Tall hats were a popular millinery item during the bustle eras, helping to offset the wide backside with height. We can surmise based on this particular tall, feathered hat, that our subject was wearing a bustle dress. She’s also sitting sideways on the studio chair, although that wasn’t necessary when wearing a bustle dress. The details on this tintype are interesting.
- She is wearing a coat (called a paletot at the time) over her dress. Both the coat and the dress feature a trim, although I believe the coat has fur trimmings on the collar, cuffs and around the edges. Her dress has a pattern which is called window pane. I do wish we could see the colors! Since she is wearing a coat, we can guess it was cooler weather, so the dress itself was probably wool. Our modern perception of wool may take us to gray & tan suit fabrics, but this might have been blue or red or green for all we know. The pattern would likely have been woven into the fabric rather than printed on it. Much modern fabric has its pattern printed on it rather than woven into it. It’s a time saving process for complex patterns.
- She is wearing one glove. Her hand in her lap is exposed, likely to show her ring and bracelet. These pieces of jewelry are difficult to see unless you enlarge the image. Since tintype images are reversed, I’m wondering if this was actually her left hand and that is her wedding ring. She also has a brooch at her throat and I’m wondering if it was diamond encrusted. It appears to catch the light quite well.
- The hat itself has a few feathers and a big bow on the front. The feathers look like they could have been ostrich plume. You can see that the hat really sits atop her head and hair rather than enclosing the head like a modern bucket hat. It was truly designed as an ornament rather than a functional item.