Advertising Fashion: The Daily Mail 8th March 1921

Advertising Fashion:

The Daily Mail 8th March 1921



advertisements fashion jayne shrimpton



When researching towards my book, British Fashion in the 1920s (Shire Books, 2013), I ordered a newspaper from the company Historic Newspapers, who run an impressive archive of original newspapers and supply academic researchers, the media and members of the public seeking special gifts:

My copy of The Daily Mail, 8th March 1921, arrived beautifully presented  and in extraordinarily good condition. As hoped, its pages were full of fascinating illustrated clothing, accessories and hair care advertisements – a wonderful resource for studying fashion and popular consumer goods.



advertisements fashion jayne shrimpton



Department stores who advertised their fashion ranges in the newspaper include large companies that have survived into the 21st century, like D H Evans and Selfridges, as well as other names that are familiar to many of us (perhaps from childhood), but which sadly no longer exist, such as Gorringes and Swan & Edgar of Piccadilly.



advertisements fashion jayne shrimpton



The diverse and numerous notices in this Easter-time issue of just one daily newspaper demonstrate the power of advertising nearly 100 years ago and the attraction of seasonal sales and bargains to our mothers, grandmothers  and great grandmothers who were responsible for clothing themselves and their families, often on a tight budget.



advertisements fashion jayne shrimpton



From children’s underwear, clothes and shoes to women’s raincoats, corsets, stylish hats – from Paris, no less – and ‘dainty frocks’ with contemporary names like ‘Laura’ and ‘Lydia’, through these advertisements we see a snapshot of precisely what was fashionable in early Spring 1921.



advertisements fashion jayne shrimpton

Dating Old Family Photographs: Part 2

Dating Old Family Photographs: Part 2



cdv victorian photograph mount back


This photograph dates to c.1876-80, but how can we tell? Like most old family photos that have been passed down the generations, it is not dated or identified.

(1) Firstly, it is a carte de visite print measuring about 10 x 6.5cms – a popular photographic format in Britain from 1860 through to the 1890s, declining during the early-1900s and finally dying out around the First World War.

(2) Secondly the card is relatively thin and has square corners – both characteristics typical of fairly early cartes de visite (cdvs). Rounded corners began to supersede square corners from the later 1870s but became more common from the 1880s.


cdv victorian photograph mount back


(3) A striking feature of this card mount is its gold/yellow colour. Several pale-bright shades became fashionable from the late-1860s onwards, also including sugar pink and turquoise. Wider photographic evidence drawn from firmly-dated examples demonstrates that this golden-yellow tone was most fashionable during the 1870s and 1880s, virtually obsolete by 1890.

(4) The photographic studio is named as W G Moore of Sackville Street, Dublin. Unfortunately relatively little has been published online or in print about this business, although I have been advised that he took over these premises some time after 1868 (information from ) In addition, a few other examples of Moore’s work appear online in random contexts, dating broadly to the 1880s/1890s. However, firm operational dates remain elusive.

(5) Even when photographer operational data is hard to pin down, the printed mount details can often narrow the date range. The busy appearance of this mount, featuring several different font styles, a ribbon banner and heraldic device together suggest a time frame of 1870s or turn of the 1880s.


cdv victorian woman dress fashion


(6) Turning now to the visual image, we notice the full-length composition of the subject, who poses in a contrived drawing-room interior.Generally this type of pose and setting is characteristic of the 1860s, but in this instance the composition presents a red-herring. Clients could to a degree choose their pose when being photographed and sometimes – presumably if they were particularly pleased with their appearance – they might favour the traditional full-length composition, to set their attire off to best advantage. We can see how much more pleasing the full-length effect would have been, compared to the more fashionable 1870s/1880s three-quarter length pose that cut off the lower legs and feet.

(7) As so often happens, the evidence of dress provides the best idea of when this photograph was taken. The lady is clearly elderly and her figure is diminished, but she had the means to dress well and wears a handsome daytime outfit typical of c.1875-80. Her narrow front-buttoning costume is the elegant ‘Princess dress’ (named after Princess Alexandra), especially popular from 1876, and often accessorised with a moderate-tall hat or bonnet, as seen here. Typically the front of the skirt section of the gown is flat and gathered horizontally, while the back drapery cascades behind, a striking flounced and pleated train sweeping the floor. The skirt train is said to have been discontinued for day wear in 1880, only being retained for evening and bridal wear after that date. Even allowing for an older lady’s possible conservative taste, a date estimate of c.1876-80 seems correct for this photograph.

