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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Texas Tomatoes: 1939

Texas Tomatoes: 1939

March 1939. San Antonio, Texas. "Wives of vegetable peddlers sometimes accompany their husbands to the early morning market." Medium format negative by Russell Lee for the Farm Security Administration. View full size.

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In Vogue

By 1939, women's tailored pants were quite fashionable.

Women's pants had gained such importance by 1939 that in the November issue of Vogue the magazine advised, "Your wardrobe is not complete without a pair or two of the superbly tailored slacks of 1939.

Rather than a farmer's wife, this young woman was dressed in the height of fashion. Think Kate Hepburn.


Wonderful picture. As to the comments about the attire. I remember in Missouri 1969 raising a fit at school and getting the kids to protest the fact that we "ladies" couldn't wear pants. We walked to school in the snow and then had to change out of our pants when we got there. Then when we had to walk two blocks to the other school for lunch or gym we would have to change all over again.

I lived in San Antonio in 1975-78 and remember going to the Mexican Market Square on Saturdays. You could buy anything there -- candles, hats, clothes. After the day's business of selling was done they swept the floor and had a dance. The food was wonderful, the dancing was fun, you got great buys and met some nice people even if you didn't speak the language, and the best thing was you didn't have to pay a cover charge.

I wonder do they still do that? Wish I could go back to 1977.

Dressing up to go to the city

I agree with Jayhawker that going to town meant wearing your best clothes. I grew up in the 60s in a small town in central Illinois and shopping in Chicago was a big deal. We took the train (which had a dining car with linen covered tables) and always dressed up. My mother wore comfortable shoes for shopping but carried a shoe bag with heels to change into to go to the restaurant for lunch. I thought about that this past summer when I sat (in jeans and a top and walking shoes) in the elegant old Walnut Room restaurant in Macy's (formerly Marshall Field). My mother would never have approved!

The Lady is a Trollop

"Lula Mae! Pants?! You little tramp!"


Socks with pumps! That's actually supposed to be quite trendy this season (no, really!).

I wonder if she chose the patent leather because the market dust would wipe off more easily.

Goin' to town clothes

When you live out in the country, "going to town" is an event and you dress accordingly. This might not be so much the case today, but it certainly was when I grew up in southern Kansas in the 1960s. And the stories of my parents and grandparents lead me to believe that it was even more true in their early years.


In the hilly Ozark town where I live, it is not unusual to see a rock or piece of wood under the downhill side of a tire. It may not be state of the art, but it does provide some assurance that your car will stay where you parked it.

Worldly Women

Neither one of these women looks like they just fell off the turnip truck. In fact, they're still sitting on the back of it.

TT and AA

The girls are sitting an a 1928 Ford AA one-ton truck.
The rig to the left appears to be a one-ton Model T, known as a TT.

Pants Indeed!

Never mind rural Texas in the '30s, girls weren't allowed to wear pants in decidedly urban Miami as late as 1969 when I was in school there.

I really wonder about this photo and the sharp contrast of their clothing with what might be expected of farmers' wives at a vegetable market in 1939. It just seems so incongruous. Can anyone offer an explanation?

[Perhaps your expectations need adjusting. - Dave]

Sharp outfits

These two women are wearing tasteful, carefully pressed and spotlessly clean outfits while sitting in the back of a pickup truck. Today's counterparts would be wearing sweatpants or possibly pyjamas, accompanied by a T-shirt with a corporate logo emblazoned upon it.


I like the state of the art braking device under the right rear balding tire. The Depression was a father of invention. The wives however appear well dressed and happy to be in each other's company.

Vegetable Talk

"So when ya gonna grow yourself a pair, Mildred?"

Slack Talk

From what my mother and grandmothers said about that part of Texas in the '30s (three of my grandparents were teachers in that neck of the woods at the time), a woman wearing pants would have caused quite a stir. Even in the '50s my mother couldn't wear pants to school except under a skirt, and then only on snow days (and you know how common those were).

When my grandmother attended college in 1929 she had to wear gloves, a hat, and a long dress any time she left campus to go to town. College rules.

So the lady on the right may have really stood out at the Farmers Market, I'd think.

Not what I expect!

I would certainly not expect produce peddlers sweethearts to look so fine, and dressed so purty!

Going to town

Judging by their stylish dress, I'm guessing that these women are planning to spend the day in town rather than hang around the farmers' market with their husbands.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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