This formal photograph on a postcard mount was bought recently at the York Expo Postcard Fair. Postcard photographs - sometimes called ‘real photo postcards’ were fashionable for over 40 years, between the early-1900s and 1940s, and millions of examples survive today.
Little is known about the young woman in this studio portrait, except that her name was Lil, but her image can be dated firmly to the late-Edwardian/pre-First World War era from her fashionable appearance. Her ‘tailor-made’ suit comprising a long jacket and ankle-length skirt is worn over a good white blouse. She wears a narrow bar brooch, crucifix on a fine chain and carries leather gloves and a walking stick. Her smart ensemble is completed by an enormous hat, the style of which dates this photograph closely to c.1910-13.
Often postcards are blank on the back, having been kept solely for the photographic image on the front, but sometimes they have been sent to someone, as in this case; since the reverse shows no stamp or postmark, it must have been posted in an envelope.
An interesting message has been addressed by this young lady, Lil, to a relative or close friend called Edie. She writes (in pencil):
How do you like this one, not bad. Would you ask Mrs Edds if she will cut me off the pattern of my coat and let me have it as May wants me to make one for her. Love from Lil.
Clearly Lil was satisfied with how she looked in this photograph and was keen to share the effect with others. Her request also demonstrates how before the First World Warmany female dress items were still individually made. Women often swapped fashion ideas and garment patterns, perhaps making clothes for themselves and for relatives and friends if they were skilled needlewomen, although professional dressmakers and seamstresses were also employed at times.
Personal notes like this postcard message are fascinating and of great historical value: they don’t often make the history books, but offer a wonderful glimpse into how earlier generations lived. Naturally, dress historians and enthusiasts will find the combination of stylish image and written details about clothing especially interesting.