An Intriguing Victorian Scrapbook

An Intriguing Victorian Scrapbook


victorian scrap book cover leather bound book



I have been fortunate to be sent a very special Victorian scrapbook by a private client: he had inherited it from a relative believed to have bought it at a car boot sale or similar. The substantial volume, measuring 37.5 x 27.5 cms, had no apparent connection to their family and its origins and provenance (ownership history) were unknown.



masonic emblems free masons horse shoe painting scrapbook victorian


The scrapbook looks plain enough from the outside, but inside, arranged on 69 pages of stout card, lies a visual treasure trove – engaging and vibrant images ranging from photographs, through hand-crafted paintings and sketches to complex montages, such as that on page 1, displaying a horseshoe, masonic emblems, a bible and pictures of half-ruined Welsh priories.



masonic emblems free masons horse shoe painting scrapbook victorian


Scrapbooking was very popular in the 19th century, especially amongst ladies and children, who collected and organised all manner of ephemera and mementoes, including letters, decorative greetings cards, trade cards, favourite poems, even locks of friends’ hair. The rise in production of printed photographs from the 1860s onwards meant that portraits of relatives, pictures of family homes and other familiar people and places could also be added to the collection of personal memorabilia inside a scrapbook. In this instance the compiler has re-touched or decorated many such photographs, using watercolour paint, creating attractive and unique images.



illustration of victorian manor house



In fact the only clues as to who may have compiled this fascinating book and whom it could possibly represent rests with the many portraits of people and depictions of country houses displayed inside. A few of these are identified but many remain anonymous, although dating the photographs confirms that they originated during the 1860s and 1870s and were probably arranged in the scrapbook around that time.



victorian group photo women



Research into this intriguing album is beginning to reveal aristocratic connections, stately homes and privileged country life in Huntingdonshire in the mid-Victorian era.

Summer Fashions of the 1920s

Summer Fashions of the 1920s



1920s fashions summer


Nowadays in the warm weather we can dress more or less as we like to keep cool, but even within some people’s living memory, that was far from the case. During the 1920s there remained a wide gulf between male and female modes: traditional dress codes were relaxing and by early-decade women enjoyed loose, comfortable cotton dresses with comfortable necklines and short sleeves – even soft white plimsolls or sneakers for weekends. Yet respectable men were expected wear conventional three-piece suits, including waistcoats, and formal shirts with neckties, whatever the weather. The most casual summer choice for the average 1920s male was a ‘sports jacket’ teamed with a pair of light flannel trousers, as in the early-1920s family snapshots above and below.


1920s fashions summer


Children – boys and girls – benefitted from the gradual shortening of frock and shorts hemlines and white and pale colours were, as ever, favoured for the summer and in hot climates, but men simply did not wear shorts, except for competitive sports like athletics. Women’s frocks still extended to the calves during the early-1920s, but simple styling was welcome in summer and lightweight materials – crisp cottons, linens and soft silks bearing geometric designs following the Art Decoaesthetic, or fashionable stripes. These fresh, easy-to-wear modes made women feel more youthful, as evidenced by this postcard portrait below of a 41-year old lady photographed on 14th July 1924.


1920s post card fashions summer


From 1925/1926 female fashions grew increasingly minimalist: hemlines rose significantly to around knee level, remaining there until the end of the decade. Light jersey-knit suits in classic muted tones, comfortable and broadly termed ‘sportswear’ for leisure occasions, were promoted by pioneering designers such as Jean Patou and Chanel, as seen in the Georges Lepape illustration below for Vogue, 1928.


1920s fashions summer


Also popular as summer wear in the late-1920s were floating dresses of silk chiffon or the new artificial material, ‘art silk’, or rayon, worn with picturesque brimmed hats, undulating or handkerchief hemlines a particular feature of 1929/1930, as seen in this family snapshot taken in Richmond Park.


1920s fashions summer


In Britain for much of the 1920s, beachwear was rather conservative and fashioned from clinging jersey fabric that became waterlogged when wet. Men wore vest sections to their costumes, as they had done since the late-Victorian period, and ladies’ bathing suits were typically modest, featuring short sleeves and short legs, as seen in this family snapshot taken in Devon in 1924.


