I get a little thrill when I can match up Jessie’s photos with her diary entries. Here is another example from Jessie’s diary written Saturday, March 22, 1913: “Winnie, Cooper and I were some sports in our silk kimonos and boudoir caps at breakfast this morning. We took more cute pictures. I hope they are good…”
In Jessie’s photo album she titled the following two pictures – “As they look in the morning.”
Glued into Jessie’s album right next to those two pictures are a photo of Dorothy Jane Kerr, who is either a cousin or a close family friend, and a photo of Jessie’s mother, also named Jessie.
Without a doubt, the main event occurring in April of 1912 in Memphis was the Flood (see my previous post, The Flood of 1912). Luckily, Jessie and her family lived on the bluff on which much of Memphis was built and were protected from the ravages of the flood. Life went on, even though parts of the city remained under water.
Early in the morning on April 15, 1912, the R.M.S. Titanic, on its maiden voyage, hit an iceberg and sank. The news went out over the wires and Jessie and her family read about the disaster later that morning in the newspaper, probably while they were eating breakfast and getting ready for the day. Jessie wrote in her diary: “Monday, April 15, 1912: We read in this morning’s paper about such a terrible thing. The sinking of the Titanic, the world’s greatest ship on which 1,595 persons lost their lives. Oh! it’s terrible to think of it. Most of the women and children were saved. John Jacob Astor the great millionaire was lost. How awful it is to think of the homes this has filled with sorrow.”
And finally, here is another cultural tidbit. On April 30th, 1912, Jessie wrote in her diary: “After my music [lesson] I went all over town looking at aigrettes. They sure are pretty but mighty expensive.” An aigrette is an ornamental head piece, often made of feathers, usually egret feathers.
I love to post pictures of the clothes and accessories of the day (see Women’s Fashion, Spring 1911). It helps me stay closer to the subject, my grandmother! The highly structured corsets and clothing of the Victorian era were being replaced by looser, less structured clothing and undergarments for women. As I mentioned in last year’s posting, the French clothing designer Paul Poiret was highly influential during the first two decades of the 20th century. Perhaps he was inspired by art nouveau ideals of women, especially as depicted by Alphonse Mucha — loose flowing hair and loose, sometimes exotic clothing. I hope you enjoy these pictures and fashion plates from 1912.
On March 10, 1911, Jessie and her mother went shopping. Jessie got a tan spring hat, a tan silk pongee coat and a tan silk dress. Of course, I was curious as to what kinds of dresses and hats Jessie might be looking at, and it turns out that this is right at the beginning of a revolution in women’s fashion that is still in effect today. In freeing women from the very restrictive undergarments that had been worn during the Victorian and Edwardian eras, some fashion designers, and especially Paul Poiret (1879-1944), went in the opposite direction. “Requiring less restrictive undergarments and conforming more to the natural shape of the body, Poiret’s designs of 1908–11 are regarded as pivotal in the transition from the rigidly corseted silhouettes of the Victorian and Edwardian eras to styles providing greater freedom and comfort in dress that would characterize twentieth-century fashion.” This from the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s online exposition on Paul Poiret’s work. Check out this link to view the Metropolitan Museum’s Paul Poiret Collection. Poiret, who was the most important French designer of the first two decades of the 20th century, made clothes that were loose and sometimes draped. Ironic, since he is the designer responsible for the brief fashion craze over hobble skirts. He designed harem pants for women. Unheard of! No doubt Jessie’s new clothes were not designer duds from Paris, but you can see from some of the following images that the empire waistlines were already part of the trend toward less restrictive dresses.