Woman with an assertive hat

What it is:

Photo (2.75 x 4 inches) mounted on cardboard backing (5 x 7 inches; I cropped most of the backing out of this scan).

What I know about it:

Photographer is A. C. Hopkins (no location given).  Written in ball-point pen on the top and lower margins is Lula Clegg / Grandma’s cousin.


The advantage of blowing up a scan is that you can see detail better.  The disadvantage is that the detail includes dirt and damage.  Still, despite the dirt, I think this is an interesting image.  That hat looks downright cantilevered.  But even though the hat upstages everything at first glance, your eyes are still drawn in the end to her sweet, wistful face.  (By the way, the handwriting in the margins was nearly invisible, ballpoint pen on black cardboard, so there didn’t seem any point in trying to scan it, since it wouldn’t read.)

13 comments on “Woman with an assertive hat”

  1. I didn’t even notice the hat until you mentioned it, and what a hat it is! 🙂 My eye is just drawn to that face, as you said, so sweet and wistful. Some sort of longing in her gaze. Very nice. Another great one to share! 🙂

  2. Her hat and clothing say that this picture is from the turn of the century (20th century), maybe 1905 or 1908. Although she doesn’t have the huge Gibson Girl pompadour, that is a Gibson Girl-esque hat, which would look less cantilevered if her hairdo filled out the area underneath the hat brim.

  3. Very interesting comment from Elizabeth, especially about the hairdo not being quite right for the hat. After I read that, I noticed that the woman’s jewelry does look a little askew, and I suspect her jacket might have been a hand-me-down or something–it doesn’t look properly tailored. (Perhaps the loose front was purposeful, like the blousey shirtwaists of the period, but the shoulders? The whole thing looks too big, unless it’s just me misinterpreting.) Now it seems like there’s some kind of sad story of genteel poverty hidden in the picture.

  4. Her necklace is a bit off center, but I think that’s just how it was hanging when the photo was taken. Her clothing doesn’t look particularly badly-fitted to me; the loose front was the fashion during the Gibson Girl era/early 1900s, and the shoulder seam looks like it’s right on the bend of her shoulders, to me. I have seen photos from the same time period where the shoulder seam was at the same place on other women, as well as photos where the seam was higher up on the shoulder. I’m thinking it may just have been a matter of personal preference or comfort, and it doesn’t look like hand-me-down clothing to me. Although, ready-made blouses were available in department stores by this time, so maybe this is a ready-made blouse that is not to her exact measurements. It looks more like “everyday fashion” instead of genteel poverty; even though the hat was designed to complement a larger hairdo, maybe she didn’t like wearing her hair that big? That also says to me “purchased ready-made instead of custom-made to her design” which is probably what many middle-class women were doing. She looks like she might be an educated working woman, like a teacher, secretary, telephone operator, etc. Sensibly and neatly dressed, fashionable but practical, tailored, not frivolous.

  5. The fashion wars are on! ; )

    “the loose front was the fashion during the Gibson Girl era/early 1900s…”

    I know that was true for blouses, but I’ve never seen a jacket like that–not that I’m an expert, but I’ve studied quite a few pictures from the period. Maybe I just don’t like the style. It doesn’t look nicely draped to me, like a shirtwaist–I find it unappealingly baggy. I think the shoulders hang a bit too low on the outside. (Compared to the shoulders here, it seems like hers slope a little too much: http://tinyurl.com/69jzm23 It reminds me of the hapless secretary in this picture: http://tinyurl.com/43yb2z8) I also think the necklace was a poor choice, since there’s no way it wouldn’t bang against the jacket buttons. As for the hat, if she didn’t like to wear her hair big, why not choose a hat style that would work better with a smaller ‘do? It almost overpowers her. I feel like the photo captures a feeling of aspirations that are not quite achieved.

    It’s interesting that we have such different interpretations. I don’t get the “working woman” feeling from this photo, maybe because of the wistful expression that Matt mentioned. (Compare to this: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ledandy1/5248267658/ ) This is not to say that she couldn’t have been a working woman, but she doesn’t look independent and capable in this one shot to me–it looks like she’s yearning for a different life.

    I wouldn’t necessarily want anyone to make assumptions about my life based on one picture, but it’s hard to resist when it’s all we have!

  6. there must be a way to make paragraph breaks in WordPress–maybe i’ll figure it out next time!

  7. I love this conversation! Thanks to everyone for your information and opinions.

  8. Will you please tell me WHERE you found this photo? As a genealogist I am urgently searching my grandmother’s roots. The only info I know is her mother was ‘Lula Clegg’ and this may be her. The timing is correct. If the photo was found in the area she lived, that would help me. TIA

    • Hi Brenda. I bought this photo about fifteen years ago on eBay, and unfortunately I no longer have records of where the seller was located, nor would I know if the seller found the photo locally. I’m sorry that’s not very helpful, but if I figure out any more information, I’ll let you know. Best of luck in your search!

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