We’re going to take a quick little tour through a lady’s changing wardrobe through the 1800s. This is not meant to be an extensive study, but I hope you’ll enjoy this bite-sized take on history. 🙂
1840s: This dress is an example of something that was in fashion around 1840. Women at this time wore multiple layers of petticoats in order to create the bell shape that was becoming popular.
1855-1865: In the late 1850s and early 1860s, dresses reached their largest shape. This was only created by the use of hoops or crinoline. Ladies dropped the layers of petticoats in exchange for a skirt with built in hoops. As awkward as this contraption sounds, it was a blessing since it allowed the women to shed several extra pounds.
In fact, the purpose of the wide bell shape was to make the waist appear smaller by comparison. Women during this time believed the best way to create a tiny waist was to widen both the top and bottom portions of their bodies. They wore pads (think of shoulder pads from the 1980s) on the sides of their chest to make their chests wider. Again, the idea was to make the waist look smaller by comparison. These pads were NOT worn in the front to fill them out in the top but on the sides.
The picture above of the green-plaid dress with long wide sleeves is an example of a day dress. The picture to the right is an example of a ball gown. You can easily tell the difference by the length of the sleeves. A day dress has long sleeves and a high neckline for propriety and possibly even sun coverage. While propriety wasn’t near as strict in their idea of evening wear. A ball gown is recognized by the low neckline and short sleeves.
1865-1874: By the end of the 1860s, the now iconic bell shape was beginning to change. This dress is an example of something worn in 1869. Notice the front of the skirt is flatter while the back of the skirt is larger. This trend would continue to alter.
1875: It’s often been said that women are quick to change their minds, and our lesson in fashion certainly proves it to be true. This lovely dress is an example of fashion in 1875. The front is now completely flat and the bustle is all the rage. But this too will change in just a few short years.
1880s: Here’s an example of a dress from 1885. Notice that the bustle is now beginning to slide off the dress. The bustle has an interesting history. Originally, it was added to keep help the dress keep its shape under the heavy material. In its early days, it helped the lady keep the image of a tiny waist intact, but as the years went on, it became more of a fashion statement. The bustle even disappeared between 1878 and 1882 but returned with greater popularity than before. Before the bustle faded into fashion history again, it would reach new heights. During its existence, the bustle took on various shapes and sizes. Here are some examples:
1890s: The bustle stuck around for some ladies into the 1890s, but most of them were ready to send them away for good. Here’s an example of a dress from 1890. After the fling with the bustle, it seems that fashion is taking a simpler approach…but don’t be so easily fooled. Over exaggerated sleeves would rule this decade. Here are some examples: Notice how tiny her waist looks when set against those huge sleeves!
I hope you enjoyed this quick little stroll through the history of ladies’ fashion. Join me next week as we take a different look at women’s clothing.
There are so many wonderful fashions through out history. Which decade are your most drawn to from the 1800s?
Which would I choose? I’d be honored to strut around wearing either of these styles(Yep, sleeves, bustle and all, I’m afraid!), but I’ve always been smitten with the large bell shapes of the Civil War era. In fact, it’s what first drew me into this particular time in history.