booth pictures they have at amusement parks. I laughed out loud at the Bump-It bit!

  2. She kind of looks like Susan Dey during the Partridge years.