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Street style, 1906
April 10, 2012 1:20 AM   Subscribe

Some of his photographs are odd. Others are just creepy. But thanks to his hobby of photographing young women with a hidden camera, Edward Linley Sambourne (1844-1910) has left us a fascinating series of images of street fashion in Edwardian London. [some photos NSFW]
posted by verstegan (38 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
There’s nothing quite as creepy as a middle-aged Victorian male, is there?

That seems to be the truth. The candids of the Edwardian girls walking around is pretty fascinating though... I especially liked the one picture of the woman who seemed to be wise to Mr Sambourne's "stealth" photography.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 1:40 AM on April 10, 2012


The hats…
posted by hattifattener at 1:41 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


For some reason, Camera Club always took place when Sambourne’s wife was visiting friends in the country.

The framing here (especially the "creepy" link) makes this seem tawdry when it appears that Sambourne's interest was in producing photographs which could serve as artists' models. Like here.
posted by three blind mice at 1:59 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems obvious that "Edwardian street fashion" is a code for "Hats! It's all about the hats! Well, and the poofy sleeves, but really the hats."
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:41 AM on April 10, 2012


He got two reading while walking. And I just realized that for some reason I've thought of that as more common pre-WWII. Are there any numbers on that, I wonder? It definitely stands out now. I frequently get people wondering how it's even possible.
posted by DU at 2:57 AM on April 10, 2012


How on earth do some of those women keep those contraptions atop their heads? Clearly, wearing a hat used to be a skill...
posted by Dysk at 3:13 AM on April 10, 2012


Dysk: hatpins. Nasty things.
posted by andraste at 3:43 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's some great style on display there.
posted by Drexen at 3:57 AM on April 10, 2012


From the hatpin link: Laws were passed in 1908 in America which limited the length of hatpins, as there was a concern they might be used by suffragettes as weapons.

Mr A. Square would recognize this.
posted by DU at 4:23 AM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


The sleeping maid is super creepy (assuming she wasn't a willing model, pretending to be asleep...), and the hats are cool. What really stood out to me, as someone who knows very little about historical fashions, was how soft and unstructured (meaning comfortable and wearable) most of those clothes looked. I mean, that's probably not surprising, because people have to do physical things like walk and work in shops, and that can't happen if your clothes are rigid and uncomfortable. But the clothes in these photographs were strikingly different compared to my vision of ye olde fashiones from paintings and movies.
posted by Forktine at 4:32 AM on April 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


He even purchased a special camera with a secret lens that took pictures at right-angles so his subjects would be completely unaware as to what was going on.

Which you can still buy today!
posted by TedW at 4:52 AM on April 10, 2012


Marion disliked like posing for photographs. She regarded her husband's photographic sessions as a nuisance, as they interfered with her daily housekeeping regime.

This is a line from the 88 Lines About 44 Women of 1906.
posted by peagood at 4:53 AM on April 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


Forktine, I had the same impression, also very different from the fashions in old posed photographs from that era. I was surprised by the shoes in some, they were not all those lace-up black things I thought everyone wore then, but some looked like shoes today, pumps with a small heel. It was nice to picture my grandmothers who were young then in some of those pretty outfits.
posted by mermayd at 4:54 AM on April 10, 2012


I was surprised by the shoes in some, they were not all those lace-up black things I thought everyone wore then, but some looked like shoes today, pumps with a small heel.

Wow, no kidding. I hadn't thought to look at the shoes, but check out what she's wearing in this photo (from the "street fashion" page) -- I'd bet my wife has virtually identical shoes in her closet today.
posted by Forktine at 4:57 AM on April 10, 2012


I love the photos from the street. You so rarely see pictures of women from previous eras that haven't been thoroughly contextualised by the image-maker's gaze as an instance of 'poverty' or 'decadence' or 'motherhood' or somesuch. These subjects look so self-possessed and vital to me.
posted by freya_lamb at 5:08 AM on April 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


I love the lady in plaid who is giving him the side-eye. In my mind, that's a young Miss Marple.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:33 AM on April 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


He got two reading while walking. And I just realized that for some reason I've thought of that as more common pre-WWII. Are there any numbers on that, I wonder? It definitely stands out now. I frequently get people wondering how it's even possible.

They look like people walking with iPhones to me.
posted by designbot at 5:35 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The framing here (especially the "creepy" link) makes this seem tawdry when it appears that Sambourne's interest was in producing photographs which could serve as artists' models.