1920s fashions summer


However, beachwear was evolving and becoming more sporty and colourful with bold contrasting trims. Patterned wraps created a new sense of style on wear on the beach and fitted rubber swimming caps came into vogue, perfect for protecting newly-shorn locks, as seen in this late-1920s French illustration.


1920s fashions summer


By the late-1920s wealthy tourists frequenting the sun-drenched beaches of California and elite resorts along the French Riviera were setting a new trend for sunbathing and acquiring a suntan, now that sun-burnt skin was no longer the shameful sign of outdoor labour, but representative of luxury and leisure. With the fashionable emphasis increasingly on glowing golden limbs, swimwear began to grow briefer, as narrow shoulder straps and low-backed costumes evolved. New forms of beachwear also developed – sleeveless blouses and loose beach pyjamas, as promoted for the first time on the front cover of Vogue’s Summer Travel number in 1929.  


1920s fashions summer

For  more on 1920s fashion, see my best-selling book, Fashion in the 1920s, available online from:




1920s fashions book

Dating Old Family Photographs: Part 1

Dating Old Family Photographs: Part 1



victorian photograph mount back


The above photograph dates to c.1860-62, but how can we tell? Like most old family photos that have been passed down the generations, it is not dated or identified.

(1) Firstly, it is a carte de visite print measuring about 10 x 6.5cms – a popular format in Britain from 1860 through to the 1890s, finally dying out around the First World War.

(2) Secondly the card is relatively thin and has square corners – both characteristics typical of early cartes de visite (cdvs).


victorian photograph mount back


(3) Thirdly the name and address of the photographer, Hennah & Kent of Brighton, is printed on the reverse of the card mount, offering the potential to investigate studio operational dates. However the reputable website for early Brighton photographers states that this business operated from 108 King’s Road, Brighton for over 30 years, from 1854 to 1884 – useful to a degree, but far too broad a timespan to provide the close circa date that we need:

(4) Far more helpful in this instance is the style of printing, for a small design centred neatly on the back of the mount, as seen here, usually indicates the 1860s.

Many photographic historians can date the card mount with some accuracy but it is only the visual image that will determine a close, reliable circa date. Pictorial clues, ranging from studio settings to dress details, require an understanding of aesthetics, changing visual styles and the dynamics of fashion.



(5) When studying this photographic portrait, we notice at once the doll-like, full-length view of the subject that was most typical of cdvs created in the 1860s. This composition provides a clear view of the contrived drawing-room interior and again this example represents the 1860s, key features the architectural plinth, patterned floor and draped curtain to one side.

(6) Most important of all, but often the most difficult aspect to judge without detailed fashion history knowledge and experience, is the style of dress worn by the photograph’s subject(s). Fashion evidence does not lie and can often pinpoint a closer date than the time frames offered by any other studio-related or card mount evidence.

Here we see a well-dressed lady in a formal silk gown, the bodice close fitting and the vast skirt supported by a crinoline frame, this wide, circular crinoline style typical of the early-mid 1860s. The wide, open gown sleeves flaring out at the wrists represent the ‘pagoda’ style of sleeve, fashionable during the 1850s and at the beginning of the 1860s, up until c.1862. Finally, her hair is drawn down over her ears in the manner of the late-1850s/early 1860s.

To conclude our historical evidence and what it signifies:-

Carte de visite format: should date this photograph to at least 1860

Card mount printed design usually 1860s (especially early-mid 1860s)

Photographers operating at relevant address: 1854-84

Full-length composition in contrived drawing room setting with curtain etc. suggests 1860s

Bearing in mind the cdv format that suggests a post quem date of 1860, we can use the fashion details, especially crinoline skirt, sleeves and hairstyle, to determine an accurate and precise date range of c.1860-62 for this ‘mystery’ family photograph.

Mail Order Outfits of the 1890s 

1890s fashions women dresses advert

Mail-order Outfits of the 1890s:

Half-Guinea Fashions



Advertisement The Daily News, c.1895/6



Traditionally Victorian women’s gowns, which emphasised individuality of appearance and required a perfect fit, were made-to-measure by an experienced dressmaker. However the plainer, more practical ‘tailor-made’ ladies’ costumes that became fashionable for everyday wear during the 1890s could be mass-produced, like men’s suits. British textile and tailoring companies seized this new manufacturing opportunity, their pioneering mail order garment ranges representing the beginnings of the ready-to-wear female clothing industry.



