I think this "dewy" photo of my grandmother, Emma Bickerstaff, is as perfectly lovely as any I've ever seen. She's beautiful and so is her high-necked "waist" with its abundance of lace down the front and the slightly pouffed half or three-quarter sleeves. I like how she looks straight through the lens of the camera into my eyes. I like the innocence, honesty, and trust I see there.
If you enlarge the photograph you can see an enchanting, delicate pin in the shape of a leaf at her neckline. Her off-center locket adds just a touch of movement - or possibly lack of attention on the part of the photographer or Emma herself.
Emma was born in July, 1893. I've been trying to decide her age when this photo was taken. My first guess was between 14 and 18. I wondered if perhaps it was a birthday photograph.
"Waist" in this circumstance is a "shirtwaist," a particular style of lady's blouse. Waists similar to Emma's were popular from at least 1903 until about 1909 with style variations over the years. Since Emma would have been only 10 in 1903, I'm sure this photo was taken later.
Emma grew up in Steubenville, Ohio, along the Ohio River. I thought perhaps some of the old newspapers might have clothing advertisements depicting clothing of the time. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get to the Ohio Historical Society to look at the Steubenville newspapers; fortunately, Google Newspapers has lots of other newspapers from that time period online. Since Pittsburgh is only about 39 miles from Steubenville (by today's routes) I looked at the Pittsburgh Press thinking the styles might be similar because the cities were so close.
Below are advertisements from June issues of The Pittsburgh Press from, left to right, 1906, 1907, 1908, and 1909. None is exactly like Emma's but I think 1907 is the closest. Perhaps the portrait was taken in 1907 when Emma was 15 or, if the waist wasn't new, perhaps it was taken when she was a year or two older.
If you'd like to see the ads yourself, go to The Pittsburgh Press at Google Newspapers, type in the dates (one at a time), click the arrow to the proper page, enlarge, and view the original advertisements. Here are the dates and page numbers: The Pittsburgh Press, June 29, 1906, p. 8; The Pittsburgh Press, June 30, 1907, p. 3; The Pittsburgh Press, June 28, 1908, p. 3; and The Pittsburgh Press, June 30, 1909, p. 12.
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