Several weeks after we moved to Lititz, PA, I invited my daughter Kate, granddaughter Lydia, niece Joyous, and her daughter Anna Mary to join me in exploring a pile of vintage clothing I bought in the late 1980s at my Grandpa Hess’ estate sale.The dresses had stayed in closets in Goshen, IN; Kalamazoo, MI; and Harrisonburg, VA, before being taken to a dry cleaner who restores yellowed vintage clothes.

The first task of our afternoon was to don the clothes in the privacy of my bedroom, given that our shoot was all outdoors at the house where I grew up and where six generations of Snyders and Hersheys had farmed. That meant convincing Little Miss Lydia that she needed to wear her hair in braids and also wear the antique dress that fit her perfectly, the dress that had been made by a woman she never met, her Great-Great Grandma Anna Mary Herr Hess.


Photographer Joyous has made many braids. Lydia cooperated.

Photographer Joyous has made many braids. Lydia cooperated.


Lydia did not want to wear the white dress because “it’s not my favorite.” But since she got to wear the black dress that was her favorite, she agreed to wear the white one “just for the pictures.”

We had to cobble the adult dresses together from individual tops and bottoms, but Anna Mary (named for Great-Great Grandmother Hess) fit the most delicate and beautiful of all the dresses, one that likely fit Anna Mary herself when she was about seventeen years old. Standing in front of the huge sycamore’s elephant-like trunk, Anna Mary reminded me of a character in a novel (Hermione?) or Helga in Braids painted by Andrew Wyeth.

Anna Mary wearing her great-great grandmother's dress and standing in front of the Sycamore at the Snyder-Hershey

Anna Mary wearing her Great-Great Grandmother’s Hess’s dress and standing in front of the Snyder-Hershey-Weaver homestead.

Joyous enjoys explaining her camera settings to Anna Mary.

Anna Mary learning from her mother.

Anna Mary learning from her mother.

Lydia gets her chance.

Lydia gets her chance with a big camera.


And look what happened!


Kate, Joyous, Anna Mary, Shirley. Photographer: Lydia!

Kate, Joyous, Anna Mary, Shirley. Photographer: Lydia!

A few more favorites:

Mama Kate extracts a splinter from Lydia's finger.

Mama Kate extracts a splinter from Lydia’s finger.

Lydia. Standing still.

Lydia. Standing still. Wearing the granny glasses.

Hamming it up with the same pair of granny glasses.

We were able to thank Sara Weaver, caretaker of my cousin Bob’s property, before we left the old tavern turned farm house turned bed and breakfast. What else was left to do?

Stop for Greco’s ice cream, of course!

Your turn. Do you have a favorite among the photos above? Do you have vintage clothing? Have any photographers in the family? How do you connect the generations to each other?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Merril D Smith on September 23, 2021 at 5:17 am

    What a wonderful day to add to your book of memories, Shirley! I think my favorite photo might be the one taken by Lydia. The portrait of Anna Mary in braids is lovely, too.
    Who did all the fancy fishtail hair braiding?

    • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 9:01 am

      Merill, we were all laughing so hard in that photo because Lydia was standing in front of us, barely big enough to hold the camera, and snapping away like a Life magazine photographer. Joyous did the braiding. A wonder to behold.

      • Melinda DiBernardo on September 24, 2021 at 9:05 am

        It’s oh so Tasha Tudor of you! Hard to beat that young child somber look in a white dress. And I know Joyous! She taught my kids choreography when they were in high school performances. Every now and then I bump into her, and here she is again. Creative soul, she is.

        • Shirley Showalter on September 24, 2021 at 9:15 am

          Melinda, I had to look up Tasha Tudor, and then, of course, I saw the connection. You are the second person this week who told me she knows Joyous. Yes she is a very creative soul. And it’s always fun to be reminded of how many connections we all have in this big world.

  2. Lois Kauffman on September 23, 2021 at 5:20 am

    Pre-Raphaelite beauties!!

  3. Maren Tirabassi on September 23, 2021 at 7:24 am

    I love the picture with the four smiles!

    Also how tiny pIeces of a story start thoughts. My heritage … western PA (my Schneider Daniel Schneider was a Hessian soldier) in a couple generations travelled south to western NC/eastern Tn, and with 16 children half of whom went Snyder and half Snider scattered across the country. I was born Snider. Anyway your post sent me on reflections of that bit of family, so thanks!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 9:16 am

      Well, we have both German heritage and a name in common, Maren: Schneider. My Snyder ancestors, however, did not arrive as Hessian soldiers but as Mennonites attracted to William Penn’s promises of protection for objectors to war. “The Peaceable Kingdom.” Probably neither of our ancestors found the promised land. I’m glad yours survived the war. For all we know, the Schneiders all came from the same place in Germany, though my line began in Switzerland. I hope we get to meet each other some day. My husband’s interest in genealogy might prove helpful.

