Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fashion in the 19th Century

Ashelford, Jane: The Art of Dress: Clothing and Society 1500–1914, Abrams, 1996.
Bigelow, Marybelle S.: Fashion In History. Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing Company, 1979.
Laver, James: Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd, 2002.
McCutcheon Marc: Everyday Life in the 1800's, Writer's Digest Books, 1993.
Payne, Blanche: History of Costume from the Ancient Egyptians to the Twentieth Century, Harper & Row, 1965.
Tozer, Jane, and Sarah Levitt: Fabric of Society: A Century of People and Their Clothes 1770–1870, Laura Ashley Ltd., 1983.

            A detailed description of 19th Century fashion requires far more than a short blog, but here is a general overview of the period. Before the middle of the century, most clothing was made at home, either by the wearer or a family member. 75 percent of all clothing in America was homemade at the beginning of the century. Wealthier people could afford the services of a tailor. By the middle of the period, the technical advances and the capability for mass manufacturing were making fashionable dress available to a rapidly expanding middle class. The invention of the sewing machine and the development of the ready-to-wear trade revolutionized the fashion industry.
            Since the beginning of the century, fashionable women looked to Paris for their styles, and men to London.  Styles were set in these world fashion plates. The exaggerated structure of certain dress elements was part of an effort by designers to emphasize whatever overall silhouette was popular at the moment. The hat was also incorporated into the overall design.
            Until about 1820, women's fashions were supposedly based upon the classical dress of ancient Greece. Ladies wore loose, draped, high-waisted gowns in light colors. The trend also embraced such items as neck ruffs and jeweled headbands worn across the forehead.
            Innovations in textiles also introduced new dress fabrics around this time. Rich colors such as Turkey Red were still found, but delicate floral prints on light backgrounds were increasingly popular. More precise printing eliminated the need for dark outlines on printed designs, and new green dyes appeared in patterns of grasses, ferns, and unusual florals. Combinations of florals and stripes became fashionable by the end of the decade.
            From 1800 to around 1815, men's hairstyles often featured a small tail at the back, perhaps as a holdover from the 1700's. Professional men continued to wear wigs, although the fashion was quickly dying out. A prominent style throughout the period was modeled after the busts of Roman emperors: clipped in back, with ringlets or loose curls on top, sometimes allowing locks to fall over the forehead. Women's hairstyles featured short curls waved on the forehead, with the back hair worn in a simple knot. Top knots were also worn, and hair was often ornamented with combs, fillets, tiaras, or coronets.
            During the early Victorian decades, voluminous skirts held up with crinolines, and then hoop skirts, were the focal point of the female silhouette. The waistline was tighter and at a more natural level. To enhance the style without distracting from it, hats were modest in size and design, straw and fabric bonnets being the popular choice. The bonnets grew larger until the 1830s, when the face of a woman wearing a poke bonnet could only be seen directly from the front. They had rounded brims, echoing the rounded form of the bell-shaped hoop skirts.
            1830's fashion was characterized by an emphasis on breadth, initially at the shoulder and later in the hips, in contrast to the narrower silhouettes that had predominated between 1800 and the 1820s. Heavy stiff fabrics such as brocades came back into style, and many 18th-century gowns were brought down from attics and cut up into new garments.
            Overall, both men's and women's fashion emphasized width at the shoulder above a tiny waist. Men's coats were padded in the shoulders and across the chest, while women's shoulders sloped to larger sleeves than were worn in any period before or sense. These were accompanied by elaborate hairstyles and large hats.

