Dress is a vast and complex subject, but here are some pointers to help with understanding, identifying and dating the clothing styles of those family members from the past who stood before the camera in their 'Sunday best'.
Fashion in photographs It was understood that clients visiting the photographer's studio (or, less commonly, those inviting a photographer to their home) would be dressed in their best quality, most fashionable clothing.
Photographs were ultimately designed to show off good taste and a pleasing appearance.
The distinctive bustle silhouette prevailed until around 1875, when it began to become outmoded.
The new, elongated cuirass bodice effectively forced the bustle downwards and in the late 1870s the excess drapery fell into a long train behind (fig.7).
In around 1880, the train was abandoned for day wear and outfits of the early 1880s were narrow and sheath-like: long, tight-fitting bodices formed an unbroken line over the hips, while shoe-length skirts were wrapped closely around the legs (fig.8).
In around 1884 the bustle returned, this time a more severe and extreme version that often projected sharply like a shelf behind the waist, remaining in vogue until around 1889/90 (fig.9).
A wide array of materials of varying textures and prices was available to suit different pockets and needs.