A 1940s Photo Shoot in Reno, Nevada

The beautiful Elizabeth, dressed in original 1940s vintage.

Whenever we do photo shoots, I always try to come up with an interesting concept. Usually, for the American Duchess line, we’re trying to “hide” our very Western, very “new” landscape and town, to make the photos looks like they’re from pastoral England or France.

But with the younger fashions, like the 1940s, our home town of Reno actually serves quite nicely. We don’t have a lot of very old buildings, but we do have some from the 1930s and 1940s surviving. So for this shoot with Elizabeth, vintage fashion connoisseur, I thought we could actually celebrate Reno’s past.
Reno in the 1940s - a new divorcee exits the Washoe County Courthouse
Where better to do that but on the Washoe County Courthouse steps, where thousands of women have become brides and divorcees. This is the famous courthouse from “The Misfits,” and one of the most beautiful buildings in downtown Reno.

One of the traditions from the past was for a lady to “kiss the column” upon existing the courthouse doors, her divorce finalized. While no lipstick stains remain, the column still stands as a monument of 20th century female freedom from bad marriages. Check out the newsreel above for glimpses of Reno in 1943, and happy gals “kissing the column.”
So, naturally, The Column played a role in our photo shoot.
Reno in the 1940s – Washoe County Courthouse – Elizabeth is wearing all vintage paired with the beautiful reproduction 1940s shoes “Betty” from Royal Vintage Shoes

Elizabeth’s outfit is an original 1940s dress paired with a vintage hat and gloves. The shoes are “Betty” 1940s platform sandals by Miss L Fire, which we sell in the 1940s section at Royal Vintage Shoes. These are just wonderful shoes, very high quality and comfortable, with an arch support and adjustable straps. I have a pair myself and they seem to go with absolutely everything.

"Betty" 1940s Platform Sandals in Black Suede from RoyalVintageShoes.com (c)2016

I hope you’ve enjoyed our photos! Here are the details:

Dress: Vintage
Hat: Vintage
Gloves: Vintage
Model: Elizabeth Pedersen 
Location: Washoe County Courthouse, Reno, NV


  • L. R. Stern

    May 23, 2016 at 7:49 PM

    Thank you for the introduction to some Reno history! I don't know much about that part of the country, and I love the column kissing tradition!

  • Cathy Raymond

    May 23, 2016 at 8:47 PM

    What a perfect showcase for your shoes–a dramatic vintage dress, with all the right accessories, on a lovely woman! Kudos to Elizabeth; she wears and poses in the outfit very well.

  • Unknown

    May 24, 2016 at 12:16 AM

    Awesome! I love the part about the column kissing tradition–you so often hear about wedding traditions, not divorce ones! I love it.

    • Lauren Stowell

      May 24, 2016 at 8:52 PM

      They go hand-in-hand here. We still have some of the oldest wedding chapels, right next to the pawn shops where one could buy…or sell…a wedding band!

  • Debbie @ VintageDancer.com

    May 24, 2016 at 12:41 AM

    They also tossed their wedding rings into the Truckee River next to the courthouse. Or so the story goes.

    • Lauren Stowell

      May 24, 2016 at 8:52 PM

      People used to fish them out I think. No more vintage wedding rings at the Virginia Street bridge these days, though, lol

  • Cate

    May 24, 2016 at 12:44 PM

    Beautiful photos and I love the location. The kissing column is just fantastic! The shoes are gorgeous and I'm eagerly waiting for Miss L Fire to deliver the same in white, so it's great to see them on someone. xx

    • Lauren Stowell

      May 24, 2016 at 8:59 PM

      Thank you! They are amazing shoes. In fact, I'm wearing my pair today because I love them so much 🙂

  • Ms. Rebecca

    May 24, 2016 at 4:09 PM

    This was great Lauren. I love the Misfits history lesson (I grew up in the town where they shot the bar scene) I love that you find such beautiful ways to bring this part of the country into view… Have you ever considered shooting some of your Victorian era shoes outside of Reno. There are soe great places with tons of history!

    • Lauren Stowell

      May 24, 2016 at 9:00 PM

      Oh yes, particularly Virginia City and Truckee. Great locations with lots of "patina," if not a bit of a drive, but worth it.

  • vintagevisions27

    May 24, 2016 at 8:24 PM

    Great photos! Interesting to learn about Nevada's history too. You should come up to New England sometime to shoot, lots of great locations and tons of cool history too. 🙂

    • Lauren Stowell

      May 24, 2016 at 9:01 PM

      Oh yes, don't I wish I could just dash over to New England to shoot – I'm always bemoaning how deserty-mountainy our landscape is when I need it to look like New England. Or Old England. lol

    • vintagevisions27

      May 25, 2016 at 2:45 PM

      Seriously, if you ever make the trip let me know! I have a few connections with some fun historic sites. 🙂

  • bluefalling

    June 1, 2016 at 7:44 PM

    I wonder if my grandmother stopped by any of those places. She was born and raised in Sparks. Will need to look up her wedding pictures (quickly planned an executed, due to orders for Korea) but I think it was a church.


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