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1890s Fashion

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From Gingham and Calico to “Gay Nineties” Gibson Girls

UPPER LEFT:  On the left in this photo, Emma De Keyser is dressed in her little calico-print dress as she holds hands with her older sister, Mary Therese.  Mary Therese is in a neatly checked gingham dress.  They still look like little pioneer girls with hand-sewn dresses and sunbonnet style hats.  The picture was taken about 1890 to 1892 probably after they moved to the city.  They were living in Green Bay at least by 1894, and possibly before.

UPPER RIGHT:  Here Emma is a young lady.  She is holding some papers in her hand, probably her eighth grade graduation certificate.  Her dress has a lovely ruffled bodice, accented by the black bow, broach and flower on the opposite shoulder.  Her pince-nez eye glasses are hidden by the paper but the chain drapes gracefully over her dress.  What a lovely example of an 1890s dress style.

LOWER RIGHT:  The “Gay Nineties” was a period of time when the word “gay” meant happy and carefree, which was a good description of that day.  This turn-of-the-century photo shows Emma in the center of the group, with her white Gibson Girl shirt-blouse silhouetted against the darker skirts of her co-workers at the mill where she worked.  Some of the girls are still wearing ruffled blouses, but most of them appear to be dressed in the more tailored Gibson Girl style, with white blouses and dark skirts.  Although the style drew criticism for being “too masculine” because of the shirt and skirt look, many (like Emma’s) had puffed upper sleeves and often a bow or broach to add a feminine touch.  It was a new “emancipated” look of that day.