Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Fashion

Inspired by Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Fashion


I dug into my massive collection of family photos for this challenge…and immediately thought of my grandmother Oma. I remember her closet full of shoes – stacked high on shelves in carefully labeled shoeboxes. Coordinating purses piled nearby. Many with small matching coin purses. Mostly black. She once told me that her favorite color was black – because it matched everything…of course!

As a child I never saw her without makeup on. Hair styled. Stockings (or “hose” as she called them) and heels. Always a dress or skirt.

I used to be a flapper she once told me. It sounded so glamorous…and so cool…and so not the grandmother I knew. Mysterious yet thrilling.

One photo was taken in 1927 at a 4th of July picnic. Twenty year old Oma is in the middle with a girlfriend on either side. (Plus a guy trying shenanigans or photo bombing behind them)

All wearing the latest swimwear (?) fashion.

fashion swimwear 1927

I admit to being curious about the shirt emblems. Perhaps the CAC stood for Cincinnati Athletic Club…since they all lived in Cincinnati. But I know that women were not allowed as members until over 75 years later (I spent too much time online looking that up…my inner Nancy Drew at work). So were they wearing their boyfriend’s shirts? Or suits? I know there’s a story there.

Apparently for whatever reason, Oma was stylin’ in something completely different.

Somehow I’m not surprised.

Another photo highlighting the fashion of the era is undated, but I would guess mid 1920s as well. My great grandmother and Oma showing off some festive hats…

fashion car circa 1927
circa 1920s

And not to leave out the men, I found a photo taken in 1923. A group of machine tool salesmen posing after a meeting. I think my great grandfather worked for this company, so he would be the man pointed out in the back row.

sales group 1923

It doesn’t appear that men have veered too far from this suit and tie fashion combo in the years since then.

The hats were a nice finishing touch though.


“It’s just paper”

That’s what the woman at the outdoor flea market told me. I asked her about the stacks of postcards, letters and old black & white photographs on display. Bundled in piles or open in plastic bins to thumb through. A musty smell hung over the tables, reminiscent of old boxes forgotten in an attic – or basement – for decades.

Everything for sale.

These collections are personal. Handwritten postcards, in childish script, to Gramma and Grampa postmarked 1945 from a vacation spot in Florida. Carefully posed serious groups of family members circa 1920 (?). A wedding party from the 1940’s (said the seller, based on the suits worn by the men). And letters written home from soldiers during World War II. I started to open one, but when I realized what it was, I just couldn’t unfold it. Put it back. Invasion of privacy.

“Where did you get all this?” I asked.

A shrug of the shoulders. “Oh, everywhere. Estate sales. Other flea markets.”

I still didn’t understand.

“What about the families these are from?” I asked, looking into the smiling faces of women in their Sunday best. Long dresses and fancy hats.

I kept getting the same answers. Families don’t want it. There was no family left to take it.

But every photo has a story! Someone wrote that postcard and I’ll bet someone loved receiving it. It was important. To someone. It’s not just paper.

And now being sold to strangers. To gawk at or buy and sell at a profit. Photos spread outside on tables in the full sun, curling and fading fast. Like yesterday’s newspaper.

I don’t get it. And I don’t have a solution for other alternatives – on what to do with all the…paper.

Today – at the latest flea market – I heard a term I had not paid much attention to before.

We get all kinds of ephemera, one seller mentioned.

Ephemera? I asked.

Yeah, it’s just paper – things that have been around a long timePeople collect it.

So, when I got home I looked it up – not Wikipedia, but Merriam Webster no less…

Definition of ephemera

plural ephemera also ephemerae play  \i-ˈfe-mər-ē, -ˈfem-rē\ or ephemeras

1: something of no lasting significance —usually used in plural

2: ephemera pluralpaper items (such as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles


“Something of no lasting significance”  – this caught my attention.


No lasting significance? To who?

And…if that’s the case, why collect it?

I also wonder…if someday there is no ephemera to collect, to sell, to display under the hot sun – when postcards and private letters are completely replaced by email. When all photos are digital. And “what is meant to be discarded” is permanently erased by the click of a delete button or a cloud power surge. No going back. No undo.

Because as we know, the “cloud” is just scores of huge buildings with hard drives & machinery humming away somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Full of terabytes of our future ephemera. Which will never end up at a flea market.

But what about our children’s children’s children? How will they know of who came before?


I did not buy any photos at the flea market. Or postcards. Or letters.

However – a real family photo – is below. And in a photo album on my shelf.

It is not ephemera.

My great grandparents on their wedding day in 1905