Advertisement The Daily Graphic, 9th December 1896



Researching Victorian fashion, I found several illustrated newspaper advertisements dating from the mid-late 1890s relating to John Noble Ltd of Manchester (est. 1893) and Allen Foster & Co and Arthur Campbell & Co of London for ‘Half-Guinea Costumes’ available direct from their factories. A limited range of colours and materials were available, but the choice was reasonable and in inviting customers to specify the model or pattern required and supply their personal bust, waist, sleeve and leg measurements, these manufacturers effectively combined elements of bespoke tailoring with a convenient ready-to-wear service.

Fabrics on offer included cheviot and serviceable serge, while colours ranged widely from black, navy, brown, fawn and electric blue to cinnamon, bronze, ruby and petunia. Naturally each company claimed to be the largest costumier, providing the best service and greatest value for money; perhaps their models were, as stated, unique, but they all followed fashion closely, as seen in the 1897 advertisement below, which displays the very latest style of puffed ‘leg-o’-mutton’ sleeve.




Unidentified newspaper advertisement, 1897



Priced consistently at 10s 6d, the new ‘Half-Guinea’ costumes may not have been of the highest quality, but nonetheless they provided respectable and affordable outfits for not only middle-class ladies out shopping or paying morning visits, but legions of young working women including typists, telephonists and shop assistants. Such economical, fashionable costumes helped to disseminate new styles and played a significant role in the growing democratisation of late-Victorian dress.

Family Photographs from WW1: Unidentified Royal Artillery Horseman

Family Photographs from WW1:

Unidentified Royal Artillery Horseman



ww1 royal artillery horse




Most of my time is spent dating and helping to identify other people’s family photographs, but here is an image from our own family collection that remains a mystery. Found amongst my father’s effects, clearly this postcard portrait was taken during the First World War, probably by a professional military photographer and most likely in England. The upper corners have been cut down, perhaps to fit the card inside a frame at some stage.




ww1 royal artillery horse




The uniform and insignia of this proud horseman place him with the Royal Artillery, one of the British Army’s largest regiments during the Great War. The single sleeve stripe or chevron shows his rank to be lance bombardier (equivalent to lance corporal), while uniform details that reflect his mounted role include his leather ammunition bandolier, breeches, puttees and spurs. The white lanyard over his left shoulder was a distinguishing mark of the Royal Artillery, later moved to the right shoulder c.1921.

Nothing is printed or written on the back of the photographic mount, so any clues are contained in the visual image alone. Frustratingly, we don’t recognise this horseman: comparison with other photos confirms that he is not my grandfather, William George Shrimpton, who did serve in the war. Perhaps he was a great uncle – one of our grandfather’s or grandmother’s brothers: if so, his surname would be Shrimpton or Brooks. Can anyone help to identify him please?

An Unusual Victorian Painting

An Unusual Victorian Painting


painting early 1800s


One of the most exciting and satisfying aspects of my job is meeting new people and, especially, seeing a fascinating range of inherited family pictures, from artworks to photographs. After talking to the Hastings & St. Leonards National Trust Association earlier this year, one of the group’s members, Paul Cabban, showed me a copy of a large painting that had been passed down within his family. It is believed to portray prosperous Irish ancestors on their estate at Belvedere, Kent: Eli Earle Collins, b.1814; his wife Mary (nee Fenn), b.1821; and their children, Horace (on the pony), Mary Emma (holding the dog) and probably James, Edwin, Seldon and another.

I work on dozens of family paintings every year but had never before seen anything remotely like this ambitious picturesque scene from a private collection. As is usually the case, the picture is not identified, dated or signed by the artist, so one can simply hope to date the image accurately from the appearance of its human subjects.


painting early 1800s


The head of the family, Eli, seems to be wearing rather plain early-nineteenth century male attire, while Mary and her daughter, Mary Emma, broadly follow contemporary Victorian fashions. Their ringlet hairstyles and deep V-necklines date to the 1840s/1850 and indeed the date of the scene seems to be c.1850, based on the apparent age of Horace (b.1848) on the pony. Otherwise, these ancestors are wearing whimsical costumes comprising elements of 17th-century dress, such as the wide-brimmed ostrich-plumed hats and lace collars, while the boys’ colourful tabards and the flying pennant convey a lively sense of pageantry.

