An Inside Out Look at Ladies’ Fashion in the 1860s

Before I share what I know, let’s play a quick game. I’m going to share some pictures of a lady’s undergarments during the 1860s. Let’s see if you can put them on in the right order. Just jot down your answers, then I’ll explain things further down the page. Have fun, but nooo peaking! 😉

A. Crinoline    B. Drawers   C. Corset

34 3032

D. Chemise    E. Corset Cover  F. Petticoat


Have you had time to make your guess? Are you ready for the answer? 🙂 Keep scrolling…


3031First, we’d put on B. Drawers and D. Chemise. Clearly these pieces could have been slipped on in either order, but if we wanted to split hairs over it, the drawers go underneath the chemise and could be considered the bottom layer. Also note, a lady would have worn stockings which are not pictured.


Next, we have C. Corset

Since this piece was so similar to a bra, I thought it should go first, but it doesn’t. The idea during this time was to have as little contact with the clothing as possible. With the Chemise and drawers in place, the rest of the clothing wouldn’t touch your body aside from your arms. This kept your clothing cleaner longer since your body oils never touched the large elaborate dress.

33Then E. Corset Cover

The corset cover went on over top if one was being used. They didn’t always use a corset cover, but the purpose was to smooth out the strict lines that the boned corset gave.

34Next is A. Crinoline

Crinoline was the next layer to be piled on this delicate woman. The crinoline, while looking awkward, allowed the women to reach the desired shape with fewer layers. After the war, when the bustle came into fashion the crinoline changed its shape, but we’ll look at this in a moment.


Then F. Petticoat

We’re almost done now!! The petticoat went on over the hoops to disguise the harsh lines the hoops made. Before the hoops were invented, women wore multiple layers of petticoats to fluff out the shape of her dress. You can often tell an earlier century dress from a Civil War era dress because they weren’t as full. The “cage” made all the difference. And finally a lovely dress to drape over all of that.


So how did you do on that little quiz? Don’t be ashamed if you couldn’t dress your inner 1860’s self. 😉 I wouldn’t have been able to get them in order either if it wasn’t for purposeful research and a cheat sheet.

Our model to the side is a great example, but can you spot the 2 missing pieces?

This model isn’t wearing a Petticoat or Corset Cover.

Let’s look at anther example…

40The lady in front is wearing her petticoat while the lady in back is not. Notice how you can see the ribs of the crinoline on the lady in the back? Also, now that we know the chemise went on before the corset, we take notice of the shirt like piece that is layered underneath the corset. I’ve noticed the corset and white shirt look before in a more modern…risque…look, but I never knew it was so historically accurate. 😉 Also, notice that neither of these models are wearing corset covers. I want to show you 2 more fun examples…

37 After our talk last week about the changing styles, I wanted to show you a crinoline later in the century. Remember how we looked at the change from the bell shape to the flat front and extended bottom look. Based on the shape of the crinoline, I would guess that this one was worn in the late 1860s or 70s. Also in this crinoline, we see that it already has a cover. This helps the petticoat out and became an option sometime after the invention of the hoops. Sorry, I don’t remember the year. But look at this one…

21939Who would have thought this hid under those lovely gowns we drool over? I bet you’ll never look at them the same again!

I hope you had fun with me and learned something new. And if you missed the discussion last week on ladies’ fashions, you can check it out here.  Please comment below and tell me which of these garments you were most surprised to learn about. I’d love to hear from you!

6 thoughts on “An Inside Out Look at Ladies’ Fashion in the 1860s”

  1. Thank u for all the pictures and teaching us how they dressed. I had some parts figured out but not all. Makes me hot to look at all the layers. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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