British fashion history from pictures

by Veronica

How many of us have found old family photos and wondered who the pictures were of and when? I certainly have. Here's a few tips for deciding

I am concentrating on 20th C photos in this piece because not many of us have family paintings from the 19th C. I am interested to know from our dear community how fashion in your own country compares to British 20th C fashion.

I give acknowledgement to the V and A museum for information.

Nowadays anything goes. We can wear more or less whatever we like - long, short hemlines, colours, styles but in the past fashion was more date specific.
Therefore, we can give a good approximation as to a date from a picture in the past.

The picture is of my Great Grandfather William Beswick born 1858. I would think this is dated post.1900 approx.1910. In those days having a photo taken was a special occasion - unlike now. People wore their best clothes. Grandad has a matching handkerchief in his pocket.

I have used three family wedding photos to show differences.

William Beswick

born 1858 Lancashire. England.
a special occasion.
a special occasion.

1900's onwards

Great Grandad is in a waistcoat. 3 piece suits were standard at the time. His shirt collar is rounded.

Higher hemlines approx 1913

In Uk, hemlines started to rise approx. 1912/1913. Shorter dresses were more practical for women doing war work during the Great War 1914 - 1918 and skirt lengths never really went longer for general wear.

During this time, separate skirts and blouses were becoming very popular. Suffragettes see me below in Suffragette costume. The lady on the right is in a straw hat, ankle length skirt and white blouse.


Approx 1913

me dressed as a  suffragette style dating 1913 approx
me dressed as a suffragette style dating 1913 approx


This is taken approx. 1931.  Grandad is still in a waistcoat as these hadn't yet declined in popularity. Grandma is in a knee length skirt and a blouse. Skirts and blouses have retained their popularity although styles are different.

Grandad and Grandma were fairly comfortably off and well dressed for Manchester in the 1930's. See granddad's watch and chain on his waistcoat. Grandad still has a rounded collar on his shirt. These lost popularity and have never really recovered. Pointed collars are the norm now.

1930's family
1930's family

1930's wedding

1930's wedding
1930's wedding
My great uncle's wedding

The 1930's wedding dress has a lot more cloth than the one below. The ladies are wearing hats and the men have three piece suits. The mens' collars are already pointed

1940's wedding

Rationing wedding

My father was married in his army uniform. This was fairly common during WW2. Many brides wore a day dress but my mother's aunt  "managed" to get this beautiful lace and she made this wedding dress for my mother in 1945. The train and skirt are less full and used less cloth.

Some men were in 3 piece suits and this was becoming unusual  in the 1940's. Jumpers as popularised by the Duke of Windsor were more usual. Waistcoats used more cloth and rationing was still in process. Grandad on the right is in a two piece suit.

my mum and dad's wedding
my mum and dad's wedding

Fast forward 2016

Fast forward to present day. Things come round again.

This is a family wedding photo. Frank Beswick is wearing a frock coat or morning coat. My brother on the right is a three piece suit. These are fashionable again. I am in a knee length dress.

celebration clothes.
celebration clothes.

To conclude

Glancing through family photos I was interested to see the differences and similarities in fashions over the years.

How do your family photos compare fashionwise ?

Comments are requested and welcome.

Updated: 02/27/2018, Veronica
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?


Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
DerdriuMarriner 22 days ago

Thank you for your comments March 2, 2018, in answer to my previous, same-day observations and questions.

It's saddening to hear about the permanent aftereffects for your beloved great aunt Florence of standing all work hours-long in a mill job.

Those aftereffects might have included swelling from the toes up through the knees, correct?

Some Unitedstatesians who must stand for hours put into regular daily routines lying on the floor with their heads propped by pillows and their legs from the hips through the feet resting slightly diagonally or usually straight so that their body forms a backward L.

I tried it one day when I did lots of standing and it was wonderfully anti-swelling and invigorating.

Would that your great aunt Florence had known about the reverse L position!

frankbeswick on 03/02/2018

I think it worth saying that the father of Veronica and me was married in army uniform because what should have been for him a week's journey from Greece, where he had been on service, took three weeks rather than one, as the boiler of the ship taking him home blew up at Salonika, so he had to wait six days for it to be fixed. There then came a crossing of Europe, including a diffficult landing in France where the returning troops had to use a partly sunken ship as an improvised jetty. He arrived home the night before the wedding was scheduled, so there was no time for him to buy wedding clothes. The good old days!

Veronica on 03/02/2018

TY. This new profile picture was taken this week. I have no make up on so it is just me and how I look.

The colours of the suffragette movement were usually purple and yellow but white blouses were the popular fashion. My uncle and aunt and also my parents were married in a church named St Francis, Gorton The photos were taken there. It is a preserved listed building now but no longer a church.

The bespectacled lady on the far left is mine and Frank's beloved great aunt Florence, a lovely, kindly humble and gentle soul.. She was 46 when the photo was taken. She would never have worn heels as her legs were damaged from years spent standing at a mil machine where she was not allowed to sit down. She was so lovely.

DerdriuMarriner on 03/02/2018

Veronica, Your present and your previous profile photos are friendly and welcoming even though the current picture has a bit of a lead because of the nice close-up!
What are the colors and the materials of the suffragette costume?
It's interesting to see the different backgrounds, with your great-grandfather seated to the side of a desk or table, your grandparents before their house, your great uncle and aunt-in-law in front of drapes and what looks like clear-patterned stained glass and your parents in front of classical-themed columns.
Is the bespectacled woman on the far left of the 1930s wedding photo wearing tie shoes with heels? I love that style: attractive and sensible!

Veronica on 02/27/2018

Thank you thank you . This is JUST what I had hoped for . Regarding the serrsucker trousers and suspenders ... I am delighted no one else was wearing them .... :)

Yes hair styles are also a very important fashion accessory.

Thanks again for chipping in BSG. Your input ads always is appreciated.

blackspanielgallery on 02/27/2018

I can recall the 50s and 60s. There was a time when poodle skirts were popular, then came bleeding madras, which were clothes with dye that ran and changed the appearance every time you washed it. As for men's fashion, I recall the jack shirts, shirts that ere cut straight and designed t appear to be tucked in, but there was nothing to tuck in.
Fashion also goes to hair styles, and the Beatles did quite a lot to promote longer hair in the U. S. I also recall duck tails from before that. In parochial school we had strict codes and such hair styles would result in being sent home.
One thing I still recall is a great grandfather, a German decent person, who was alive until I was 16 years old. In the 50s, whenever we visited him, he was in a seersucker pair of pants, and suspenders. It was his look. No one else was wearing such things.

Veronica on 02/27/2018

Yes indeed. This is best celebration wear and you looked slightly improved on your usual taste :)

frankbeswick on 02/27/2018

I would not ordinarily wear a frock coat for any function, but the bride wanted the me, her father and her brother to wear one, so I agreed.

Veronica on 02/27/2018

Yes he was very poor though. I am talking about the fashions of the day. The poor are always going to be in yesterday's clothes unfortunately. Furthermore he had issues and often could only afford what was freely given .

frankbeswick on 02/27/2018

I can recall the 1950s when my maternal grandfather still wore waistcoats.

You might also like

Portland Basin Museum, Ashton under Lyne

At the junction of three canals, a Victorian warehouse stood and was later co...

The Suffragette Campaign and their bombing of Alexandra Park M...

A little known event in English suffrage history had its centenary in 1913. H...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...