            From around 1815 to the 1840's, men's hair continued the Roman emperor look, with short back hair and loose curls in front. Luxuriant, full hair was often brushed forward or parted slightly to one side. Small moustaches and sideburns appeared, but many men were still clean-shaven. Women's hairstyles featured smooth hair over the forehead, frequently parted in the middle, with ringlets, puffs, or loops at the sides fashionable until about 1820. Hair was pilled progressively higher in the back from then on, culminating in a style termed "a la giraffe." Curls and ringlets remained popular throughout this period.
            Bonnets with wide semicircular brims framed the fashionable woman's face for street wear, and were heavily decorated with trim, ribbons, and feathers. Married women wore a linen or cotton cap for daywear, trimmed with lace, ribbon, and frills, and tied under the chin. The cap was worn alone indoors and under the bonnet for street wear. For evening wear, hair ornaments including combs, ribbons, flowers, and jewels were worn. Other fashion choices even included a turban!
            In the 1840's and 1850's women's gowns developed narrow and sloping shoulders, low and pointed waists, and bell-shaped skirts. Corsets, an ankle-length chemise-like skirt, and layers of flounced petticoats were worn under the gowns.  Sleeves were narrower and fullness dropped from just below the shoulder at the beginning of the decade to the lower arm, leading toward the flared pagoda sleeves of the 1850's and 1869's.
            Evening gowns were worn off the shoulder and featured wide flounces that reached to the elbow, often of lace. They were worn with sheer shawls and opera-length gloves. Another accessory was a small bag. At home, bags were often white satin and embroidered or painted. Outdoor bags were often green or white and tasseled. Some women carried crocheted linen bags. Shoes were made from the same materials as handbags. There were slippers of crocheted linen and bright colored brocade satin slippers that tied around the ankle with silk ribbon.
            Men wore tight-fitting, calf length frock coats and a vest or waistcoat. The lowered waistline took on a decided point at the front waist, which was accompanied by a full rounded chest. For more formal occasions, a cutaway morning coat was worn with light trousers during the daytime, and a dark tail coat and trousers was worn in the evening. The shirts were made of linen or cotton with low collars, occasionally turned down, and worn with wide cravats or neck ties. Trousers had fly fronts, and breeches were used for formal functions and when horseback riding. Men wore top hats with wide brims in sunny weather. During the 1850's men started wearing shirts with high upstanding or turnover collars and four-in-hand neckties tied in a bow, or tied in a knot with the pointed ends sticking out like "wings". The upper-class continued to wear top hats, and bowler hats were worn by the working class.
            From 1840 to about 1865, men wore full, curly hair in a crest. Hair could be brushed back, or brushed forward to form a curving front lock or cowlick. Side and middle parts were common. Unruly hair was oiled down and made to shine with perfumed macassar oil (rural or backwoodsmen often used animal grease for this purpose). Sideburns became progressively longer and bushier from the 1840's through the 1860's. Full beards and clipped chin beards without moustaches were in vogue, as were spade beards and Imperials with or without moustaches. Women's styles featured smaller topknots moved to the back of the head. Large coils of hair were draped at the nape of the neck, sometimes held back by black or colored silk nets, which were popular from the 1850's on. The front of the hair was often parted in the middle and pulled smooth over the temples, while puffs, ringlets, or coils were worn over the ears. Women's hair was frequently ornamented with jeweled bands, combs, flowers, foliage, and strings of pearls.
            In the 1860's women's skirts became flatter at the front and projected out more behind the woman. Day dresses had wide pagoda sleeves and high necklines with lace or tatted collars. Evening dresses had low necklines and short sleeves, and were worn with short gloves or fingerless lace or crocheted mitts. Uncorsetted tea gowns were introduced for informal entertaining at home, and grew steadily in popularity.
            Skirts were now assembled of shaped panels, since gathering a straight length of fabric could not provide the width required at the hem without unwanted bulk at the waist. Heavy silks in solid colors became fashionable for both day and evening wear, and a skirt might be made with two different bodices, one long-sleeved and high necked for afternoon wear and one short-sleeved and low-necked for evening
            Men started wearing wider neckties that were tied in a bow or looped into a loose knot and fastened with a stickpin. Frock coats were shortened to knee-length and were worn for business, while the mid-thigh length sack coat slowly displaced the frock coat for less-formal occasions. The three piece "ditto suit" of sack coat, waistcoat, and trousers in the same fabric emerged as a novelty. Top hats briefly became the very tall "stovepipe" shape, but a variety of other hat shapes were popular.

            From 1865 to 1890, men's hairstyles included side and middle parts with shorter hair than in the previous period. The parts extended all the way from the front of the head to the nape of the neck during the 18790's, but only to the crown during the 1880's. Pompadours were worn by some men. Muttonchops and beards under the chin came into vogue. Moustaches were frequently worn with beards during the 1880's, but a long, drooping moustache without a beard was also popular at this time. Clean-shaven faces didn't start a comeback until around 1889. Women's styles included a bun or chignon moved up on the head, with front hair carried back without parts. In the 1870s, hair in the back was allowed to cascade down long and full, sometimes in ringlets or huge loops. Pompadours were worn at the end of the 1880's. Hair ornaments were popular throughout the period.
            In 1865, hat-maker John B. Stetson invented the Boss of the Plains hat. It gained immediate success among American cowboys and settlers, due to its practicality. It had a vaguely round ribbon-lined crown and a wide brim, originally straight but soon becoming stylized into the iconic rim of the typical cowboy hat. Its dense felt could be rugged enough to carry water.

            The fashionable silhouette changed once again as the Victorian era drew to a close. The shape was essentially an inverted triangle, with a wide-brimmed hat on top, a full upper body with puffed sleeves, no bustle, and a skirt that narrowed at the ankles. The enormous wide-brimmed hats were covered with elaborate creations of silk flowers, ribbons, and above all, exotic plumes; hats sometimes included entire exotic birds that had been stuffed.

