Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Historic Body Shapes

Taking off of American Duchess's post about vintage body shapes, I was curious to see how my families general body shape has changed over the last 140 or so years.  I'm fortunate that my mothers side of the family were enthusiastic about having pictures taken, and saving them.  We always said that the female genetics on her side of the family were extremely strong (I look a great deal like my mother, who greatly resembles her mother, etc and my cousins all attest to the "Rothenberger booty" as we called it in highschool).  Genetically, my ancestors all seem to carry their weight in their hips.  I never thought much of it until I started gaining gradual weight since college; all in my hips.  But, it would be even more so the case if I wore a girdle or corset.  Honestly, a lot of the women in the pictures I have seem to have very similar body shapes and if it weren't for the corset/girdle/fashion style would probably be considered "fat" by modern standards.  I prefer the term "fleshy" myself (I always picture Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot with that term).
Addendum: I changed the two questionable photographs.  I talked with my mother about them and she recognized a few things that meant it was actually my Grandmother's family (which we all thought we had no photographs of!). I still desperately wish I had a picture of my Great-great-grandmother from that side.  Turns out she was a gold-digger who married 5 times, divorced three of them!

Jennie (Carter) Heavilon [b. 1856].  My Great-great-grandmothers youngest sister.

Hannah (Carter) Zaring [b. 1837] and her two daughters Lucy [b. 1857] and Daisy [b. 1872]. My Great-great-grandmothers oldest sister and nieces.

Linnie Inez (Carter) Rothenberger [b. 1854].  My Great-great-grandmother.  11 children definitely means wide hips!

Sarah (Beisel) Ruch [b. 1858].  My Great-great-grandmother.

Edith Pearl (Rothenberger) Burkhalter [b. 1883] and Eva Henrietta (Ruch) Rothenberger [b. 1884]. My Great-grandfathers sister and my Great-grandmother.  Eva married into the family in 1903, so I'm guessing the picture is just after that.

Edith Pearl (Rothenberger) Burkhalter [b.1883].  Same person as above, just a few years and fashion change later.

Katie (Spencer) Keller [b. 1894]. My great-Grandmother holding my Grandmother.

Katie (Spencer) Keller again with my Grandmother and her sister Edith [b. 1902].

Katie (Spencer) Keller [b. 1894]. My Great-grandmother.

Maxine (Keller) Rothenberger.  My Grandmother [b.1918].

Irene (Rothenberger) Frazier [b. 1909] on left. My Great-aunt.

Ruch/Roscoe family event.  My Grandmother (Maxine) on right.

While some of these ladies could be considered "skinny" by modern standards without their foundations, all of those pictures place them at pre-child ages.  After that they all have more significant curves.  Oh, and note the feet of the lady on the left in the picture just above.  Those don't look tiny to me.  My mother said the Rothenberger/Ruch side always had big feet (I get my narrow feet from the Kellers and Shalkowskis).  My Grandmother has small feet, but she's always worn too small of shoes.  They were poor when she was little and she had to wear her buttoned up boots far longer than she should have.  Now, she's just accustomed to having tight shoes.

This just emphasizes why having the proper undergarments for the time AND for your body shape is so important.  You may not easily be able to train your waist and posture in to that lovely 1900s S-shape above, but that dress would look awfully baggy and wrinkly without a smooth corset.  As for body shape I have a 27" waist and a girdle from What Katie Did that I love to death.  It smoothes out that little bulge we all suck in in front with no effort and almost no discomfort.  I can't imagine a 1930s bias cut gown without it!


Caroline said...

What an interesting post! You're very lucky to have all of those photos. I have very little from my family; just two head and shoulders portraits of my great-great grandfather and grandmother from the 1880s and a few assorted home photos from the 1940s through 1960s. Like you, my female ancestors had wide hips plus "junk in the trunk."
We have a lovely photo of my grandmother (who died before I was born) when she was 15. She looked 25 with those hips (I won't comment on the "Daisy Dukes")!

Lauren R said...

This is fascinating. I can't say the same of my female family members - they were all crazy thin through the waist, just so tiny and petite, and here I am, practically bulging in comparison.

I have a bullet bra from WKD that I'm really unhappy with, but haven't tried one of their girdles yet. I will have a look, based on your recommendation :-)

Patricia said...

The oldest photo I have is from my Great Grandmother's wedding portrait. Around 1915 or 16. Totally Titanic era stuff! I would love to re-make her outfit, if only I knew the color. We have a later mourning portrait with her is a mourning suit, holding my 3 month old gramdmother, all in white lace. My great grandfather died of the influenza in 1918. Most of my family women have "birthing hips", as they used to say.
I also love Mariyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl.

Nereida said...

You're so lucky to have such fantastic photos of your family. Thank you for sharing.


ReadyThreadSew said...

Amazing set of photos. Thanks for sharing.