Lucy Cottrell and her charge in Virginia, about 1845
Lucy's dress probably looked much
like this in color, a very showy Prussian blue stripe,
fashionable in the 1840s and '50s.
The daguerreotype of Lucy is in the collection of the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center. A slave whose duty is childcare, she holds her toddler charge in a common pose. Lucy is probably more a prop to keep the baby still enough to photograph than a person, an individual to be recorded and recalled by the people who paid for the photo. However, she is dressed for the photographer in a fashionable striped dress. It's so crisp it looks like cotton.
Or her dress might be a wool combination fabric as
in this dress from Tasha Tudor's collection.
Almost out of the picture, the woman seems to have a
nine patch quilt in her lap. We'd like to see more of the textiles---
and of course more about the women's lives. Showing some period
prints can bring the photos a little more to life.
Unknown woman in a checked apron and a striped floral dress.
Florals set in stripes
Most of these photos are from online auctions. I've
lightened them up to show the prints and the faces in the shadows.
Combination wool/silk weave---challis
Some women wear more formal wool and silk
street dress as in this carte-de-visite.
And older women often wear head scarves and something
like a uniform.
The uniform seems to become more standardized
after the war and emancipation when roles,
perhaps, were sharply defined in the new era of equality.
Many nannies of the 1840-1865 period are dressed in what may have been their
working wardrobe, at least when they were showing off the children, say to parents and
guests after supper.
Perhaps her best dress.
Document print for a repro in my Ladies Legacy
fabric collection for Moda, out soon.
Child care with flair.
This Philadelphia cabinet card looks like a post-war
photo but the dress print.....
with its wide stripes full of seaweedish vegetation...
Sleeves rolled up for work. Did that baby
just come out of the bathwater?
Short sleeves a practical solution.
Missouri Historical Society
Dresses one would wear to chase
after a toddler. Printed plaids or woven?
A printed plaid
Someone's hair saved in the metal case
Foulards (spotty figures in a diagonal repeat) were
quite popular during the Civil War years.
Polka dots are a form of foulard.
We can hope that pudgy baby is just sleeping
but from the look on the woman's face---a post-mortem portrait.
National Humanities Center, Photographs of Enslaved African Americans, 1847-ca. 1863