As seen in this photograph, the trends of the Roaring Twenties were not just for flappers – although daytime fashions were significantly less flashy than what one tends to associate with the era. Here, sisters Leota, Alpha, and Belle, from left to right, pose together sporting bobs and simple patterned dresses. Although the sisters were likely in their late forties or early fifties when this photograph was taken, they clearly made an effort to keep up with the times.
Alpha Doretta, Minnie Belle, and Anna Leota Fenton were born in Saline County, Kansas, the daughters of George W. and Sarah Ellen (Hall) Fenton.1 After their father’s death, their mother remarried, and eventually, the family relocated to northwestern Iowa.2 At the time that this photograph was taken, Alpha, the wife of Clare Gibson, lived in Colorado,3 whereas Belle, the wife of Joseph Hoffman, and Leota, the wife of George Thoma, lived in different counties in Iowa.4 It was likely a rare occasion that the sisters were able to be together.
Leota, Alpha, and Belle wear popular styles of what would have been considered day dresses or house dresses in this decade, as seen on Vintage Dancer: 1920s Day / House Dresses and Aprons. Likely made of cotton, their dresses feature lively prints and straight, comfortable cuts. Both Belle, right, and Alpha, center, wear dresses made of fabric printed with spirals or swirls. Both have sleeves cuffed above the elbow, and have belted, dropped waists. Leota wears a standard long apron with patch pockets over her dress, but it can be seen that her floral-patterned dress hits, appropriately, just below the knee. Her dress has contrasting fabric sewn at the hem and the cuffs, and she clutches a striped cloche hat in her hand.
This look was quite a change from the romantic, Gibson Girl-esque styles of just a quarter century before, as seen in an earlier photograph of Leota. However, it looks like these ladies might have had quite a bit of fun with their makeovers during this decade, before more conservative styles returned with the Great Depression.
1 1880 U.S. census, Saline County, Kansas, population schedule, Eureka Township, enumeration district (ED) 300, p. 204 (stamped), dwelling 102, family 110, George W. Fenton; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 January 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T9, roll 396.
2 1900 U.S. census, Osceola County, Iowa, population schedule, Gilman Township, enumeration district (ED) 92, sheet 3-A, p. 4079 (penned), dwelling 49, family 52, John Hoffman; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 January 2014), citing National Archives microfilm publication T623, roll 451.
3 “U.S, City Directories, 1821-1989,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 January 2014), entry for Clare E. Gibson; citing “The R.L. Polk Directory Co.’s Boulder County Directory, 1923 (R.L. Polk & Co., 1923),” 135.
4 1925 Iowa State Census, Sibley, Osceola County, Iowa, Belle Hoffman; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 January 2014), citing State Historical Society of Iowa, and 1925 Iowa State Census, Sioux City, Woodbury County, Iowa, Leota A. Thoma; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 23 January 2014), citing State Historical Society of Iowa