If Postcards Could Talk

provencepostcard Boxes  of postcards littered the vendor’s table. I could see Dave in my peripheral vision scratching his head. No doubt he was wondering if I was going to blow the next two or three hours sifting through them, each postcard like a little mystery, while the charms of Provence went on charming without us.

So as polite as the vendor was, it was clear as he started packing away his postcards, I had a time frame. Here at home the only way I keep myself from becoming too absorbed in any one thing is by using a kitchen timer. When I leave it upstairs and I am down, I often get lost spending the whole day doing one thing, something earth shattering like programming the DVR for the next six months, or wish list building on Amazon. Well intended to-do list go undone.

So among the 10 or so postcards I chose  is the one pictured above. When we got home I pulled my little collection out of their special postcard bag, which was almost beautiful as the postcards. I studied each one to see exactly what I had purchased. I had no memory of several of them. I studied this particular card, puzzled as to why I would have chosen it. Then I remembered that at the last second the vendor said that since I was purchasing four of one kind, I could choose another for free, which frankly made me feel panicky; but I made my choice as quickly and as confidently as possible, selecting one as if from a deck of magician’s cards.

As it turns out of all the cards I bought that day, this one is the biggest mystery. The text under the woman’s picture says, “Coiffure et Costume de la Provence,” which means “hairstyle and dress of Provence.” Other than that, this card has left me with many questions that hopefully some of you experts out there will be able to shed some light on. Or maybe this woman is someone’s long lost Aunt Eunice?
provencepostcard2 Those of you who don’t want to see any deeper into the workings of my mind may skip the next paragraph. The following questions will make it clear why my husband was justifiably concerned at the thought of me at a postcard vendor:

There are no clues on the card as to what era this woman represents, and if this card shows a style from the era’s past, or was representative of the time. And who is this woman? Did people have their own postcards made? Perhaps is that her own handwriting?  What does the handwriting say? Why was the address splayed across both the writing and address section? Why is  “Carte Postale” crossed out, and what is the word written above as if to replace it? Why are there po stmarks on the front and back? Why did they put stamps on the picture side? What are the two ribbon things that crookedly hang from the V in her neckline? WHO ARE YOU HOMELY PROVENCAL WOMAN? TALK TO ME!

For more postcard fun, be sure to visit Marie, the French Factrice!


  1. says

    Hey, that’s my Aunt Eunice you’re calling ugly…and I look just like her. Harumpph!
    O.K., but seriously. Cards were often postmarked on both sides and French postcards in particular, often had the stamp on the picture side. I think the reason the address is written on both the message and the address sections is that it used to be that you could only write the address on the backs of the cards; no other information or message was allowed. People became accustomed to that and even when it changed, they still sometimes persisted in writing the message elsewhere on the card.

  2. says

    I have boxes of these kinds of post cards though I do know who they were from or who they were going to. I have no idea what to do with them. They were in my great grandparents things and my father couldn’t throw anything away so now I have them. She looks Spanish to me but only because of the thing on top of her head.

  3. says

    It appears to me that this woman was a model for the card, and it looks as though it is around 1900 – give or take a decade. People did have pictures made into postcards, and were it not for the comment about the styles of the provence, this could have been one of those photos. Thanks for sharing!

  4. says

    I can’t answer for when the postcard was printed, but the style of the blouse and bodice are typical of late nineteenth/ very early 20th centuries just about anywhere.

    We could probably find out when it was 5c to mail a postcard in the dept of the Rhone?

  5. says

    I enjoyed reading about the workings of your mind trying to make decisions at the vendor’s table! I experience this same sort of self-absorbed altered state when I am at a bead show. Happy PFF!

  6. says

    Howdy Margo
    Oh my gosh I love the way your mind works.
    There are so many unanswered questions yet to be ask.
    Oh my you did really great with the vendor packing up in front of you .
    I love to linger as I look through postcards or think about what their history might be.
    Thank you for the lovely and fun post today.
    I do hope you get your answers .
    Have a fabulous weekend.
    Happy Trails

  7. says

    This reminds me that the very first time I visited your blog you were talking about a postcard!Then you used to do a shopping thing on Saturdays, right? Ok, off track here.

    I studied that word up there and I can’t come up with a thing! I find her rather intriguing though!

  8. says

    There are also literally thousands of different costumes and headdresses in France. They differed town from town and not just regionally. When Francois was a boy, little old ladies were still wearing traditional garb to church and on speciak occasions. It’s unfortunately all disappeared. There are are few magnificent costume museums in Alsace and Brittany though!

  9. says

    I can’t help myself I wonder in detail about people and their lives like that too, on postcards, on their front porches, passing them in cars, standing on street corners.

    But I love old vintage photographs and art like that. I would be immersed too.

  10. says

    “She wanted to get away from herself, and conversation was the only means of escape she knew.”

    — Edith Wharton,
    The House of Mirth (1905)

    I loveeeee this book!

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