            In the 1870s, the stylish female discarded the hoop skirt for a slimmer style. The dresses were extremely tight around the corseted torso and the waist and upper legs. The crinoline was replaced by elaborately draped overskirts held in place by a bustle in the rear -- even for "seaside dresses" or bathing suits. To emphasize the volume in the bustle, women's hats shrank in size. Small hats were perched towards the front of the head, over the forehead. To complement the small hat, women wore their hair in elaborate curls.
            Morning dresses had high necklines that were either closed, squared, or V-shaped, with narrow sleeves. Women often draped overskirts to produce an apron-like effect from the front. Evening gowns had low necklines and were worn with short or mid-length gloves. Other characteristic fashions included a velvet ribbon tied high around the neck and trailing behind for evening.
            Three-piece suits grew in popularity among men, along with patterned fabrics for shirts. Neckties were the four-in-hand and, later, the Ascot ties. A narrow ribbon tie was an alternative for tropical climates, especially in the Americas. Both frock coats and sack coats became shorter. Top hats remained a requirement for upper class formal wear; bowlers and soft felt hats in a variety of shapes were worn for more causal occasions. Flat straw boaters were worn when boating. Formal evening dress remained a dark tail coat and trousers, but the coat was now fastened lower on the chest and had wider lapels. A new fashion was a dark rather than white waistcoat, worn with a white bow tie and a shirt with the new winged collar.
            In 1873, Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis began to sell the original copper-riveted blue jeans in San Francisco. These were only popular with the local miners, who needed strong clothing with durable pockets.
            In the 1880's, the long lean line of women's fashion was replaced by a full, curvy silhouette with gradually widening shoulders. Emphasis remained on the back of the skirt, with fullness gradually rising from behind the knees to just below the waist. Stylish waists were low and tiny below a full, low bust supported by a corset. In 1881, the Rational Dress Society was founded in reaction to the extremes of corsetry.
            Skirts were looped, draped, or tied up in various ways and worn over matching or contrasting underskirts. Evening gowns were sleeveless and low-necked (except for matrons), and worn with long gloves of fine kid, leather, or suede. Choker necklaces and jeweled collars were fashionable, as were high, banded collars. Women's riding habits had a matching jacket and skirt (without a bustle), a high-collared shirt or chemisette, and a top hat with a veil. Hunting costumes had draped ankle-length skirts worn with boots or gaiters. Clothing worn when out walking had a long jacket and skirt, worn with the bustle, and a small hat or bonnet. Travelers wore long coats like dusters.
            Formal evening dress among men remained a dark tail coat and trousers with a dark waistcoat, a white bow tie, and a shirt with a winged collar. In mid-decade, the dinner jacket or tuxedo, was used in more relaxed formal occasions. The Norfolk jacket and tweed or woolen breeches were used for rugged outdoor pursuits such as shooting. Knee-length topcoats, often with contrasting velvet or fur collars, and calf-length overcoats were worn in winter. Men's shoes had higher heels and a narrow toe.
            In the 1890's, women's fashion became simpler and less extravagant; both bustles and crinoline fell out of use and dresses were not as tight as before. The overall silhouette was long, lean, and athletic. Corsets were still used but became slightly longer, giving women a slight S-curve silhouette. Skirts took on a trumpet shape, fitting closely over the hip with a wasp-waist cut and flaring just above the knee. High necks and puffed sleeves became popular. Sportswear for women, such as bicycling dresses, tennis dresses, and swimwear became popular.

            The men's blazer was introduced, and was worn for sports, sailing, and other casual activities. The three piece "ditto suit" of sack coat with matching waistcoat and trousers continued as an alternative to the contrasting frock coat, waistcoat and trouser combination. Full-length trousers were worn for most occasions; tweed or woolen breeches were worn for hunting and other outdoor pursuits. Shirt collars were turned over or pressed into "wings," and dress shirts had stiff fronts, sometimes decorated with shirt studs and buttoned up the back. The necktie was usually the four-in-hand or Ascot tie. Shoes had higher heels and a narrow toe.
            From 1890 to 1900, men's hairstyles were parted in the middle or slightly left of center. The clean-shaven look was in vogue, as were little moustaches waxed and turned up at the ends. Older men wore drooping "walrus" moustaches. Some sideburns, muttonchops, and pointed chin beards could still be seen. Women's hairstyles featured a "psyche knot" - hair pulled back from the forehead and knotted on the top. Small coiffures, pompadours, and French twists were also worn. Hair ornaments remained popular.


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