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Dress skirts and bodices also received more surface decoration, marking a move into the exuberant Victorian age.

On a different note, reform dress made an appearance.

If you’re hitting a brick wall when it comes to identifying family members in old photos from the Victorian era, you’re not alone.

Even the most seasoned family historian will run into this headscratcher from time to time as Victorian fashions throughout the time period can look very similar to the untrained eye. Every fashionable gentleman could be seen wearing narrowly tailored sack suits during the 1870s.

Early 1860s skirts were still quite full and ample, seen in the image on the left.

They were often gored (sewn together with separate bolts of fabric, rather than one large, pleated piece) to throw them out at the bottom.

For more detailed info, see the book -- if you can understand the fashion jargon! the long point and tapered scalloped bretelles of her bodice ..." or " ...

white undersleeves with frilled manchettes, ..." and "...

If so, you can begin to date the photograph to the turn of the century by researching the types of items people used during that time period.

For instance, in a portrait, pay attention to accessories and props.

Look for signage and architectural details in an exterior photograph.

But to get you started, here are seven tips for dating a photograph, using 1900 as an example.

Internal details are the little things that we take for granted in most pictures -- the objects in the image.

With almost 600 pages in large 8.5 x 11 format, this tome is not light reading in any sense.

The material Severa presents is far too complex and detailed for me to include it all here, but I'll try to point out some of the more obvious stylistic changes through the years.

Notice how the stripes in the dress on the right meet at points along the front; this is indicative of the use of separate bolts of fabric sewn together at that spot. Severa, Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900, 1995 By the mid-60s, the skirt began to change shape, becoming flatter and narrower in the front and fuller in the back.

The use of gored fabric allowed for the flat, smooth front seen in the image on the left.

Keep in mind that the descriptions are generalities and you could end up coming across exceptions to these clothing clues during your research. Waistcoats during this decade came without collars. Very slim cravats with tiny bow ties were also popular. Lounge suits offered slim silhouettes and jackets were worn partially undone, showing off a more relaxed style and revealing high-buttoned waistcoats and watch chains. Norfolk jackets were introduced during this time period and sack coats were still worn over evening attire. Norfolk jackets (look for box pleats over the chest and matching fabric belts).

In the Victorian era, men’s daily dress was more formal than it is today. Men also wore their collars highly-starched with neckties and elaborate cravats during the earlier part of the century, and by the late 1860s, string-style cravats that were more narrow emerged. What to look for: Lighter-colored trousers and black coats. Lounge suits continued to trend well into the 1890s with trousers sporting creases down the front. Cuffed trousers were also fashionable during the early 1900s.

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