      The four smiles taken by the little photographer seem to be winning in the polling.

  4. Laurie Buchanan on September 23, 2021 at 8:59 am

    Shirley — Oh, my gosh, I love the photographs. My favorite is the one Lydia took of Kate, Joyous, Anna Mary, and you. Clearly, a great time was had by all.!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 9:19 am

      You’re right about the great time, Laurie. And thanks for giving Lydia’s photo a vote. She will be delighted. I think Luna must be getting quite big by now too. Wishing you much grandma joy.

  5. Barbara Whitt on September 23, 2021 at 9:08 am

    Shirley Hess Hershey Showalter, thank goodness you bought the dresses at your Grandpa Hess’s estate sale. The photo of Great-Great Granddaughter Anna Mary Hess in her Great-Great Grandmother Anna Mary Hess’s white dress in front of the sycamore tree on the Snyder-Hershey-Weaver place where you grew up is beautiful. Joyous (another beautiful name among your relatives) captured her face when the sunlight on it was perfect. I know these photos and more like them will be carefully preserved and edited with a reference to the 2021 setting in which the vintage clothing was being worn and photographed.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 9:24 am

      Barbara, good to see you here again. Your comment about preservation is interesting to me. I am only moderately good at organizing memorabilia and digital photos. One of the reasons I blogged about this day was to preserve the memory for all of us. When I am gone, I hope someone will care to preserve what is needed for future generations. I trust that will happen. Or not. Maybe Lydia will become the curator/caretaker some day. Who knows?

  6. Melodie M Davis on September 23, 2021 at 9:36 am

    Oh wow, what absolute fun (at least for the adults!!) Love it. Thanks for sharing these beautiful moments.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 9:40 am

      Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed. Lydia came around and had a great time. I think we can say, “a good time was had by all.”

  7. Marian Beaman on September 23, 2021 at 9:42 am

    Photos freeze & preserve moments in time and here displaying family resemblances through the generations. In our family vintage clothes are cached in photo galleries. Only quilts, their own version of fabric “faces,” remain.

    You have all of that here plus the joy of discovery and staging together. Precious!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 9:52 am

      Marian, did you notice the quilt in the first photo? I bought it new at Forgotten Seasons (the home place) when we held Kate’s baby shower there. Joyous took some great photos that day, too. I love the colors and designs in it more than the vintage ones stored in the cedar chest. Feel a little guilty about not using them, but at least they are being preserved.

      Do you know that Carol Bodensteiner wrote a book about the quilts in her family? I think you might enjoy.

      • Marian Beaman on September 23, 2021 at 12:54 pm

        Yes, I noticed the quilt right away, just gorgeous.
        By the way, I don’t think you’ll lack candidates for recording future family history. 😀

        • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 1:01 pm


  8. Les Helmuth on September 23, 2021 at 10:04 am

    What a delightful experience down memory lane with your family. I love the two pix of Anna Mary and Lydia with the more somber faces…old times revisited.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 1:01 pm

      Thanks, Les. I too love those serious faces. They look like “old souls” to me. I think they are.

  9. Phyllis Wulliman on September 23, 2021 at 10:41 am

    FUN! Gorgeous clothing so well preserved and wonderful photos to add to your collection! Thanks for sharing!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 10:54 am

      Thanks, Phyllis! You would have enjoyed our day. Fabric and braids. I think Joyous calls it braided legacy.

  10. Marlena Fiol on September 23, 2021 at 11:26 am

    Favorite photo: Lydia. Standing still.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 1:02 pm

      Thanks, Marlena. I love that one too.

  11. Eileen R. Kinch on September 23, 2021 at 3:08 pm

    I wore a vintage dress when I got married in 2015. The dress belonged to my great grandmother when she was a teenager (about 1915). I’d attach a photo if I could!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 3:19 pm

      Eileen, I wish you could attach a photo here too. I am sure readers would enjoy seeing it. Was it a white dress?

      • Eileen R. Kinch on September 23, 2021 at 3:23 pm

        Yes, it was white with little details that are similar to the dresses that are in your post’s photos.

  12. Dora Dueck on September 23, 2021 at 3:22 pm

    Lovely photos, all of them! But now I have a question. I’m intrigued and surprised that previous generations of Mennonite women wore so much white. What would have been the occasions for these white dresses? The Kate and Joyous dresses almost look like undergarments. Or night dresses?

    • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 3:36 pm

      Ha, Dora, you nailed it. We imagine those tops were undergarments. But note the embroidery on them. My grandmother Anna Mary was quite a social butterfly in her time, according to my mother. She had “girl groups.” I think perhaps the fancy dress might have been for the picnics and tea parties she had with her friends. But your question prompts me to ask an expert. I’ll do that on FB if you want to follow along.

  13. Sue Stuckey on September 23, 2021 at 8:27 pm

    I loved the one of Lydia in the granny glasses. She looks like she just stepped out of a period movie. I’m sorry she didn’t like it because it is precious.
    I wonder how often young children had access to glasses.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 23, 2021 at 9:28 pm

      Sue, the glasses seem to be just plain glass. I bought them at the sale, but I am not sure who wore them. They are definitely old. By the time this picture was taken, Lydia was into the process. We just had to get her into the dress!

  14. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on September 23, 2021 at 9:50 pm

    What a great idea, to save these beautiful vintage clothes and then have a photo op with the children and grandchildren of the next generation! The photos are gorgeous, my favorite: Anna Mary standing in front of the tree: the old and the young–she reminds me of that great Canadian character, Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Montgomery

    • Shirley Showalter on September 24, 2021 at 9:18 am

      O Canada! Yes, of course, Elfrieda, she would make a great Anne Shirley! I imagine she has heard that comparison more than once, but I am glad my most faithful Canadian commenter reminded us! 🙂

  15. Marilyn Unruh on September 23, 2021 at 10:36 pm

    Absolutely exquisite.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 24, 2021 at 9:18 am

      Thank you, Marilyn.

  16. June on September 23, 2021 at 11:01 pm

    Oh my, Shirley. I can’t believe how big Lydia has gotten. It just seems like yesterday you announced the arrival of your granddaughter.
    The photo shoot looks like so much fun, and how wonderful to have the vintage clothing.
    The photos from this shoot will add to the wonderful memories that you all can share.
    By the way, I think you rocked the Granny glasses.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 24, 2021 at 9:24 am

      Yes, June, good to know you are here and following Lydia’s growing up years with me. Remember when John Lennon wore granny glasses in the 1960’s and all the teenagers followed? Well the time to rock granny glasses is when you ARE a granny. 🙂

  17. Tina Barbour on September 23, 2021 at 11:14 pm

    All the pictures are beautiful! What a wonderful idea to bring family together for the photo shoot. The picture of Anna Mary made me think of Anne Shirley. And Lydia looks like she walked straight out of a vintage photo in the “standing still” pic.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 24, 2021 at 9:28 am

      Thanks, Tina, for stopping by and checking in. I think the consensus is that the two young women stole the show. But the real value was in the laughter and now the memories.

  18. Ashley Sider on September 24, 2021 at 12:04 pm

    Such a special way to bring your family’s history to life! Fun watching you all play dress up!

    • Shirley Showalter on September 24, 2021 at 12:35 pm

      Happy birthday, Ashley! I love looking at the pictures you post too. Especially the three generation ones. 🙂

  19. Carol Bodensteiner on September 24, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    These photos are just precious, Shirley. I particularly like those of Lydia and Anna Mary. Their innocence and quiet looks, along with the dresses and environment are beautiful. They will treasure these even more as time goes by. These remind me of a two pictures taken of my grandmother when she was young. One at maybe three and the other at 13. The whole world is ahead at that point. The story yet to be written.

    • Shirley Showalter on September 24, 2021 at 12:47 pm

      Oh yes, Carol. The whole world is ahead for both of them. The story yet to be written. You named the invisible message behind the visible beauty of all young lives. Did you notice that I recommended your quilt book to Marian above? Thanks for stopping by.

  20. Ruth Bergen Braun on September 24, 2021 at 7:59 pm

    Love these. Love them all! Every photo is beautiful and capture the joy of the day.

    I’m a photographer and hope to some day photograph all my “girls” — two adult daughters, two teen granddaughters, and one 5 year old granddaughter — in my wedding dress before donating it to MCC. Sadly, it lasted longer than my marriage. We just keep waiting for COVID to abate and then we get hit again and have to live cautiously.

    • Shirley Showalter on October 5, 2021 at 2:01 pm

      Sorry, Ruth, that I didn’t see this comment earlier. I am sad with you that you have experienced such a long separation from your
      girls.” You kept that dress for a reason. I hope it gets to make more beauty and find a new use. It has persevered, just as you have.

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