1906: My fashionable grandmother at age one

Sepia Saturday 384: Piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

For as far back as I can remember, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence was a clothes horse. She followed fashion trends and kept up with the latest in age-appropriate clothing, footwear and accessories.

Me with my stylish grandmother (1950). Even for casual times, like holding me as a baby out on the porch, my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence was always fashionably dressed and accessorized. Photo by Norman J. Charboneau

A 1950 photo from the day that she and I first met in Gloversville, N.Y., shows her stylishly attired with every hair in place.

Not that she spent inordinate sums on her outfits.

Known in our family as Boom from my childhood rendering of Grandma as “Booma,” my grandmother was a serious sales shopper keen to find quality at reduced prices.

To this end, she frequented garment industry company stores once common in her home town and in the Albany Capital District, where she lived when I was growing up.

Fashionable from a young age

My grandmother at age one in winter hat, coat and bows (1906). Scan by Molly Charboneau

I wondered how far back her fashion sense went — then I discovered two photos of Boom taken in 1906 when she was about one year old.

Clearly, her German-American parents started her on a fashion-forward footing at a young age.

In the first photo, my grandmother’s shiny black hair peeks out from beneath a snug little winter hat.

She is posed for the studio photographer in a light, double-breasted fur coat with a Bishop sleeve. Atop her head and at her neck are full, fashionable bows.

A dress with staying power

In the second picture, my grandmother looks very smart in a crisp, white ankle-length dress and patent leather shoes — accessorized with a chain and pendant, a baby ring and a little bracelet.

My grandmother at age one in eyelet dress, patent leather shoes and accessories (1906). Scan by Molly Charboneau

Her dark hair, gathered up at the top, shines even more brightly in this photo.

The dress features an eyelet hem, eyelet detail and gathered sleeves with eyelet cuffs. Vertical stitching adds interest at the yoke, which falls from a lacy neckline.

As I studied the photo, something about the dress seemed familiar — so I took a look in the closet where I store family heirloom garments.

How wonderful to discover this dress among several recently given to me by my younger sister Amy — saved and passed down through four generations.

A textile legacy

My grandmother’s little eyelet dress at 111 yeas old (2017). Photo by Molly Charboneau

My maternal grandmother Liz was big on family and heritage. She set up “baby boxes” for her daughters (my mom Peg and my Aunt Rita).

Then — starting with their baby shoes — she filled each box with important artifacts and documents from their childhoods.

Boom also maintained a huge collection of family photos, passed on by her parents and my grandfather’s family — which she carefully labeled for future generations.

So is it any wonder that she would save her baby dress from that handsome photo?

The cherished outfit was probably tucked away and passed down by her mother — my great grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner. Although ivory with age, my grandmother’s little dress has held together for 111 years.

Could this be the quality garment that started my grandmother Liz on a lifetime of carefully dressing for every occasion? If so, what a wonderful textile legacy.

Up next: My fashionable maternal grandmother at age five. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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20 thoughts on “1906: My fashionable grandmother at age one”

  1. I have my grandmother’s wedding dress that I am planning to mail to her youngest granddaughter. She is probably 55 years old now.

  2. Lovely post, and so wonderful to have the vintage dress still. It sounds as if you have a good grasp of fashion sense yourself, in your vivid descriptions of the attire in each photo.

  3. A beautiful post. Preserving a special garment for all those years is a rare treasure to share, especially when you have the photo to prove it. I often come across similar children’s photos from your grandmother’s era when infants were posed in quite elaborate clothing and wondered if the garments were new or might be from earlier generations. In past times people never threw anything away.

    1. Totally agree. I was pleasantly surprised to discover this little dress among my family garment collection — and grateful that Sepia Saturday prompted me to put it together with the photo.

  4. I do believe you are right and your grandmother’s mother started her on the path of well dressed with that little dress. How nice that you still have it! There was a photograph of my grandmother is a little white dress, she was younger, but it’s been lost.

    1. So sorry you don’t still have that photo. I am so grateful for Sepia Saturday, which is motivating me to scan my ancestral photos and connect them to my family’s history.

  5. Wonderful that you still have the very same dress saved by your grandmother. Her mother must have been quite fashion conscious too. Is that your older sister who previously owned it?

  6. Darling photographs of your grandmother at such a tender age. Looks like one was taken in winter, the other in summer? I can’t help wondering, though, why she was called “Boom”? 🙂

    1. I’m thinking they were both taken at the same time, because of the hair-do — just two different poses. Also, her shoes appear to be fur-trimmed, which would imply winter. She was born in Nov. 1905, so I suspect these are the one-year-old photos. Her family nickname — Boom — comes from my childhood mispronunciation of Grandma as “Booma.” I’ll go in and edit that, too — thanks!

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