I love looking at these images because I can learn so much about historical clothing (which I love). Today’s page from the Red Gem album shows us a pair of ladies on the left and a single young lady on the right. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
It is unfortunate that the photo seems to have been made slightly off center, because we can’t see the left hand woman as well as the right hand one. But there is so much to see! The lady who we can see well, on the right, is wearing some sort of saque coat made of some sort of fluffy material. First, a saque coat is a coat that buttons with one or two buttons close to the neckline. They are large and loose garments, perfect to go over large sleeves or embellished bodices. Of course there is no reason one could not have worn a saque coat over a simple bodice with narrow sleeves, just that the unfitted body of the coat lent itself to covering without crushing. I can’t quite tell what kind of material it was made from. I asked some of the historical clothing experts I know, and discovered it could be Persian lamb or some sort of novelty woven wool. Now I’m picturing the novelty faux fur fabrics at the local fabric store. Whatever it was, it has an unusual look, and might have been included in the photograph for that reason. Her hair is pulled back to the back of her head and she is wearing a pillbox hat. Her companion has on a lovely checked fabric dress with a straight buttoned front and white collar. I have a dress similar to this in blue and white check, so that is of course how I picture this dress. The Checkered Lady also has on what appears to be a pillbox hat, or possibly something with a very small brim. My friends who helped out with the ID on the saque coat estimated the date of this photo to be just after the war, so 1865 or 66.
Their page neighbor wears a very typical and fashionable example of 1860s clothing for young women. The trims going across her bust and shoulders were intended to emphasize width in opposition with the large skirt, thereby making the waist look small. She has coordinating trim at the wrists of her sleeves. It is difficult to tell if the buttons of her bodice were functional or not, but they appear to be large and may even have been made of the same fabric as the dress. Her hair is parted in the center and drawn back over her ears, then allowed to fall loose down her back.
While I don’t have any fun links for you today, if you are on Facebook and wish to learn more about civilian clothing, you might be interested in a group called The Civilian Civil War Closet. There are several fashion historians on the site (like, literally historians who work at museums and stuff!), as well as experienced seamstresses and experienced living history demonstrators. It is extremely educational and I have learned quite a lot from them!