Anne Sadrakula submitted this photograph of her great-grandmother Bridget White (born circa 1865) posed with one of her two husbands. Is the gentleman Maurice Keane who married Bridget in 1883 or from her second marriage in 1901? This carefully arranged photograph of the young couple contains a series of costume clues that answer the question.
A comparison of women’s clothing styles available in 1883 and 1901 definitely place the image in the 1880s. Bridget’s close-fitted bodice that buttons down the front is from the early 1880s. By 1883 most women wore bustles. They came in a variety of sizes and Bridget may be wearing a small one, but it hard to tell in this photograph. Her dress appears to be dark-colored wool. It is possible that she purchased this dress ready-made. During the 1880s some women still made their own clothing either from scratch or from patterns. However, the rise of department store and mail order catalogs gave women the option of buying ready-made clothing. By the turn of the 20th century, women’s clothing styles had changed, especially the shape of their sleeves. If this picture were circa 1900, her dress would have full sleeves.
Her husband, Maurice Keane, chose a loose sack coat for his photograph. In the 1880s, men’s suit coats reflected fitted women’s styles. Keane selected a more comfortable suit than fashion dictated. His tie wraps around his neck and is uncovered by the stiff stand up collar of his white tie.
Their hairstyles firmly place the picture within the early 1880s. Bridget wears her hair tightly pulled back with curls in the front. Maurice wears his short hair neatly combed with his facial hair closely trimmed.
The photographer posed her standing close to her partner with her left hand lightly resting on his shoulder. Clearly visible is a wedding ring on her hand. It is possible that this is a wedding portrait of the couple.
While the image is black and white, they elected to have the photographer hand color certain details in their portrait. Carefully applied pastels or oil colors add life to the picture through the pink in the subjects’ complexions. Photographers could create a photograph with the appearance of an oil painting, but this couple chose a simpler approach. The subtle addition of color to this picture indicates that whoever did the coloring had some experience. The photographer may have hired an artist for this service.
This is a 19th-century paper print of uncertain dimensions. It is difficult to identify the photographic process used to create the picture. Cardboard mountings prevented these paper prints from breakage. This portrait is in wonderful condition. It does not show signs that it was ever framed. There is only a small area of deterioration on the right edge of the picture.
This is lovely portrait of the first marriage of Bridget White and Maurice Keane around the time of their wedding. Their seriousness and conservatism as reflected in their clothing are part of the beauty of this picture.