Perhaps. But, from the comments on the same link, from someone who had visited the museum:

"The charming lady who showed us around made a determined effort to maintain that the nude pictures were taken solely because Sambourne was self-taught, and therefore needed to make up for the lack of experience in drawing from the nude early in his career. However, that doesn’t really account for the picture in the catalogue of a girl sitting in an armchair with her legs apart, does it?"
posted by pbrim at 6:11 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


What is this woman wearing on her left forearm? It looks like some sort sleeve guard (perhaps to keep ink off her clothing)...
posted by Chrischris at 7:26 AM on April 10, 2012


That's for Edwardian bear fighting!
posted by Edison Carter at 7:31 AM on April 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I came in here to ask what that thing was on the one woman's arm. I don't think it can be a sleeve guard because why would she walk around with it on, smearing the (presumably) ink on her dress?
posted by HotToddy at 7:43 AM on April 10, 2012


> I love the lady in plaid who is giving him the side-eye.

"Why is he photographing a fencepost? And why does he keep staring at me while he does it?"
posted by ardgedee at 8:04 AM on April 10, 2012


Yeah, I came in here to ask what that thing was on the one woman's arm. I don't think it can be a sleeve guard because why would she walk around with it on, smearing the (presumably) ink on her dress?

Eh, I dunno - ink dries pretty quickly. You might be in need of such a thing to protect your sleeve as you dragged it across the page and yet not be terribly worried that the ink was still wet when you went out for lunch.
posted by Diablevert at 8:09 AM on April 10, 2012


This is the Vice Do's and Dont's of 1906
posted by Hoopo at 8:10 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


What really stood out to me, as someone who knows very little about historical fashions, was how soft and unstructured (meaning comfortable and wearable) most of those clothes looked.
I agree, but I can guarantee you that there are restrictive undergarments under there.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:26 AM on April 10, 2012


> This is a line from the 88 Lines About 44 Women of 1906.

God, that's awesome. Could we change the title a bit & do a call for submissions for "1888 Lines about 44 Women"?

Mabel showed her ankles in the park, strolling around til after dark.
posted by codswallop at 8:35 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's for Edwardian bear fighting!

This self-portrait seems to be from his short-lived one man show Harrumph: the story of Noodly Dan and His Adventures in Bear-fighting and a Bit of the 'ol Ultraviolence wherein he fights a stuffed bear that is awkwardly made 'lifelike' by sheet-covered stagehands in some bizarre form of 'concealment' and then beats senseless anyone in the audience who doubts it's a live bear with that thing in his hand that looks like a bat.

Of course, it's all being secretly photographed while it happens.
posted by chambers at 8:55 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The framing here (especially the "creepy" link) makes this seem tawdry when it appears that Sambourne's interest was in producing photographs which could serve as artists' models. Like here.

three blind mice, it's notable that in your example, the models are clothed, while that's clearly not the case in the photos that the quote refers to. Oranges are not app nipples.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:19 AM on April 10, 2012


In a society as restrictive as Edwardian Britain, this may have been the only way a self taught artist could express himself. If Sambourne had lived in 20th century Spain or France we probably wouldn't think twice about him photographing women on the street, or nude models in the studio.
posted by Kevin Street at 9:31 AM on April 10, 2012


They were photographed without their consent; "this may have been the only way a self taught artist could express himself" doesn't trump their right (applicable even in 1906!) to not be photographed without their knowledge and uses made of their images to which they had not agreed.
posted by jokeefe at 9:57 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think it quite matches up with the timeline in the books, but the puffed sleeves make me think of Anne of Green Gables. As do the flat boater hats.
posted by book 'em dano at 10:00 AM on April 10, 2012


If Sambourne had lived in 20th century Spain or France we probably wouldn't think twice about him photographing women on the street, or nude models in the studio.

What do you mean "we", kemosabe? I mean, sure, the nude models got paid, but the passersby and the maid didn't even get asked for permission.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:33 AM on April 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think it quite matches up with the timeline in the books, but the puffed sleeves make me think of Anne of Green Gables. As do the flat boater hats.

This is London street fashion in 1906, and Anne of Green Gables was set in rural Canada and published in 1908. Makes sense to me.
posted by donajo at 1:29 PM on April 10, 2012


I'm sure I spotted Lucy Honeychurch in one of those photos ...
posted by stowaway at 6:54 PM on April 10, 2012


Hm I thought I remembered a reference in one of the later Anne books to them celebrating the turn of the century. Maybe not.
posted by book 'em dano at 8:21 PM on April 10, 2012


"Rilla of Ingleside" is about Anne's daughter, and takes place during World War I.
posted by mynameisluka at 9:27 PM on April 10, 2012


I should have mentioned that the book is the last in the Anne series.
posted by mynameisluka at 9:27 PM on April 10, 2012


They were photographed without their consent; "this may have been the only way a self taught artist could express himself" doesn't trump their right (applicable even in 1906!) to not be photographed without their knowledge and uses made of their images to which they had not agreed.

jokeefe, if you're referring to the nudes, only the "maid sleeping" is nonconsensual (assuming it's not a setup, which is likely, since he would had to have the room lights on).

If you're referring to the street photography... well, 90% of the photos taken by everyone in public violate those same rights.

Indignation sure does taste swell, though, doesn't it?
posted by IAmBroom at 1:31 PM on April 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


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