Women’s History Month – Ruth’s Gingham Dress

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A newspaper advertisement in the 1921 Kansas City Star reminded me of my grandmother and a dress she had. It was the time when hemlines were on their way up and it was acceptable to show a little of the ankle. Women were no longer constrained by the bustle or hoopskirt of earlier generations.

gingham dresses with wide collars, 1921gingham dresses with wide collars, 1921 24 Jan 1921, Mon The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Missouri) Newspapers.com

The picture of Ruth Vining in her plaid dress with a white collar dates to 1918 or 1919 as it was sent in a letter to Ruth Vining’s brother Albert in France. Apparently, gingham and wide collars were the style for several years. In that era, many women of modest means had only a few dresses.

Lucy Vining Bolte and Ruth Vining McGhee with their mother, Nancy J. Vining.

The price in the advertisement seems quit affordable, but Ruth would have depended on her husband’s earnings as a soldier in the U.S. Army. She might have earned a little from taking care of the chickens and selling the eggs to the local store. Since she married right before her husband, Clarence Oliver McGhee, went off to France, I’ve always presumed that she lived with her mother while he was overseas.

The dress appears to be in soft colors and I always imagined the plaid to be soft pinks, yellows, and greens. At this time, there’s no way to know the actual color of the dress. Even her hairstyle looks similar to the sketch in the ad, with the puff of hair on the forehead. About this time, women were starting to have their hair bobbed. Ruth lived in a small Kansas town named Tyro, so I don’t know if she was that progressive or if her hair was long and twisted up in a bun at the back.

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