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Occasionally we have researchers who want to know what fashion was like in a certain place in Virginia during a certain time. It might be a fashion design student from Virginia Commonwealth University or an author wanting to be sure their description of clothing is accurate. Of course, magazines are good places to go, but my favorite resource for questions about local fashion are newspapers.

Depending on the time period, there can be some fun advertisements with drawings of hats, shoes, dresses, men’s suits, gloves, and other accessories. Clothing ads run from glamorous to casual to practical. I was recently reminded of this when I was looking through an 1887 Lynchburg newspaper for an article and saw a drawing of a hat with the text “Stiff Hats, New Shapes . . .”

Of course, I can’t go through every newspaper in our collection, but from what I saw, it appears that advertisements with drawings of clothing began in the 1870s and even then, they were not the norm. Prior to that, ads that included drawings were usually for things like farm implements, furniture, stoves, and medicinal tonics. Photographs began to replace some of the drawings in the late 1970s but not completely. I focused on the drawings (and one fun textual ad) in this blog. Enjoy a look at the fashion of bygone days.

Ginny Dunn

Archives & Library Reference Services Manager

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