Such were my initial thoughts and later Paul kindly emailed me some comments from Amina Wright of the Holburne Museum in Bath, who saw the painting some years ago and had also suggested a date of c.1840s, noting the fanciful dress details reminiscent of the period of Rubens, Van Dyck etc. Paul also quoted from a professional Irish conservator’s report that he had previously commissioned. The conservator had identified the cart on which some of the family are ‘travelling’ here as being of traditional Irish style, supporting the probable identity of the family portrayed in this wonderful and curious painting.

Victorian Fashion

Victorian Fashion



victorian fashion



On 24th March 2016 my latest fashion history book will be published by Bloomsbury/Shire – Victorian Fashion. A modest guide to a vast and complex subject, this introduces the main aspects of dress for women, men and children between 1837 and 1900.



victorian fashion



Drawing on written and printed sources, surviving garments and diverse images including fashion illustrations, paintings, advertisements and family photographs, firstly we study the ever-changing sequence of Female Fashions, from the demure poke bonnets of the early-Victorian age to the spectacular bustles of the 1880s and showy ‘leg-o’-mutton sleeves of the 1890s.



victorian photograph fashion



Next is Menswear – often overlooked in conventional fashion histories, but here considered in all its fascinating detail, from the brash waistcoats of the 1840s and 1850s to the exaggerated, slender elegance of the late-Victorian ‘mashers’



paisley pattern waistcoat victorian fashion



Children’s Clothes also receive a good airing – the smock frocks, knickerbocker outfits, picturesque sailor suits, woollen stockings and miniature adult costumes designed for the discomfort of the younger generation.



victorian fashion



Next we look at Assembling a Wardrobe – the purchase and making of clothing in the days before few outfits could be bought ‘off-the-peg’ but often entailed the painstaking assembly of many individual elements.




victorian sewing dress making machine



Evening Dress then sways into view – a glimpse of glittering ball gowns, clouds of tulle and suave evening suits. Initially these frivolous toilettes were limited mainly to the social elite, although by the late-1800s some of our ordinary ancestors enjoyed dressing up for the occasional dance or dinner party.



cuirass line evening wear victorian fashion



We also investigate Sportswear – the modified or specially-designed dress worn by more active Victorians for archery, riding, tennis, cycling, swimming and other outdoor pursuits of the day.



victorian bathing costume



In the next chapter, Bridal Style, we investigate the diverse array of wedding fashions that spanned the period, and how the ‘traditional’ white wedding gradually evolved, under royal influence and encouraged by the popular press.



victoria wedding victorian ealing top hat



We end with a look at Mourning Costume – a curious form of dress to modern eyes. Most firmly associated with the Victorians, mourning customs were already beginning to decline by the end of the nineteenth century.



widow mourning 1860s victorian painting



Victorian Fashion should interest fashion students, historical dress enthusiasts, costume designers, family and local historians and hopefully steampunks too.


This book is available from the Publisher and Amazon


Flood Finds: Are These Old Mill Worker’s Boots?

Flood Finds:

Are These Old Mill Worker’s Boots?


leather boot found old vintage work



One of the great things about my job is that many people show and send me fascinating fashion- or image-related items. In March I received these photographs from Richard Coomber, who was out walking after the River Aire floods in Yorkshire had subsided. He spotted various articles of old, abandoned footwear including several soles, a man’s shoe with a wooden sole (a clog?) and this leather boot with a nailed sole. The boot is small, evidently made for the foot of a child or a diminutive woman.



leather boot found old vintage work



Interestingly, the spot where these items emerged in the churned-up, post-flood mud is about 200 yards downstream from the remains of New Hirst Mill, a mill built for the fulling of local woollen cloth in 1745 in Hirst Wood, Shipley, where there also existed a row of small cottages for the workforce. Richard wonders whether the boot may have once belonged to one of the occupants – perhaps a child or woman who worked at the mill.



leather boot found old vintage work



Made with eyelet holes for laces, it seems possible that the boot could date from the late-19th or early-20th century. A local website suggests that the area had become virtually derelict by the early 1880s, with only one house still occupied:

Therefore it is not clear whether this is likely to have been the footwear of a Victorian mill worker, or perhaps a later wearer. Either way, leather ankle boots were rarely worn after the 1920s, so it is an interesting local survival – hidden for around a century or more and revealed by the movement of the river. Ideally, a museum professional or other expert on historic footwear needs to date the boot so that it can be placed within an accurate historical context and Richard is taking steps (!) to discover more about this fascinating flood find.