1910: My fashionable grandmother at age five

Sepia Saturday 385: Second in a series on piecing together the origins of my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashion sense.

In the last post I discussed my maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence’s fashionable attire at age one. This trend continued as she grew, as shown in the photo below of Liz at age five.

My maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence at age five (circa 1910). She is wearing a fur-trimmed wool coat with fashion-forward accessories: a fur muff, a spectacular hat and satin bows. Scan by Molly Charboneau

My grandmother is wrapped in a fur-trimmed wool coat accessorized with a spectacular hat and muff — each sporting shiny satin bows. Her long, ringlet curls complete the look.

Clearly Liz did not select these toddler clothes or hairstyle herself — so I wondered whether her German-American family’s fashion sense contributed to her evolving clothing style.

Fashion in the family

My maternal ancestors lived in Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. They were German immigrants on my grandmother Liz’s side and Italian immigrants on my grandfather Antonio W. Laurence’s side (Tony’s surname anglicized from Di Lorenzo).

Glove turning tool from Meyers Glove Company of Gloversville, N.Y.  Discovered  in my grandmother Liz’s sewing cabinet, this tool may have been used by my great-grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner to turn gloves with internal seams when she worked at home sewing gloves. Photo by Molly Charboneau

When Liz was growing up, fur, leather and glove production were primary industries in Gloversville and nearby Johnstown.

Many of my German-American and Italian-American ancestors worked in these fashion-related trades.

Liz’s mother — my great-grandmother Celia (Mimm) Stoutner, — was among hundreds of women who sewed and turned gloves at home using materials provided by nearby factories. Her mother — my great-great grandmother Elizabeth (Edel) Mimm — was also a glove worker.

My strapping great-grandfather — Liz’s dad Andrew J. “Pete” Stoutner — broke with this tradition and worked for the railroad. However, his brother — Liz’s uncle John H. Stoutner — made his career in fashion.

A commercial clothier’s influence

Uncle John and his partner Crosby E. Van Arnum operated The Smart Shop in Gloversville — a women’s millinery and clothing store carrying everything from undergarments to outerwear — and ran ads in the local newspapers.

A New York Times notice of Uncle John’s arrival in New York City as a buyer for the Argersinger Company of Gloversville, N.Y. (11 Nov. 1913). Did Uncle John’s garment expertise contribute to my grandmother’s fashion sense? Source: Old Fulton New York Post Cards

Did Uncle John play a role in recommending or providing outfits for my grandmother? There’s no way to know for sure — but he certainly had the credentials.

According to the New York Times, Uncle John traveled to New York City to buy the latest in suits, waists, corsets and millinery for the Argersinger Co. before opening The Smart Shop.

My grandmother Liz was the first female child born in her generation to the extended Stoutner family — so she was probably surrounded by doting adults.

They may have given fashionable gifts for her wardrobe — particularly Uncle John, who was 41 and single when my grandmother was born and knew his way around the garment business.

In whatever way it happened, one thing is apparent — by age five Liz was well on her way to a signature style that would last throughout her life.

Up next: The stylish Stoutner siblings. Please stop back. Meanwhile, please visit the posts of other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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12 thoughts on “1910: My fashionable grandmother at age five”

  1. Gloves! Sigh….I lost my wedding ring in one, while trying on earrings. I pulled the glove off, apparently pulled the ring off too, then proceeded to lose the glove. Your grandmother is the most beautifully dressed child I’ve ever seen. I wonder if she wore rags to make the ringlets?

    1. Thanks, Helen. Funny you should mention her hairstyle technique. When I was young, my grandmother did my hair up once in long curls and she used rags because, she said, “That’s how we did our hair when I was little.” Sorry about your ring, though.

  2. A fantastic photograph and a real family treasure. The bonnet resembles the Bo-Beep fashion style popular in 1900s, especially with those long curls. My mother grew up in the age of Shirley Temple and at a similar age had long curls made with curling tongs.
    Her muff looks like an ermine head but made from sheepskin I think. But I don’t recognize the shaggy fur. Long-haired goat or combed sheep’s wool?

    1. Thanks for the detail on the ermine head on the muff. I was wondering about that. There were likely many fur types available when it was manufactured that could have been ombined in one piece — perhaps to make the most of materials on hand.

  3. What a doll! Well, if a doll could look as pretty as your grandmother at 5. I love these photos and your family’s connection to the industry which provided many of the beautiful accessories.

    1. Thanks, Barb. I imagine the family took great pride in clothing their children in the fashionable dress that they had a hand in creating.

  4. My great grandparents and grandparents were English through and through, but I remember pictures of one of my grand aunts dolled up like your grandmother in a fancy fur coat with matching fur hat and muff. I think it’s the mother instinct in us to want our children – daughters especially – to look as cute as possible and I suppose many of us suffer the tendency to overdo it a bit – in days gone by, the present, and most likely in the future. 🙂

    1. Yes, this is definitely an over-the-top outfit, but my grandmother looks so adorable in it that I can see why they decided on this for her photo 🙂

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