A WOMAN WEARING A VERY UNUSUAL COLORFUL PATTERNED DRESS IN NORTHAMPTON, MASSACHUSETTS

nice dress

This interesting cabinet card features a woman wearing a very unusual dress. The dress’s pattern can be described as psychedelic. Some would call the pattern paisley. One wonders if the woman’s dress really looked this way or if an artist colored the photograph while knocking off a bottle of whiskey. Another theory is that the subject woke up the morning of her appointment at the photographer and realized she had nothing to wear. In an act of desperation, she wore the living room drapes. Before I conjecture further, I want to call for assistance from the cabinet card gallery’s research department. Perhaps one of the several fashion savvy cabinet card gallery visitors can share their informed opinion about this woman’s attire. I shouldn’t call her “this woman” because I know her name. An inscription on the reverse of the photograph reveals that her name is Sarah Goodwin and that the cabinet card photo was taken in 1892. The 1880 US census finds a Sarah Goodwin living in Ware, Massachusetts. This is a town 24 miles away from Knowlton Brothers studio in Northampton. At the time of this photograph, Miss Goodwin was twenty nine years-old and working in a cotton mill. She was the third of five children born to Steven and Mary Goodwin. Sarah was born in 1863 in England, which was also the birthplace of her parents.

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Published in: on July 23, 2014 at 11:45 am  Comments (7)  
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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It looks like maybe she was doing fancy dress

  2. It appears to me that Ms Goodwin was a theatrical women who trod the boards in her spare time and is dressed in a beautiful costume, for a particular role, that has been carefully and expertly made.

  3. She looks like an actress… what is she holding in her right hand?

  4. Paisley was quite popular and although we usually see photos of solid colors, many museums and private collections hold fabulously patterned fabrics. With how the subject is holding papers and looks rather dramatic I am wondering if she was in a play? Great image!

  5. I would think she was in a play. Companies and towns often put on theatricals. Usually large department stores but perhaps a mill would have as well. The dress is sorta 18th century style. Or maybe the photographer wanted a pretty girl for photographic art, in which case he should have designed the shot better.

    • First, I really like this dress on Sarah… can’t help it. I think I see a limited pattern of sequins, but no gaudy accessories, no jewelry at all. And with a train … appropriate places to wear it would be limited, I expect. My first (and only) thought mirrors Pamazon and the others … a scene from a play … local theater? Good stagecraft … the near-anger expression, the denying outstretched hand …’ you can’t have what is in this paper bag’ (heavy enough to warrant supporting from below) … nothing in the extended hand, just shadows on the palm. Sarah, 29, and working in a cotton mill … good grief! Never saw a paper bag in a Cabinet Card before … great posting! … lots of mystery (i.e. questions).

  6. What she is holding in her hand looks to me as papers with a broken seal. A letter maybe or documents that would be of importance to her acting role.


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