Girls’ night out


This is one of my favorite photographs, the kind I tend to hoard until the perfect moment. I put it in the same league with the wonderfully evocative photograph in That night at Maxim’s. It seems just right for the first post of a new year.

Once again, I invite readers to imagine what is going on. I know little other than that they are in a restaurant in New York City. Because they are seated  at a banquette, and because the photo was almost certainly taken by a professional photographer, I would guess it is a nightclub restaurant, or certainly a special occasion type of place. Judging from their outfits and the style of the mural behind them, I think it is the late 1940s or early 1950s.

I love how directly they look at the photographer and how contented they are. I think the woman in the middle is the mother of the woman on the left. Perhaps it is her birthday. Could the other be a cousin? She seems to have been interrupted just as she is about to present what looks like a check to the older woman.

They are drinking manhattans or martinis, not paying too much attention to their salads, and totally ignoring the mound of dinner rolls piled so unceremoniously on a too-small plate. The awkward way the rolls are served and the ordinary serviceable restaurant ware (water tumblers, dishes, and salt and pepper shakers) makes me think it is not an elite restaurant. Still, love those butter pats on the tiny plates!

The only objects in the photograph that I cannot identify are two small squares of paper on the table, one in the foreground right and the other just beyond the salad of the woman on the right. Forms to fill out for the photographer?


© Jan Whitaker, 2014


Filed under patrons

10 responses to “Girls’ night out

  1. Jim

    The middle woman is wearing a corsage – possibly a birthday celebration-
    A moment caught in time for these 3 women. With that mural in the background wouldn’t be great to identify the restaurant? Italian? New York’s Little Italy?

  2. Sigi

    And then, of course, there are two ashtrays!

  3. Anonymous

    I too thought corsage = mother’s day or birthday. I like how at ease they seem. The cocktails have kicked in!

  4. Large corsage suggests that it is a special day for the woman sitting in the middle…birthday, Mother’s Day, etc. Of course, the tropical mural in the background is the key to identifying the venue. As you say Jan, the relaxed body language is a strong indicator that these women have a healthy relationship. My favorite book on this type of sleuth-work is Photoanalysis by Robert U. Akeret (Wyden, 1973). You can learn an awful lot about a person by carefully looking at the photographs they display in their home or office.

  5. Great shot!! I think you’re right about the Mother/Daughter, love the Corsage on Mom and that Hat on our perhaps cousin! Always enjoy your Column. Always makes me think of the Mary Elizabeth Tearoom I was lucky enough to patronize in it’s last years. You could get a Cocktail and a Popover! Happy New Year!
    Patti Astor

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